Stoner wins home track pole
It’s been a stunning afternoon at Phillip Island – in every sense of the word.
In glorious sunshine, four riders eclipsed the fastest lap time ever seen at the Island – and Australia’s Casey Stoner went quickest of them all to claim his second successive pole position for his home Grand Prix.
The decisive moment looked to have come three-quarters of the way through the MotoGP qualifying hour when Jorge Lorenzo’s Yamaha became the first bike ever to crack the 1:29 barrier here, clocking 1:28.990 to put one hand on his fifth pole of 2008.
But the man who previously held the fastest lap time at the Island, American Nicky Hayden, hit back immediately for Honda with a 1:28.756 of his own, the Kentucky Kid clearly rejuvenated by the news that he will be joining Stoner on the big red Ducatis in 2009.
There were only seconds to go when Stoner fired in a 1:28.665 for his eighth pole of 2008 – and a serious advantage over the man who has just taken his world title, Valentino Rossi.
‘The Doctor’ needed medical attention himself after a heavy fall from his Yamaha left him briefly stunned with just 15 minutes remaining, and although Rossi recovered and went out again it was too late for him to improve on 12th place.
That’s Rossi’s worst grid effort of the year, and by a long way his worst-ever at Phillip Island. But he has come through from as low as seventh on the grid here before to win, back in 2002.
Chris Vermeulen and Ant West couldn’t match the pace of compatriot Stoner and the other front-runners, finishing the session 15th and 18th respectively.
Not to be outdone, Marco Simoncelli has underlined his own superb form in the quarter-liter class by posting the fastest time seen at the Island from a 250cc bike.
The lanky Italian claimed his sixth ‘08 pole and the third on the trot with a 1:32.075, 24-1000ths quicker than the qualifying time set four years ago by Seb Porto.
Alvaro Bautista’s Aprilia will start from second place and Mika Kallio’s KTM third as Simoncelli sets about sealing the World Championship.
Another man with his eye on a title is Mike di Meglio in the 125s.
The 20-year-old French rider waited 88 races for his first World Championship pole last weekend but has claimed a second straight top spot on the grid for tomorrow’s 23-lapper, his Derbi edging out the Aprilia trio of Bradley Smith, Stefan Bradl and Nicolas Terol.
Like Simoncelli, Di Meglio can wrap up the title if the cards fall his way as he goes in with a 36-point lead over Simone Corsi.
1 Casey STONER AUS Ducati Marlboro Team DUCATI 1'28.665
2 Jorge LORENZO SPA Fiat Yamaha Team YAMAHA 1'28.734
3 Nicky HAYDEN USA Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1'28.756
4 Randy DE PUNIET FRA LCR Honda MotoGP HONDA 1'28.808
5 James TOSELAND GBR Tech 3 Yamaha YAMAHA 1'29.031
6 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1'29.277
7 Colin EDWARDS USA Tech 3 Yamaha YAMAHA 1'29.513
8 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA JiR Team Scot MotoGP HONDA 1'29.558
9 Shinya NAKANO JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini HONDA 1'29.710
10 Alex DE ANGELIS RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini HONDA 1'29.925
11 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP SUZUKI 1'29.942
12 Valentino ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team YAMAHA 1'30.014 19
13 Toni ELIAS SPA Alice Team DUCATI 1'30.202 20 24 1.537
14 Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA Alice Team DUCATI 1'30.297 5 323.4
15 Chris VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP SUZUKI 1'30.545
16 John HOPKINS USA Kawasaki Racing Team KAWASAKI 1'31.157
17 Marco MELANDRI Ducati Marlboro Team DUCATI 1'31.939
18 Anthony WEST AUS Kawasaki Racing Team KAWASAKI 1'31.995