2010 Australian Grand Prix qualifying results-Stoner over Lorenzo

Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner takes the pole at his home grand prix on his 25th birthday; Spies third, Edwards fifth, Hayden sixth

Casey Stoner

PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA, OCT 16 – There are two things you can count on at Phillip Island; unpredictable weather and the brilliance of Casey Stoner.

Both were on vivid display this afternoon, when Stoner sped to the pole position as rain began to fall at the end of a blustery MotoGP qualifying session.

On the day of his 25th birthday, which he said he wouldn’t celebrate, Stoner spent most of the hour at the top. He was fast early, lost the top spot to Ben Spies, briefly, went back to the top, lost it even more briefly to Jorge Lorenzo, then took it back with 11 minutes to run, as a light rain began to fall on parts of the track. Then, with less than three to go, he put the pole out of reach with a lap that was best by .668 secs., a seeming eternity.

The question about Sunday wasn’t whether Stoner would speed into the distance, the question was what would the weather be? And no one had an answer, not even Stoner himself.

“There was no real consistency yesterday, so it’s going to be interesting to see what the weather’ll be for tomorrow,” Stoner said. “I expected these showers on and off to be up all day, but we were able to keep them away for most of the day and give everybody a chance to run in the dry. If we happen to have a dry race tomorrow it’s going to be a little bit more fair. Everybody’ll be on an equal playing field and we’ll see what happens.

“Yeah, we’ve got to be happy with the job we’ve done. The wet, we were quite consistent, we were pretty happy with the way we went. And in the dry we’ve been able to make some big steps forward and able to take this pole position. So we’re definitely happy with the way things have gone today.”

Stoner was happy prior to the race last weekend in Malaysia. He’d won in Aragon and Japan, but in Malaysia he had a return of his front end troubles and crashed on the opening lap. All of his problems seemed to vanish once he got home and his pace was unmatchable, as Lorenzo noted.

“Yes, it seems it’s going to be Casey’s race, no,” the newly crowned world champion said. “But you know, always in the race could happen other things and we must be prepared and try to improve some things to fight with him, no. It seems that we have a good pace for tomorrow than the rest of the riders, apart from Casey. But we need more, we want more and we want to be faster, so maybe with some modifications on the bike, some changes maybe we can get these two or three things that we need.”

Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Ben Spies was back on the front row for the first time since taking the pole at the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. Spies had started his World Superbike career at Phillip Island. The first race was a disaster-he was run off the first turn-but he won the second and that propelled him to the crown. Getting around the track on a Superbike is different than on his YZR-M1, but either way he found riding at the 2.76-mile track a pleasure.

“It is quite a big difference from how you ride a Superbike on any track to a MotoGP bike,” he began, “but this track, with it being so fast and flowing it’s, I’d have to say it isn’t as big of a difference. But some of the things I remember the Superbike doing, the bikes now don’t do it here. It’s a little different, but it didn’t take too long to get up to speed.”

Spies was top of the session for a while, with his fast lap coming on the 19th of 23. He sat out the final ten minutes after getting spooked by the rain.

“Yeah, we kinda got lucky and then we ran into some bad luck a couple times in the session,” he said. “We had a good session for the first 40 minutes and then we came in to put in the new tires and start trying to go faster for the end. It was really hit or miss with the last 20 minutes. There would be some rain drops and it would be dry and every time I would come out of pit lane and start warming everything up everything was fine and when I’d start going on the fast lap and would start seeing some drops of rain and wasn’t willing to risk it and thought the time we had was quite good and we got on the front row. I was pretty surprised that it happened, but with the race set-up the bike is working quite well and I’m confident for tomorrow whatever it does. It’s been iffy with the wind and the weather, but it should be interesting tomorrow.”

Spies narrowly edged San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli onto the second row. The difference was .016 secs. Still, it was by far the Italian’s best qualifying effort. Prior to today his best was eighth, which he’d been five times.

“I am really happy because we have qualified on the third row for the last few races but today I managed it and with a little bit more I could have been on the front row,” he said. “I'm really pleased with this, although being honest I have to admit that (Ben) Spies is probably a bit faster. We have made a good step this morning though and now all we have to do is look ahead to the race. The wind was a bit of a problem today, especially when I was on my fast lap. I was behind (Casey) Stoner at that point and I honestly cannot understand how he manages to go so fast.”

