Home hero Casey Stoner overcame a nasty tumble to grab pole position yesterday in his pursuit of a sixth consecutive win in the Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island.
The Australian Repsol Honda rider again dominated his rivals with a blistering best lap time of 1 minute, 29.623 seconds to start off the inside of the front row for today’s penultimate race of the season.
Stoner, on the mend from recent leg surgery, grabbed his 39th career MotoGP pole despite being flipped off his bike early in the qualifying session, before going on to post faster lap times on his replacement bike.
Stoner, who is in his farewell season after announcing his retirement, has been a class apart on his home track this week, reeling off six lap times below 1.30, something beyond his rivals.
He held a significant 0.517 seconds advantage over his nearest rival and world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (1:30.14) on a Yamaha.
Stoner’s Spanish teammate and championship contender Dani Pedrosa (1:30.575) was almost a second behind the flying Australian as third-fastest.
“I was on my ‘out’ lap on a hard tire and the thing just decided to flick me,” Stoner said of his mishap. “I was very fortunate it didn’t come down on my [injured] foot.”
Stoner is not long back from surgery on torn ligaments and fractures to his ankle, tibia and fibula he suffered in a crash during qualifying for the Indianapolis MotoGP in mid-August.
His hopes of defending his world title were ruined by that and he is out of contention, well back in third spot on the championship standings with two races left this season.
“I’m very happy to be on pole, considering all that’s happened, for my home Grand Prix,” he said.
Lorenzo leads Pedrosa by 23 points in the championship and can take his second MotoGP world title with victory today.
“Casey is really on another planet here, he’s riding so comfortably, sliding a lot and full throttle always, so it’s very difficult to be with him,” Lorenzo said. “We are closer now, though. In qualifying I made a really good lap with the soft tire.”
“Second place is a good position to be in for tomorrow, it’s important to be just behind Casey into the first corner and to follow his wheel for at least two laps as fast as we can be. It’s a very important day tomorrow and I have to keep calm and not make any mistakes,” he added.
Pedrosa, who must finish a couple of spots ahead of Lorenzo to keep the championship alive to the final race in Valencia on Nov. 11, said he was feeling more positive after a difficult practice session.
“We’ve worked hard on the bike’s settings and the practice session was difficult, but on our last run it was feeling better and I’m hoping for good luck in tomorrow’s race,” Pedrosa said.
Yamaha’s British rider Cal Crutchlow was fourth fastest, ahead of German Stefan Bradl on a Honda, with Yamaha’s Andrea Dovizioso sixth.
Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi was well back in eighth spot, about two seconds behind Stoner.