Rossi makes front row as Lorenzo battles to fourth on the Island
Valentino Rossi will start his Phillip Island assault from second on the grid tomorrow, after sealing his twelfth front-row start of the season in Australia this afternoon. His Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who was still feeling under the weather following yesterday's upset stomach, missed out on the front row by just 0.001 seconds, the first time he has been out of the top three this season.
This morning's practice was interrupted by rain, which allowed the riders a quick chance to check their wet-weather settings in case of more rain tomorrow. By the afternoon the weather had cleared up and qualifying was run in the dry, albeit with grey skies and a cold wind. Rossi spent most of the hour-long session a few tenths off Casey Stoner in second but a late setting update gave him the extra pace to challenge the Australian and he duly moved to the top of the time sheets with nine minutes to go. Stoner hit back five minutes later however and set a best time that knocked Rossi off pole by 0.050 seconds.
Lorenzo felt much better today but he was still not at 100%, having been unable to eat much since yesterday's illness. The 22-year-old was still struggling for rear grip but he was able to improve his time in the later stages and looked like he would make it onto the front row before a late charge from Dani Pedrosa edged him off by just one thousandth of a second. He will now have to mount his challenge from the head of the second row tomorrow, something of a novelty for him having qualified in the first three at all fourteen previous rounds this year.
Tomorrow's race will start at 1600 local-time tomorrow, which is 0700 CET.
Valentino Rossi - Position: 2ndTime: 1'30.391Laps: 30
"We are on the front row which is the most important thing and I think we can definitely have a good race tomorrow. We have a few things to check in the morning, depending on the weather, including the final tyre choice - of course we hope for it to be dry. I have a good setting and with the last modification we made I was able to make another step and we were quite fast. The pole position was possible today but unfortunately I made a mistake in the last section on my flying lap and Stoner was able to go a little bit faster than me. We have an advantage on Lorenzo, which is important for the championship points, and I hope that I will be able to fight with Stoner for the win."
Jorge Lorenzo - Position: 4thTime: 1'31.071Laps: 31
"I'm a bit disappointed to lose my 100% front-row qualifying record by such a tiny amount, but today we just didn't quite have enough pace. We still don't have enough grip on the rear and the tyre is spinning too much, which makes it difficult to be fast enough. Tomorrow I will try to adapt my riding style instead in order to try to make it onto the podium. I feel better than yesterday but I'm still not at 100%; I feel quite weak still because I haven't been able to eat much. I will have to try before tomorrow in order to have enough strength for the race. I don't feel any pressure, I will just go out and do my best."
Davide Brivio - Team Manager
"So far all the sessions have gone well for us. We've got a good starting position for tomorrow and we're in good shape for the race. As far as our strategy goes, of course we will have one eye on Lorenzo and the championship but also one eye on Stoner and the chance to win the race if possible! The only issue is the late time of the race, because at 4pm it could be quite a lot colder and therefore this might throw up some surprises."
Daniele Romagnoli - Team Manager
"It's a real pity to miss out on the front row by just one millisecond after we have been so consistent all season! We still have rear grip issues at the moment, the team have done a good job to improve it over the sessions but we still have some work to do. The warm-up will be very important for us tomorrow in order to try to solve the problem and put us in a position to be able to challenge in the fight for the race and the championship tomorrow."