Sharing the second row was Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Nicky Hayden, the Ducati Marlboro rider whose session ended prematurely when he lost the front end over the bumps in a slow corner. Edwards had started the day well by finishing second in Saturday morning’s free practice.

“It was almost my best qualifying result of the season, but I'm happy with fifth and being so close to Ben on the front row gives me a lot of confidence for the race,” Edwards said after finishing only .013 sec. off Simoncelli and .029 secs. off Spies. “I have felt really good on the bike today and finishing second this morning gave me a lot of confidence. I had a fairly good set-up this morning with the bike but I was just missing a little bit of turning performance. We left the bike for the start of qualifying and I was basically doing the same lap times as this morning. So we made some changes to the front for my last rear tire and immediately I was able to go half-a-second faster. It just felt easy and I gained so much confidence that I could put the bike where I wanted it to be on the track. I'm happy with my race pace and I'm ready, so hopefully I can get my best result of the year. We'll have to see what the weather throws at us but I'm ready for anything.”

Hayden said that up until he tipped over, the day had been decent. “We’ve been quite consistently up near the front and making a little bit of progress every run, every change. And tried something this afternoon on one bike and didn’t like it. So just went back to the bike I started the session on. My first qualifying run I did 31.5 and felt OK, but I definitely thought I could go make a good step and try to get on the front row. It was spitting rain just a little bit, but the tires felt like they came in plenty quick on the warm-up lap and did my best T1 and then in Turn 4 I just lost the front. Little bit over some bumps and I mean I struggle on the front over bumps. And felt it go and thought I had it saved OK, but I didn’t. I was down and pretty much the end of my session.

“So would’ve been nice to do my last run to see what I could do, because I like going around here, especially with new tires and it’s an intense lap, but didn’t happen.”

LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet was seventh fastest-he’d had a small crash in the morning-and Valentino Rossi was a disconsolate eighth after running into problems with his two soft tires. On his first potentially fast lap he was balked by Pramac Ducati’s Aleix Espargaro. On his second, he came up on Hayden’s Ducati, which was lying in the middle of the track on the exit of the Honda Hairpin, “So unfortunately I cannot do a real attempt. If not I think I can make stay with Colin and Spies.

“Anyway, we are not very fast and is important start in front, first of all, fourth place. But we have to start from eighth, unfortunately. But we have to improve also our setting. Try to make better tomorrow and see what’s happened.”

Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso qualified ninth while struggling with the high winds.

“The main reason for my grid position is that with the gusty wind I cannot control the bike as I want and hold the racing line, and we also need to find some more grip as well,” he said.

Pedrosa decides not to race

Teammate Dani Pedrosa opted not to race after qualifying 15th. Pedrosa had come here from his home in Spain two weeks after breaking his left collarbone. He was hopeful of being able to ride, and he did, but the track and the wind contributed to conditions which made it impossible, and unsafe, for him to face a 27-lap race.

Pedrosa said he couldn’t hold the handlebars properly and got tired after every practice. “Maybe just the time-it’s two weeks-or maybe it’s the track and the wind conditions, I don’t know. But I didn’t see myself being safely 27 laps. So to risk two or three points or crash in these conditions I think it’s not so much for me and I better prefer to rest and get back to Estoril in better shape and more chance of controlling my bike and going faster.

“I came here, it’s a long way from home, but at least I can go home back and start to be able to take in some more information. Of course, I’d like to race. It’s not an easy decision. But I think it has more sense than risking a crash tomorrow or something else.”

MotoGP Qualifying:
1. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati 1:30.107
2. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha 1:30.775
3. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha 1:31.386
4. Marco Simoncelli (ITA) Honda 1:31.402
5. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha 1:31.415
6. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 1:31.530
7. Randy de Puniet (FRA) Honda 1:31.554
8. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha 1:31.627
9. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Honda 1:32.018
10. Marco Melandri (ITA) Honda 1:32.367
11. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Ducati 1:32.542
12. Mika Kallio (FIN) Ducati 1:32.816
13. Hiroshi Aoyama (JAP) Honda 1:1:33.190
14. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Suzuki 1:33.224
15. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda 1:33.384
16. Hector Barbera (SPA) Ducati 1:33.390
17. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Suzuki 1:34.269