Saturday, October 27

STONER BAGS POLE AT THE ISLAND



By MICHAEL ESDAILE

Casey Stoner led qualifying for tomorrow’s Air Asia Australian MotoGP race from almost from the moment he emerged onto the track.

After 15 minutes he clocked a 1m 30.518s lap to keep him at the top of the time sheet with world championship aspirant Jorge Lorenzo second fastest on his Yamaha, nine tenths of a second off the Australian, with Dani Pedrosa third fastest at that stage.

Twenty-one minutes into the session, Stoner crashed at Honda corner but fortunately did not sustain any injury.  He limped off to get his spare bike and was soon circulating on the pace, drifting the rear-end of the Honda as he pushed down into the 1m 29s range, his 1:29.892 putting him 0.856 of a second ahead of Pedrosa while Lorenzo had a think about things, then scorched off a 1:30.140 to go second fastest.  Importantly, that put him closer to Stoner than at any time so far this weekend, just 0.248 seconds behind.

But Stoner wasn’t done.  He pushed on down into the 29s, running a 1:29.695, then a 1:29.623 which was enough to give him pole position with three minutes to go when light rain sprinkled across the track.

Cleary the conditions were not conducive for an assault on the pole record, which Stoner himself set in 2008 on an 800cc Ducati at 1m 28.665s.  Nor did he get close to Nicky Hayden’s 1m 30.059s lap record, also set in 2008.

Still, his best lap was half a second quicker than Lorenzo’s best effort while Pedrosa ended up third fastest, on 1m 30.575s.

So the top three men in the championship made up the front row of the grid while Cal Crutchlow headed row two on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha from German MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) and Monster Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso.

The third row saw Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini) head Valentino Rossi with Frenchman Randy de Puniet taking the final row three position on the Power Electronics Aspar Aprilia-powered CRT bike.

De Puniet had headed Rossi most of the session but the Italian finally managed to ride his factory Ducati to a faster lap time than he had ever done on the V4 at Phillip Island, pipping De Puniet by just a hundredth of a second, 1:31.651 to 1:31.667.

De Puniet’s effort is noteworthy as it was the third time a CRT machine had qualified ahead of a factory bike:  Nicky Hayden was just a whisker behind the Frenchman with a 1:31.681s lap.


This has already occurred a couple of times already: de Puniet qualified in front of Rossi at both Jerez and Indianapolis.