Jorge Lorenzo survived a bizarre encounter with a stray seagull during qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix yesterday before edging out title leader Marc Marquez to take pole position in a record lap.
Lorenzo, fighting to keep his MotoGP championship defense alive, was momentarily ruffled when a seagull became lodged in the fairing of his Yamaha at Phillip Island circuit’s Lukey Heights early in the session.
The Spaniard was forced to pit, but re-emerged later to post a scorching lap of one minute 27.899 seconds on the bucolic seaside track’s new tarmac, smashing Casey Stoner’s 2008 mark by more than half a second.
“This lap is a lap you can only do with a PlayStation,” Lorenzo told reporters, referring to Sony’s popular video game console. “I had an impact with a bird on the first few laps on the bike. Luckily, we could take it off and I could make a second attempt without a passenger. Maybe because of this I went a little bit faster and was able to make pole position.”
“It’s impressive how much faster we can go with new tires,” he added. “We’re very proud of pole, but our most important thing is tomorrow.”
Rookie sensation Marquez, who leads the championship by a yawning 43 points with three races left, also bettered the 2008 mark, but was 0.221 seconds adrift of his more seasoned compatriot.
Marquez can become the youngest world champion with victory at Phillip Island, provided the title-holder finishes no higher than third, but the 20-year-old Honda rider will be hard pressed to dislodge Lorenzo, who was runner-up last year and in 2010.
Marquez fell from his bike heavily during free practice on Friday and had another spill earlier in morning practice, but was content to concede pole to the two-time world champion.
“The goal was to finish in the front row and we did that,” he said. “The Yamaha guys were so strong today. Tomorrow’s race will be difficult with the tires, but I will try to do my best.”
Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi also secured a front row position, with Alvaro Bautista, Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow lining up on the second.
Problems with tire degradation have forced organizers to shorten the Moto2 category’s race to 13 laps from 25 and riders were concerned there might also be changes for today’s premier class race, despite already being ordered to use Bridgestone’s harder tires.
“We have some problems with the tire because the new asphalt makes a lot of graining,” Lorenzo said. “We’ll see if there are decisions from Dorna or Bridgestone tomorrow for the race.”