Casey Stoner took his fifth successive Phillip Island pole on Saturday. Casey Stoner took his fifth successive Phillip Island pole on Saturday. Photo courtesy motogp.com

Stoner survives crash to take pole

Written by  on Saturday, 27 October 2012 15:59

Repsol Honda Team’s Casey Stoner was on blistering pace as he stormed to his fifth successive pole position for the AirAsia Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island with an impressive performance in Saturday’s qualifying ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.

Stoner did well to overcome an early crash to post a time in the mid 1.29s, which was over half a second ahead of second placed Lorenzo, who was pleased to get his Yamaha Factory Racing machine on the front row to challenge for the title tomorrow.

Completing the row is Repsol Honda’s Pedrosa, who was a further four tenths back on Lorenzo, promising an exciting run into the first turn, as the Spanish duo competes for championship honours.

The qualifying practice was a repetition of the previous four years: Stoner setting the pace and the rest of the field chasing the Australian, who has been unstoppable during the whole weekend. Despite a crash at turn four, on his out lap of his third run, Stoner didn't lose too much confidence and continued to improve his times to secure pole position with 1:29.623, his fifth of the 2012 season and fifth successive in Phillip Island.

"It's been a good progression over these past few races and it's great to get pole for my home Grand Prix,” Stoner said. “The bike has been good since Friday and I'm feeling comfortable on it again.

“It wasn't an easy session this afternoon. We went out on a hard tire and on my out lap, as I was peeling into the Honda turn, the bike decided to flip me. I tried to make sure I kept my leg out of the way as I came off, fortunately it didn't get caught up. My left hip is hurting a little as I landed on it but hopefully we shouldn't have any issues with it tomorrow.

“The bike feels pretty good for race pace; we would have liked to have done some more work in this afternoon's session but we lost time after the crash.”

Lorenzo made big steps forward in set-up thanks to hard work from the team overnight, enabling him to get nearly half a second closer to pole man Stoner and nearly half a second faster than championship rival Pedrosa.

Having dropped outside the top three initially, Lorenzo came back with an impressive 1:30.140 lap with a very used tire to take second. Shortly afterwards the rain began to fall, preventing any further efforts to improve on lap times.

“Casey is really on another planet here,” Lorenzo conceded. “He’s riding so comfortably, sliding a lot and full throttle always so it’s very difficult to be with him. 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.”

The penultimate round of the season will see Pedrosa starting from the front row for the 11th race in a row. Pedrosa, with a best lap time of 1:30.575, found more feeling in the qualifying practice and was improving his pace on his last exit when the rain appeared, finally placing him 0.9 off Stoner.

"I was trying some different things on the bike to get a little more comfortable, but they didn't work out very well for the middle of the session,” Pedrosa admitted. “On my first soft rear tire I couldn't improve and then on my last run I was going quicker on the first lap and rain arrived. Anyway to be on the front row again is very good and I think we found a good bike setting for tomorrow's race.

“Casey is unreachable, he's on another level and doing an amazing job this weekend, but my pace is quite similar to Jorge's, so I hope to be at least constant for the fight with him.”

Row two is headed by Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, who once again showed no signs of the illness that has plagued him since Monday. LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl lines up next to him in fifth, with the German rookie finding his form at last, after some difficult preceding practice sessions.

Sixth place is occupied by Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso, with the Italian doing well to recover from his earlier crash in the morning session.

Heading row three in seventh place is San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, who is the last man within two seconds of Stoner.

In eighth, Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi showed a slight improvement over his previous outings, and Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet will line up ninth on the grid, after the Frenchman produced a stunning performance to record the best CRT grid position yet.

Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden completes the top 10.

Tuenti Movil HP 40’s Pol Espargaró took pole position for Sunday’s Moto2 race at Phillip Island with a fantastic performance in qualifying in front of Scott Redding and Marc Márquez.

Moto2 qualifying was a mixed affair with the occasional quick showers causing a few interruptions and making track conditions a touch unpredictable for riders. Yet Espargaró seemed to be unaffected by it as he stormed to his seventh pole-position this season with a margin of over half a second over second placed Redding on his Marc VDS Racing Team machine.

Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Márquez could take the title Sunday by finishing either first, or higher than 15th place should Espargaró win the race.

In a Moto3 qualifying session that was affected by light rain towards the end Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Sandro Cortese, the newly-crowned champion, took pole position ahead of Jonas Folger and Efrén Vázquez.

--From motogp.com

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John Hopkins

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