x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Lorenzo takes the top spot

Casey Stoner made an impressive return to MotoGP as Jorge Lorenzo boosted his hopes of challenging Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi for the title by taking pole position for today's Portuguese Grand Prix.

Casey Stoner made an impressive return to MotoGP as Jorge Lorenzo boosted his hopes of challenging Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi for the title by taking pole position for today's Portuguese Grand Prix. Lorenzo, who trails Rossi by 30 points in the standings with four rounds remaining, raced to pole with a time of 1min 36.214secs at Estoril. But it was Stoner on his Ducati who made the biggest impression as he returned to the saddle after missing the last three races as he recovered from a mysterious illness that has left him exhausted and unable to train properly for the last five months.

The Australian, who won the championship in 2007, qualified a stunning third, just three tenths slower than Lorenzo, and he told the BBC: "I did one half-decent lap which got me on the front row. We felt we could have done a little better. "But there were no expectations, I just wanted to come back and see where we are. The championship is gone, so we just want to see if we can still finish in the top three and prepare for next year.

"It was hard on my neck and back from the G-force of braking. Even when I was still racing, I wasn't training. People told me not to train and then to take time off to get myself well again." A delighted Lorenzo said: "I was worried with the soft tyre - but on this track I was fast." World champion Rossi starts second and wants more pace from his bike . The Italian said: "I will change the settings for Sunday and try to make them better. The race is going to be a long one, so we will see what happens."

Dani Pedrosa's Honda lines up fourth, with Colin Edwards fifth in his Yamaha and Randy de Puniet's Honda bike completing the second row. @Email:gcaygill@thenational.ae