PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA, OCT 15 –
One day shy of his 26th birthday, and a possible second MotoGP World Championship, Casey Stoner did what everyone expected him to do, and more. The Repsol Honda rider used home course advantage to speed to his fifth pole in a row on a cool, blustery day on the bumpy Phillip Island Circuit, putting him in position to win all five races off the 800cc era at the track south of Melbourne.That Stoner earned his 11th pole, a MotoGP record and one short of the premier class record of 12 held by Mick Doohan, wasn’t news. Neither was the fact that it was his fourth in a row here, nor was the time, a lap of 1:29.975 mins., more than a second off his qualifying record of 1:28.665 mins. set on a Bridgestone qualifier in 2008. But the gap of .473 secs. to Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo was demoralizing, to say the least, with the rest of the field strung out behind the Majorcan.For Stoner to sew up the last 800cc title, to go with the first one he earned on a Ducati in 2007, he has to win and hope that Lorenzo doesn’t finish better than fourth. That’s unlikely given Lorenzo’s consistency all season and again here. And Stoner doesn’t expect to win the title on home soil.”We still need to work on a bit of traction, but in general the bike feels pretty good today,” Stoner said. “This afternoon and this morning we tried to do as many laps as we could with the hard rear tire to see how the degradation was and how fast we can be towards the end of the tire’s life. Everything seemed to be going pretty well and we finished testing what we needed to test and put the softer tire on and it was just a huge difference, so I was able to go quite a lot faster and we were able to take pole today so we’re very happy.”Lorenzo said that he was riding well, but that it was “difficult to get close to Casey (Stoner), because this year he is really competitive in every track and especially here he is always very comfortable and riding very well. But we are trying to improve the bike and make some modifications to gain some grip and gain a better pace and the maximum we can do today is finish second.”Tomorrow is the race and this is always different. In the qualifying you have to make almost 30-laps and anything is possible. The most easy position that we can hope to get tomorrow is second, but you never know.”And if he finishes second he can delay Stoner’s championship for a week, at least, until the series moves to Sepang, Malaysia.
“Yes, second place, as I said, is the most probable thing to happen if I push and I go fast,” he began, “but I am here to try and win and this is the goal. If it is not possible tomorrow then second place would be very good.”San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli was back on the front row for the first time since his home grand prix in Mugello. And he did it without crashing in the slow downhill turn 10 right, something he’d done in the previous three sessions. He joked about it by saying that he “had three small crashes in the same corner because I don’t understand very well so I try to improve.”But anyway I am happy. After this morning I was a little bit worried because today change a lot the condition of the track with this wind. But we work well and the set-up this afternoon was better than this morning and also I try to adapt my riding style to this windy condition so I am happy of this front row and I hope to finish on the podium.”Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista earned his best ever MotoGP qualifying position by finishing fourth after prevailing in a head-to-head qualifying duel with Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso, who was .066 sec. slower in fifth.
Next came Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden in sixth, his best qualifying mark of the year and a shocking seven places higher than his struggling teammate Valentino Rossi.”Yeah, you know that’s the highest we’ve been all weekend,” Hayden said. “I mean, we always have high expectations when we come to Phillip Island, because we know our bike’s good here and it’s a track I’ve been on pole position twice. So I’m not going to jump up and down and beat my chest over sixth place, but it is the best I’ve qualified this year.”Hayden did the lap while chasing Lorenzo, Rossi observed, but it was still an accomplishment and Rossi congratulated him while bemoaning his own fate.”Yeah, for sure Nicky take an advantage following Lorenzo,” Rossi began, “and so is another type of work than us.” Rossi said he made “my great congratulation because make 30.7 is a very good lap time. Also Nicky about rhythm is not fantastic, but anyway is faster than us.”Behind Hayden came Yamaha’s Ben Spies, who finished the session well beat up after a 167 mph front end tuck that sent him and his motorcycle tumbling through the gravel.”They looked on the data and we were going 270 when I hit it, when I fell off, and it was one of those crashes where when I hit I completely lost control and one hand came off the bars, but it started coming back and I almost tried to jump back on the bike to try to ride it out, but by the time I would’ve been back on the bike I would’ve entered the grass going well over 200k and with the guardrail that close, I wasn’t taking my chances,” Spies said.Sharing the third row with Spies was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards.MotoGP Qualifying Results:1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:29.975
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:30.448
3. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:30.599
4. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1:30.714
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:30.780
6. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:30.792
7. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:30.835
8. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:30.871
9. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:31.237
10. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1:31.583
13. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:31.980