Casey Stoner is perfectly at home on the Phillip Island circuit and today, the Aussie landed his second consecutive Australian Grand Prix pole. It wasn't by any means an easy qualifying on the 6.5-mile (10.6 km) circuit. In the closing laps,...
Casey Stoner is perfectly at home on the Phillip Island circuit and today, the Aussie landed his second consecutive Australian Grand Prix pole. It wasn't by any means an easy qualifying on the 6.5-mile (10.6 km) circuit. In the closing laps, Stoner and Valentino Rossi traded for the top spot.
"It's been nice these last two races. To come back and feel strong at the end of the session and feel close to 100 percent is a real nice feeling," smiled Stoner who missed three events due to severe fatigue but returned in Portugal where he finished second.
Edging out Rossi by 0.050 seconds, Stoner'sd flying lap was 1:30.341 on his Desmosedici GP9. Yesterday, the Ducati rider was not pleased with the traction he was getting from his bike, especially in the long corners on the high-speed track. After celebrating his 24th birthday on Friday, Stoner wanted to add the icing to the cake by taking his home pole.
"We still need to work on the grip a lot, we're struggling with that, we have to work on it overnight and hopefully in warm-up tomorrow we'll get a reasonably warm session," Stoner said.
Slotting in the middle of the front row, Rossi's best time on his Fiat Yamaha was 1:30.391. While not on pole, he will start on the front row which is better then his teammate and major title rival, Jorge Lorenzo.
"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," admitted Rossi. "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."
Further back of the top two but in his own battle was Dani Pedrosa. When the checkered flag waved to end the qualifying session, the Repsol Honda rider took the final spot on the front row by one-thousandth of a second! Earlier he had crashed but came back to lay down a 1:31.070 to nip Yamaha's Lorenzo.
"I'm pleased to be on the front row because it's always good to have a clear track ahead of you at the start of the race - and especially since it came after I had quite a big crash in qualifying," said Pedrosa. "It was at high speed on the way into Turn Two so it's a relief that I wasn't injured and I was able go straight back out on track for the second half of the session. I'm not sure yet why I fell - I just touched the brake and boom - I was down."
Losing a solid starting spot by the length of an eyelash is no morale booster for the already ill feeling Lorenzo, but he is more concerned on his pace against the top two qualifiers. To have the best chance to snatch the championship from Rossi, Lorenzo needs to score more points here then the veteran Doctor.
"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," explained Lorenzo. "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."
Fifth went to another Yamaha, this time under the Tech 3 badge. Colin Edwards stormed from dead last on this morning's timesheets to the second row in qualifying. Obviously weather played a factor as practice was run in the wet, but the Tech 3 crew has a lot of credit to take on the American's pace later in the day.
"I can't remember how long I've been racing at this track but it is always a different experience and today was no exception," commented Edwards. "My guys have worked unbelievably hard to make me more comfortable and we found something that almost got me on the front row for the first time this year.
"I feel we've got a good package for the race. I've got three races to take nine points out of (Andrea) Dovizioso for fifth in the championship and he's a few places behind me on the grid. I'll just hope the weather smiles on us so I can get my head down and put up a strong fight," added the Texas Tornado.
Alex De Angelis managed to find the second row even after a crash that forced him to complete qualifying on the second Gresisni Racing Honda. While the setup on the backup wasn't perfect for de Angelis, he was still able to quickly get back up to speed. For tomorrow the bike will borrow the best of both setups, giving more confidence to its rider.
"It was a real shame about the crash because I had a good feeling from the start of the session and that was the bike that had the better setting on, in terms of working with the hard race tyre, and it would have been good to get some more laps on it," said de Angelis.
"The good thing is that we have found good things from both settings -- now we have to work how best to combine them together! Either way I'm pleased with our performance today and confident about the race tomorrow," added the San Marinan.
Nicky Hayden, Randy De Puniet and Mika Kallio completed the third row on the grid. Hayden seems back to the mid pack now that Stoner is back in good health and wringing every ounce of speed out of his Ducati. Only three points behind Pedrosa, even after missing a few races, it's very possible the Aussie will take third in the championship. Pedrosa will have to try a move and take the win for himself if he doesn't want that to happen. However it won't be easy, no Australian wants to lose in front of the home crowd, what would his mates think?