Rossi heads Australian GP qualifying

Rossi heads Australian GP qualifying

Valentino Rossi faces the real possibility of being able to wrap up his MotoGP title defense at this weekend's Australian GP at the Phillip Island circuit. Valentino Rossi. Photo by Gauloises Racing. After suffering a dismissal...

Valentino Rossi faces the real possibility of being able to wrap up his MotoGP title defense at this weekend's Australian GP at the Phillip Island circuit.

Valentino Rossi.
Photo by Gauloises Racing.
After suffering a dismissal weekend at the first-ever Middle East MotoGP venue in Qatar, which saw him qualify eighth, start from the back of the grid and crash out of the race, Rossi came back to form in Malaysia to take pole position and a commanding victory at the Sepang circuit. The latter allowed Rossi to recuperate a 30-point lead going into this weekend's GP. This means that all he needs to do is finish right behind championship challenger, Sete Gibernau, to clinch the title.

So as expected, the two championship-leading riders led qualifying, Rossi on provisional pole and Gibernau second. The Italian's fast lap came towards the end of the session with a time of 1:30.222. His was almost half a second faster than Gibernau, who in turn was seven tenths of a second faster than third place qualifier, Nicky Hayden.

Fellow American, Colin Edwards, qualified fourth, just one hundredths of a second behind Hayden. The surprise of the day must be Ruben Xaus's performance aboard the GP3 D'Antin Ducati. The Catalan qualified fifth fastest, just two tenths behind Edwards. Loris Capirossi upheld the Ducati Corse honor by qualifying five hundredths behind the Catalan in sixth.

Rumors have seventh fastest qualifier, Alex Barros, retiring at the end of the season. The two candidates for his vacancy qualified just behind him oddly enough. Makoto Tamada struggled with a fastest time of 1:31.632 and Max Biaggi qualified a further tenth behind.

The pace at the front is such, that not even third place qualifier, Hayden, qualified within a second of the provisional pole-sitter; something the top ten qualifiers usually do.

Colin Edwards.
Photo by Fabrice Crosnier.

The lap-by-lap analysis indicates the pace setter is Rossi, who stringed five laps in the 31-second range. He's followed by Edwards with four, not counting his grid lap. Both riders were the only ones to put together a set of three consecutive 31-second laps.

The weather looks iffy for Saturday and Sunday, with a possibility of rain on both days. Earlier today, Friday practice was held in the rain, and unexpectedly, Rossi led it. It appears all the rain-gremlins have been sorted out of the M1. However, let us all pray for a dry race, which are much more exciting.

Stay tuned for more.

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Max Biaggi , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Colin Edwards , Alex Barros , Sete Gibernau , Ruben Xaus , Makoto Tamada , Phillip Island