Nicky Hayden set the fastest lap in the qualifying session for the fourteenth round of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) that takes place this weekend at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia.
Alongside the standings leader in the front row will be Japanese rider Shinya Nakano and reigning world champion, Valentino Rossi.
Hayden clocked 1.29:020 in his lap 26 of the 28 the American used during the one-hour session. This result means the first pole position of the year for Hayden and the fourth since his debut in MotoGP in 2003.
"It's really nice to be on pole and to get a good lap in. That Michelin qualifier worked so good and my bike felt awesome for that one lap. I was able to open the throttle as hard as I liked and it was really fun -- though it doesn't count for anything other than a really good grid position", Hayden said.
However, the pace of the RC211V keeps some worried in the Repsol Honda camp, including Hayden himself. "On race pace I'm struggling a bit and I just cannot find any traction. We've changed everything on the bike to try and get some grip and not just spin the tyre", he explained.
The Kentucky boy will try in Sunday`s race to cut the bad road of two Grand Prixs with no podium after being ninth in Brno and fourth in Sepang last week as he attempts to keep his points lead.
Nakano marked top second spot with the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR at 0.238 from the pole position. Nakano returned to the front row after five qualifying sessions without reaching that result.
"We worked extremely hard here at Phillip Island during the winter test in February, to provide both Kawasaki and Bridgestone with a lot of information and development data, and today was our payback. From this data, Kawasaki and Bridgestone have improved to the point where Randy and I were able to come here on Friday and be straight on the pace", Nakano commented.
Last time the 28 year-old rider moved from second on the grid this season, he finished in that same position. The scenary was in Assen`s Grand Prix .
"I'm happy with my consistency on race tyres, as this is important for tomorrow, but I'm also pleased to be starting from the front row. I saw from my pit board that I was in fourth place as I started my final qualifying lap, so I pushed as hard as I could to try and reclaim a position on the front row of the grid. I'm not so bothered about missing out on pole; the front row is good enough for tomorrow's race, in which I think it's possible for us to finish top five at least", Nakano expressed.
After victory in Malaysia last Sunday, Italian`s Rossi proved again that the Yamaha is fully on the road to fight for the world championship against Honda until the end.
Rossi was able to set a laptime just 0.013 adrift of Nakano and 2.251 from Hayden`s time. The seven times world champion looks to give the polesitter a deserved argue for the lead tomorrow.
"The team did a really good job today because we had some difficulties setting the bike up yesterday, but today it worked really well and I was able to qualify on the front row, which is very important at this circuit", Rossi mentioned.
Despite the good time he got in the qualifying session, Rossi and Yamaha still had things to work out as the `Doctor` explains: "Because of the temperatures here we are finding it hard to get heat into the rear tyre and we struggled a bit again today, which is why I had to leave it so late before trying for the fast time on the qualifying tyre.
"We still have some work to do in this aspect on the race setting but with the qualifying tyre the grip was there and I was able to go third fastest, even though I ran off the track on my out lap and then my bike did a small wheelie in the last corner on my flying lap", Rossi continued on his explanation.
Fourth place belonged to Kenny Roberts. Jr. right ahead of another American racer as Colin Edwards put the second Yamaha M1 from the Camel team in fifth. Spaniard Carlos Checa ended as sixth fastest in his best personal result of the year.
Closing top ten positions were Marco Melandri, Casey Stoner, Randy de Puniet and Dani Pedrosa.
MotoGP riders will have a warm-up session tomorrow morning to try and find some solutions for the 27-lap race in which the fight between the championship challengers is expected to be hard and interesting from all points of view when the lights get green at 15.00 local time.