Without reducing an inch his extraordinary performance of this season, Casey Stoner dominated again at home, in the Australian circuit of Phillip Island where today he set the fastest time in the qualifying for the fourth year in a row. It is his fifth consecutive ‘pole’ in the last five races and the eleventh of the season, in a Grand Prix where Andrea Dovizioso will start fifth and Dani Pedrosa, eighth.
Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo kept the pressure on today in qualifying at Phillip Island, taking second on the grid for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Australia. The Yamaha Factory rider came out fighting at the beginning of the qualifying session, immediately the fastest man on track, a position he held for well over half the session. The Mallorcan conceded pole to rival Casey Stoner as the session drew to a close but prepares for tomorrow’s race in confident mood with a fast consistent race pace.
Ben Spies crashed out on his third qualifying lap in dramatic fashion, low siding at over 250km/hr and sliding off into the gravel. After a check with the medical centre the Texan was back on his second bike with heavily bruised ribs and body, venturing out on track to score a third row start with seventh on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
Nicky Hayden rode to his best qualifying position of the year, and the American will start from the sixth spot on the grid in tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix, which is also his 150th GP in the premier class. Hayden and his team made progress with the GP11.1 today, and they’ll try some small changes in the morning warm-up in an effort to further improve the race setup for the Phillip Island circuit.
Valentino Rossi also hopes to take a step forward in the final twenty minutes he has on-track before the race. The Italian’s day was more difficult than that of his teammate, and he’ll start tomorrow’s race from the thirteenth spot on the grid.
Faithful to his own style, Casey Stoner did not leave any margin in another day in which he led both sessions with authority. In the free practice of the morning, the Repsol rider was the only one to lap under 1 minute and 31 seconds, leaving the second placed –Jorge Lorenzo– 6 tenths behind and 9 tenths ahead of the third –Dani Pedrosa–, in a session in which Andrea Dovizioso finished in sixth position.
Focused on finding a good pace with used tyres to prepare tomorrow’s race, Stoner was slightly unnoticed in the first half of the qualifying, which was led at the beginning by Jorge Lorenzo and then by Dani Pedrosa, followed closely by the Australian. The Spaniard of the Repsol Honda Team lapped for the first time in the weekend under 1 minute and 31 seconds by mid session; nevertheless, he was not able to improve his time further and tomorrow will be forced to start from the third row, in eighth place.
At the crucial moment, with fifteen minutes to go before the end of the session, Stoner went back to the track decided to strike another blow. In his first lap he set the fastest time –for now– of the weekend: 1 minute, 30 seconds and 42 thousandths, reducing by 8 tenths Pedrosa’s time, who was still leading the classification. Seven minutes before the end of the session, although Lorenzo was trying to get close to his times, the Australian improved his lap time even more, setting a register under 1 minute and 30 seconds. After several laps at an impressive pace of 1 minute y 29 seconds, Stoner secured his eleventh ‘pole position’ of the season, just one pole position away from the record set by Mick Doohan in 1997.
With all riders trying to improve his times, Andrea Dovizioso was also looking for a place in the first row, but he was surpassed by Ãlvaro Bautista, who lapped 66 thousandths faster, leaving the Repsol rider in fourth position, which became the fifth place when Simoncelli took the third place. The battle for the first positions of the grid was so close that Dani Pedrosa finally fell to the eighth position, despite finishing just one tenth and a half away from the fastest time.
Here is a look at the qualifying results: