PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA, OCT 27 – Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner bounced back from an early crash to take the pole position ahead of his final Australian Grand Prix on an overcast, cold and windy day at Phillip Island.
Twenty minutes into the one hour session, Stoner crashed entering one of the two right-handers, the Turn 4 hairpin, but wasn’t hurt and was quickly back to the pits. After only a five minute delay, he was back on the track and lowering the lap time. He never gave up control of the top spot and was on pace to go even faster when a light rain fell in the final two minutes of the hour. That prevented an even faster lap, but didn’t deny him the pole position as he attempts to win his home grand prix for a record sixth consecutive time.
Stoner’s best lap was 1:29.623 mins., which was still about a second away from his pole record of 1:28.665 set on a Bridgestone qualifying tire in the pre-control tire days.
Still, the lap was .517 sec. faster than the best of Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, who’s looking to wrap up the 2012 MotoGP World Championship this weekend. He currently leads Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa by 23 points with two races to go. Pedrosa was third today and .435 sec. behind Lorenzo.
“To be honest, it’s been really nice to be back and not just back at this circuit, but feeling a little bit more comfortable,” Stoner said after taking his fifth pole and first since the Red Bull USGP. “This circuit goes left, most of the critical corners are on the left side. I’m actually able to relax on the right hand side of turns because theyr’e not so critical and put more effort in on the left.
“And it’s been nice to ride one of these bikes around this track. You know, could well be my last and, you know, trying to enjoy every minute of it, really. You know, we’ve been having a fantastic weekend so far and just getting faster and faster. Bit of an upset there in qualifying. I was on my out lap with a hard tire and the thing just decided to flick, me. We were going very slow into Honda and no way to stop it. so, I was very fortunate that we didn’t come down on my foot. If it was the other way it would’ve been a different story. And we were able to improve the lap time and still get pole.
“So big thanks to the team. It was a hectic session and things didn’t really go to plan, but the rest of the weekend has. You know, just very happy to be on pole for the home grand prix and hopefully have something to celebrate tomorrow for everybody.”
Lorenzo conceded that Stoner was going to be “unbeatable” this weekend, “so for everybody it’s our target to get as close as possible to him, but mainly try to be in second place in front of Dani, because I think it’s very important to make a good start and try to use the reference of Casey as fast as I could be. So I think it’s a good position. Very good lap and tomorrow is a very important day. Will try to keep calm and not make any mistakes.”
Pedrosa has the most difficult session of the three, but was happy to be on the front row.
“I chose a bike that was not really perfect, but finally for the last run I could get some better feeling, just the rain come for the last five minutes and couldn’t improve much my lap time,” he said. “Anyway, front row, it’s important. Just hoping to have good luck and do a good race tomorrow.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 riders bookended the second row. Brit Cal Crutchlow qualified fourth, .188 sec. down on Pedrosa, with teammate Andrea Dovizioso sixth. In between came LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, the young German only .035 sec. away from Crutchlow.
The third row starts with San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista. Next to him are Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi and Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet in the best qualifying performance of the season by a CRT machine. Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden leads off row three, with the teammates separated by only .020 sec.
More surprising is that Rossi’s qualifying time (1:31.661 mins.) is slower than the qualifying lap of 1:31.621 mins. run by Althea Racing Ducati’s Carlos Checa for the early season World Superbike race here at Phillip Island. By comparison, Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes qualified on pole at Phillip Island with a time of 1:31.323 mins. That would have put him seventh on the grid.
Phillip Island MotoGP Qualifying Results:
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:29.623
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:30.140
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:30.575
4. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:30.763
5. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:30.798
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1:31.200
7. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:31.490
8. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:31.661
9. Randy de Puniet (ART) 1:31.667
10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:31.681
16. Colin Edwards (Suter) 1:33.450