Stoner strength on home soil underlined with Phillip Island pole
Casey Stoner took his third pole position of the season with the best time in qualification for the Iveco Australian Grand Prix of 1’30.107 on Saturday, as he secured top spot on the starting grid at Phillip Island for the third consecutive season. The Australian, who has won his home GP for the last three years, was an impressive 0.668s clear of the rest of the field by the end of the session.
World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha) was the only rider able to get within a second of Stoner, as the Spaniard joined his rival under the 1’31” barrier. Lorenzo briefly led the session with his time of 1’30.775 but eventually had to settle for second on the grid.
Achieving his third front-row starting position of the season Ben Spies set the third best time of the session, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider closing out the 60-minute run at 1.279s off the pole time of Stoner.
Hot on the heels of the American and registering a best qualification of the season to date was rookie Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini), at just 16-thousandths of a second behind in fourth. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was a similar distance (0.013s) further back in fifth, with Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) taking sixth position in the session and crashing at turn four towards the end.
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) will head up the third row after setting the seventh fastest time, with Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha) failing to overcome the issues he experienced in both practice sessions and qualifying in eighth, which is his worst starting grid position of the season to date. Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini) completed the top ten.
The recovering Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) qualified in 15th position as he prepares for his first race back after missing the last two rounds, whilst Hector Barberá (Páginas Amarillas Aspar) and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) both crashed during the session and qualified in 16th and 17th positions respectively. Capirossi sustained a pulled adductor of the left leg in his fall which has placed his participation in the race in doubt.
Inside the final five minutes spots of rain were significant enough to effectively mark the end of the session, as the riders abandoned any further attempts at improving their times. Sunday’s MotoGP race is scheduled to start at 4pm local time.
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