Photography by Gold & Goose
Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo turned in a blistering lap of 1:27.899 to obliterate Casey Stoner's five-year-old lap record at Phillip Island today, the Spaniard earning pole position for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix as he refuses to give up his MotoGP World Championship without a fight.
The final qualifying session on the re-surfaced racetrack began with Lorenzo on top, despite doing so with an unlucky seagull stuck to the front of his fairing, the bird meeting an untimely death at the hand of Lorenzo's M1. His "flying" lap with the bird was a 1:28.681, but he quickly lowered that with a 1:28.527 to break Stoner's five-year-old lap record of 1:28.665, set on the factory Ducati.
But champion-elect Marc Marquez wasn't out of this yet and the young Spaniard lowered the mark even more, lapping at 1:28.384 to look likely to earn his ninth pole of the season. Just to make sure of pole, Marquez went even quicker, clicking off a 1:28.120 to seemingly seal the deal.
Or not. In the waning moments of the session, Lorenzo turned it up another notch to reel off a 1:27.899 - the first and only sub-1:28 lap of Phillip Island - to claim pole position for Sunday's race.
"Obviously, Casey [Stoner] was unbelievably fast so without him for everyone it is easier," Lorenzo said. "So we try our best to be competitive all the weekend, yesterday and today, but this lap, a 27.8, is only a lap you only can do with a PlayStation. Today we made it and we improved seven tenths from the first try so it is impressive how far you can go with new tires. We have pole position but the important thing is tomorrow."
Lorenzo's best ended up .221 of a second better than Marquez's best with Valentino Rossi ending up third with his 1:28.647 to earn his second front-row start in a row.
Row two will be led by Go & Fun Honda's Alvaro Bautista and his 1:28.713 - just .035 of a second better than Dani Pedrosa, last weekend's winner having led the final practice session this morning. Monster Energy Tech 3 Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow will fill row two on Sunday.
Row three, meanwhile, will be headed by Crutchlow's teammate Bradley Smith, the young Brit having a good Australian Grand Prix thus far. Smith ended up ahead of the two Marlboro Ducatis with Nicky Hayden besting his teammate Andrea Dovizisio, who made it through to Q2 by leading Q1, for eighth. Pramac Ducati's Andrea Iannone rounded out the top 10 with Texan Colin Edwards ending up 11th on the NGM Mobile Forward Racing FTR Kawasaki.
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:27.899
2. Marc Marquez (Honda) 1:28.120
3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:28.647
4. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:28.713
5. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:28.748
6. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:28.809
7. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 1:28.941
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:29.295
9. Andrea Dovizisio (Ducati) 1:29.660
10. Andrea Iannone (Ducati) 1:29.756