MotoGP: Stoner takes pole at home round as he aims for victory in Phillip Island
Casey Stoner’s quest for a fifth consecutive home premier class victory continued as the Repsol Honda man took pole position after leading all three practice sessions at Phillip Island. The Australian will be joined by Jorge Lorenzo and Marco Simoncelli on the front row in Sunday’s Iveco Australian Grand Prix.
The 2007 World Champion appears on course for a repeat of his performance of last year that saw the Australian lead all sessions, take pole and ride to victory as he led Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo by a margin of 0.473s in Saturday’s qualifying session. Stoner posted a time of 1’29.975 to take his 11th pole of the 2011 campaign, and if he scores ten points or more than the defending title holder Lorenzo in Sunday’s race he will secure the 2011 World Championship in front of his home crowd.
Casey Stoner: “So far so good, we have a good race pace and the bike’s feeling pretty good at the moment. We still need to improve the rear grip, but I think this is the same for everyone, we’d also like to get the harder rear tyre working better for the race. We began Qualifying with older tyres to understand where we are for the race and I’m quite happy as the lap times we were achieving were similar to Jorge [Lorenzo] and Dani [Pedrosa] who were on the new soft tyre. Then we put on the soft tyre for the first time since yesterday morning, everything felt good and we were able to improve our lap time consistently, but it’s still difficult on the left side of the tyre and we’re getting a lot of spinning and tyre degradation. We’ll see what the weather does tomorrow, it’s not looking too good right now but we’ll adapt to whatever it throws at us. Jorge is strong everywhere we go and I think my chances of taking the Championship here tomorrow is pretty slim to be honest, we’re just going to go out there and concentrate on winning the race”.
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Simoncelli landed on the front row for the first time since the Mugello round, with a best effort of 1’30.599, while Álvaro Bautista had his and Rizla Suzuki’s best qualifying of the season with fourth, following the Italian by 0.115s.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) joins Bautista on row two after posting a time of 1’30.780, as does Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team), who had an early run off in the first 15 minutes, then regrouped to see himself as high as third on the timing screens, finally settling in sixth with a time just 0.012s off Dovizioso’s.
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) had an off track excursion followed by shortly by a heavy crash in turn 3. The Texan returned to the box, then quickly got back on track to jump immediately to seventh in a speedy recovery, a position he maintained with a time of 1’30.835.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) followed the Texan by 0.036s to place eighth on the grid, the Spaniard was the last rider to lap within a second of Stoner’s leading time. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) posted ninth quickest, with Loris Capirossi completing the top ten on his Pramac Racing machine, while his team mate Randy de Puniet just missed out on the top ten by 0.052s.
Damian Cudlin did not run within the 107% qualifying time, the Australian replacement for Héctor Barberá on the Mapfre Aspar team was still sore from a morning crash, however he will be allowed to race on Sunday as he was fast enough during the practice sessions to get on the grid.