Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa will start Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix from pole position after riding a breathtaking lap in the final moments of qualifying at Phillip Island today. This is the 22-year-old Spaniard’s second pole in a row and his third of the 2007 season. His teammate Nicky Hayden looked destined for his fifth front-row start on the trot, but just lost out in the final sector of the lap and will start tomorrow’s race from fourth on the grid, directly behind Pedrosa.
The afternoon’s one-hour MotoGP qualifying session remained dry throughout in a welcome contrast to the three practice sessions so far this weekend, all of which had been affected by rain. The Repsol Honda team took advantage of the first part of the session to advance the RC212V’s race trim and tire choice, before the serious business of qualifying began with 20 minutes of the hour remaining. Pedrosa’s first hot lap put him in third position but with his second flyer he knocked a full second off that time to set an unbeatable mark of 1m 29.201s, 0.218s ahead of Valentino Rossi in second. Pedrosa’s pace and consistency on race tires was also promising and he’ll be hoping for good weather and a rapid start in tomorrow’s race.
Hayden’s ever-quick qualifying pace looked destined to claim him a front row start at one of his favorite venues. The American has taken pole position in the previous two years at Phillip Island and at the final split of his second flying lap, with only the final long left-hander to go, he was down by only 0.122s on Pedrosa’s benchmark and looked in with a chance of making it three poles in a row here. But his sticky rear qualifying tire couldn’t quite hold on in the super-demanding corner and he missed out on stealing the final place on the front row from Casey Stoner by just 0.116s. However, Hayden was happy with his improved pace on race rubber and, with further adjustments to his RC212V, the 26-year-old will be looking to duel at the front when the lights go out at 3pm local time (7am CET) tomorrow.
Dani Pedrosa – Pole Position 1m 29.201s “Well I’m happy to get pole position again and it was a good lap for sure – my best ever lap time at this track so I’m happy. Considering how complicated the sessions have been prior to this afternoon, it’s a relief that this one went smoothly. We really needed some consistent dry track time and that’s what we got at last. I was able to improve my speed quite a lot from the first qualifying lap to the second one and I think I got just about the maximum from Michelin’s qualifying tires, so I’m very pleased. For the race I really hope the weather stays stable. We were on pole position at the last race in Japan but the race-day weather didn’t help us, so I hope tomorrow it’s clear and we can concentrate simply on riding. We’ll be looking at the conditions and temperature tomorrow to make the final choice of race tire. My pace today on race tires was quite consistent so hopefully we’re looking okay. The top three riders in the championship are on the front row so it’s set up to be a good battle. I’m looking forward to it.”
Nicky Hayden – 4th 1m 29.932s “That’s by far the best session we’ve had this weekend. Fourth on the grid is not a disaster and if I get a good start I should be okay, though I’d have liked to be on the front row of course. My second qualifying lap was feeling pretty good but the left side of the tire went off a little bit through the last section and the back of the bike was moving a lot through those last couple of corners – but I held on and was able to get on the second row which is okay. It’s been a big challenge with so little dry track time this weekend for all the teams, tire technicians, riders – everybody. On race tires we definitely looked pretty competitive this afternoon so I really hope tomorrow we can have a good result – but I know hoping won’t do it on its own. We’ve got to get back into the garage, work on the machine and keep improving. Hopefully the weather will stay clear and we can put on a good show tomorrow for these die-hard fans who’ve been braving the cold. I’m ready to put up a fight.”
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