Casey Stoner was untouchable in qualifying at Phillip Island, earning pole position over half a second ahead of Lorenzo.
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner continued to set the pace through qualifying at Phillip Island, coming in as the only rider, once again, to drop below the 1’30 mark. Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo finished the session in second, trailing Stoner by just over half a second. The Australian rider’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa, rounded out the top-three.
Stoner was quickest from the start and he was nearly uncontested for the entire session. With close to 40 minutes remaining Stoner hit a snag though Turn 4 when his RC213 lost grip, going down and sliding off track. He was lucky to have not been injured in the slight high-side, but he jumped off the bike as it began to somersault off track and slid into the grass, keeping just ahead of the careening machine and avoiding any damage to his already weakened right ankle. The Repsol Honda rider quickly got up and walked away from the incident and only six minutes later was back on track setting an even faster lap time than though the first 20 minutes of the session.
“It’s been a good progression over these past few races and it’s great to get pole for my home grand prix,” said Stoner. “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.”
Jorge Lorenzo needs to finish ahead of Dani Pedrosa on Sunday to clinch the 2012 title at Phillip Island.
Lorenzo found his stride with the soft option tire and he will be looking to keep as close to Stoner in the main event as possible. His main concern will be to finish ahead of Pedrosa on Sunday though, in order to put an end to uncertainty and lay claim to the 2012 MotoGP title.
“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,” said Lorenzo. “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.”
Pedrosa wasn’t too far behind Lorenzo though and the two will likely be neck-and-neck during the race. The Honda rider still feels there’s room to improve and wasn’t entirely pleased with some of the changes he and his team attempted during qualifying. If Pedrosa can come in ahead of Lorenzo, he will still have hopes of a championship win going into the final round at Valencia.
“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,” said Pedrosa. “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 [Stoner] 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.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow continued to persevere through the lingering effects of the high fever and bronchitis he’d contracted just before the round began at Phillip Island, and will head-up the second row come Sunday. The British rider was just 0.188 off Pedrosa’s third-place time and will be pushing hard to earn the second GP podium of his career. LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl trailed Crutchlow in fifth, and was happy to have made the second row after overcoming the set-up challenges that plagued him during Friday’s practice rounds.
“We are very happy today because we did not expect fifth place in qualifying after yesterday’s issues with the bike set up,” said Bradl. “I was struggling too much with bike confidence but we made some chassis adjustments finding a good solution for the afternoon session. After that I was finally back into my standard form lapping with more confidence and more average speed. Let’s see what is going on tomorrow but we are more prepared right now considering the particular layout of this track.”
Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso rounds out the second row in sixth, followed by San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista leading the third row in seventh. Ducati’s Valentino Rossi scored eighth and Power Electronic Aspar’s Randy de Puniet qualified in ninth. De Puniet made something of a stir during the morning’s practice session, placing seventh-fastest well within the ranks of the prototype bikes. He continued to push through qualifying and earned the highest CRT grid spot all season.
Randy de Puniet qualified in ninth at Phillip Island, earning the best CRT placement on the grid all season.
“I am really happy with the way things are going this weekend,” said de Puniet. “We have been fast from the start and my feeling with the bike is great here. I am really enjoying myself and I hope this continues tomorrow through to the end of the race. We start from the third row, which is a great achievement for a CRT bike, having been seventh fastest this morning. I think we could have gone even faster in qualifying this afternoon but the conditions changed at the end of the session. Anyway I feel comfortable and confident. The objective is to hang on to the prototypes in the race and see what happens.”
Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden finished the day in 10th, with Cardio AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham in 11th and de Puniet’s teammate Aleix Espargaro in 12th. Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera took 13th followed by San Carlo’s CRT rider Michele Pirro in 14th.
MotoGP Phillip Island Qualifying Results 2012:
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’29.623
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’30.140
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’30.575
4. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1’30.763
5. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1’30.798
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1’31.200
7. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1’31.490
8. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’31.661
9. Randy de Puniet (ART) 1’31.667
10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’31.681
11. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1’31.910
12. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 1’31.990
13. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’32.231
14. Michele Pirro (FTR) 1’33.050
15. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda-Suter) 1’33.069
16. Colin Edwards (Suter) 1’33.450
17. James Ellison (ART) 1’33.489
18. Roberto Rolfo (ART) 1’33.577
19. Ivan Silva (BQR) 1’34.156
20. Kris McLaren (BQR) 1’36.324