Same story, different track – that’s the scenario following Saturday’s qualifying for the Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island.
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner dominated all three practice sessions at his home circuit, and the rider who turns 26 Sunday was in typical-fast form at qualifying Saturday to take the top spot; it was Stoner’s 11th pole this season.
Stoner was the only MotoGP pilot to post under the 1:31 mark. His time of 1:29.975 was not only good enough to give Stoner his 11th pole this season, but also his fifth consecutive pole at Phillip Island; Stoner has also won the last four consecutive MotoGP meets there.
Joining Stoner on the front row will be his rival, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli. Throughout the practice and qualifying sessions, Stoner and his team mainly concentrated on tire selection.
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "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 tire working better for the race.
"We began qualifying with older tires 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 tire.
"Then we put on the soft tire 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 tire and we’re getting a lot of spinning and tire 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 MotoGP Championship here tomorrow is pretty slim to be honest, we’re just going to go out there and concentrate on winning the race."
Stoner showed much discipline in the first 15 races, taking 14 podiums and eight MotoGP wins. If he can carry that same discipline and patience into Round 16 of 18 Sunday, and garners 10 points more than Lorenzo, Stoner could clinch the 2011 MotoGP Championship, which would be his second including the 2007 title (Ducati).
But Lorenzo will fight to keep the title from Stoner. The Spaniard held the top position in qualifying for "well over half of the session," but was beat out by Stoner by 0.473 of a second.
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing M1 MotoGP) says: "We did a very good job today. We tried many things and I believe we have the right set up for tomorrow. I have to thank my team who worked hard to make sure I have the best possible bike to fight with. The race will be very tough, it will be very important to be consistent with a good race pace. I will try to win, I know it will be very difficult here with Casey but I will try!"
As for Simoncelli, this was his second front-row start since his third-place start at Mugello MotoGP. The Italian trailed Lorenzo by 0.151 of a second to take the final front-row spot.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V MotoGP) "I am really happy because it has been a while since we started on the front row. We have been fast over the past two days although we have had a few crashes too.
"The day didn’t start well because of the conditions, which were cold and windy, and that made it difficult. This afternoon we managed to do a better job and enjoyed an excellent qualifying session so my goal tomorrow is to push to the maximum from the start. Stoner looks untouchable at the moment but in racing you can never say never!"
Heading up the second row is Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista, which was the team’s best starting position of the 2011 MotoGP season. Bautista piloted the GSVR to fourth on the grid 0.115 of a second behind Simoncelli.
Taking the fifth- and sixth-positions were Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovisiozo and Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden. Dovi was a mere 0.012 of a second behind Bautista, with Hayden only 0.43 of a second behind Dovi.
Although he suffered a fast crash in qualifying, hitting the turn-3 gravel traps at over 155 mph, Spies qualified seventh, the top of the third row. During the wreck, the Texan injured some ribs, but had enough strength to finish on a backup bike.
Joining Spies on the third row will be the third Repsol Honda rider, Dani Pedrosa, who was the final rider to post within a second of Stoner. The final third-row position went to Spies’ fellow Texan, Colin Edwards on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha.
As for Valentino Rossi, the nine-time World Champion who won seven times at Phillip Island once-again struggled with the Ducati GP11.1. Due to setup woes, Rossi qualified 13th.
The Australian who is substituting for injured the Hector Barbera did not run within the 107-percent qualifying time to place the Mapfre Aspar Ducati on the grid. But because he fast enough during the practice sessions, MotoGP says Damian Cudlin will start Sunday for at Phillip Island MotoGP.
The riders will have one more warm-up session to tweak their bikes before Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, which will be broadcast on SPEED TV at 4 p.m. (EDT).
2011 Phillip Island MotoGP Qualifying Results:
|1.||27||Casey STONER||AUS||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||321.4||1’29.975|
|2.||1||Jorge LORENZO||SPA||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||314.9||1’30.448||0.473 / 0.473|
|3.||58||Marco SIMONCELLI||ITA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||Honda||316.5||1’30.599||0.624 / 0.151|
|4.||19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||SPA||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||Suzuki||319.3||1’30.714||0.739 / 0.115|
|5.||4||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||ITA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||320.6||1’30.780||0.805 / 0.066|
|6.||69||Nicky HAYDEN||USA||Ducati Team||Ducati||314.7||1’30.792||0.817 / 0.012|
|7.||11||Ben SPIES||USA||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||315.7||1’30.835||0.860 / 0.043|
|8.||26||Dani PEDROSA||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||316.1||1’30.871||0.896 / 0.036|
|9.||5||Colin EDWARDS||USA||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||314.2||1’31.237||1.262 / 0.366|
|10.||65||Loris CAPIROSSI||ITA||Pramac Racing Team||Ducati||310.3||1’31.583||1.608 / 0.346|
|11.||14||Randy DE PUNIET||FRA||Pramac Racing Team||Ducati||313.9||1’31.635||1.660 / 0.052|
|12.||7||Hiroshi AOYAMA||JPN||San Carlo Honda Gresini||Honda||318.9||1’31.889||1.914 / 0.254|
|13.||46||Valentino ROSSI||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||315.4||1’31.980||2.005 / 0.091|
|14.||35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||316.5||1’32.023||2.048 / 0.043|
|15.||17||Karel ABRAHAM||CZE||Cardion AB Motoracing||Ducati||321.1||1’32.054||2.079 / 0.031|
|16.||24||Toni ELIAS||SPA||LCR Honda MotoGP||Honda||321.6||1’32.503||2.528 / 0.449|
|6||Damian CUDLIN||AUS||Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP||Ducati||303.8||1’36.666||6.691 / 4.163|