Stoner cops a fall - then pole
CAN NOTHING STOP THIS GUY? Honda's Casey Stoner walks away from a crash during qualifying for the 2012 Australian MotoGP. He went out again on his spare bike for a convincing pole. Image: AFP
Author: Robert Smith
PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia - Home hero Casey Stoner overcame a nasty tumble to grab pole position on Saturday in his pursuit of a sixth consecutive win in the 2012 Australian MotoGP here.
The Australian Repsol Honda rider again dominated his rivals with a blistering best lap time of 1min29.623 to start off the inside of the front row for Sunday's penultimate race of the season.
Stoner, on the mend from recent ankle surgery, grabbed his 39th career MotoGP pole despite being flipped off his bike early in the qualifying session then going on to post faster lap times on his replacement bike.
Stoner, is in his farewell season after announcing his retirement, has been a class apart on his home track this week, reeling off six lap times below 1mim30, something beyond his rivals.
Roared on by a record 40 000 fans, Stoner held a significant 0.517sec advantage over his nearest rival and Yamaha’s World championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (1min30.140).
Stoner's Spanish team mate and championship contender Dani Pedrosa (1min30.575) was almost a second behind the flying Australian as third fastest.
"I went out on a hard tyre and on my out lap, as I was peeling into the turn, the bike decided to flip me," Stoner said. "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 - I landed on it – but I hope we don’t any issues with it on Sunday."
Stoner is not long back from surgery to repair torn ligaments and fractures to his ankle, tibia and fibula suffered in a crash during qualifying for the 2012 Indianapolis MotoGP in mid-August.
'PRETTY GOOD FOR RACE PACE'
The Australian's hopes of defending his World title were ruined by that and he is out of contention, well back in third on the championship standings with only two races left.
"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 is 23 points ahead of Pedrosa in the championship and can take his second MotoGP World title with victory on Sunday.
Lorenzo conceded: "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.
"We are closer now, though. In qualifying I made a really good lap with the soft tyre. Second is a good position to be in for Sunday... 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.
"Sunday a very important day and I have to keep calm and not make any mistakes."
'CASEY IS UNREACHABLE'
Pedrosa, who must finish a couple of spots ahead of Lorenzo to keep the championship alive to the final race in Valencia on November 11, said he was confident of matching it with Lorenzo in the race.
"Casey is unreachable, he's on another level and doing an amazing job, but my pace is quite similar to Lorenzo’s so I hope to be at least constant for the fight with him.”
Yamaha's British rider Cal Crutchlow was fourth fastest, ahead of German Stefan Bradl on a Honda, with Yamaha's Andrea Dovizioso sixth.
Nine-times World champion Valentino Rossi was well back in eighth, some two seconds slower than Stoner.
2012 Australian MotoGP qualifying times
1 Casey Stoner (Australia) Honda - 1min29.623
2 Jorge Lorenzo (Spain) Yamaha - 1min30.140
3 Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda = 1min30.575
4 Cal Crutchlow (Britain) Yamaha - 1min30.763
5 Stefan Bradl (Germany) Honda - 1min30.798
6 Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Yamaha - 1min31.200
7 Alvaro Bautista (Spain) Honda - 1min31.490
8 Valentino Rossi (Italy) Ducat - imin31.661
9 Randy de Puniet (France) Aprilia - 1min31.667
10 Nicky Hayden (U.S.) Ducati - 1min31.681
Moto 3 qualifying
1 Sandro Cortese (Germany) KTM - 1min38.334
2 Jonas Folger (Germany) Kalex - 1min38.727
3 Efren Vazquez (Spain) Honda - 1min39.179
4 Danny Kent (Britain) KTM - 1min39.222
5 Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Malaysia) KTM - 1min39.229
6 Miguel Oliveira (Portugal) Honda - 1min39.262
7 Arthur Sissis (Australia) KTM - 1min39.337
8 Maverick Vinales (Spain) Honda - 1min39.387
9 Luis Salom (Spain) Kalex - 1min39.430
10 Alessandro Tonucci (Italy) Honda - 1min39.451
1 Pol Espargaro (Spain) Kalex 1min33.705
2 Scott Redding (Britain) Kalex 1min34.264
3 Marc Marquez (Spain) Suter 1min34.408
4 Thomas Luethi (Switzerland) Suter 1min34.513
5 Takaaki Nakagami (Japan) Kalex 1min34.541
6 Randy Krummenacher (Switzerland) Kalex 1min34.596
7 Johann Zarco (France) Motobi 1min34.696
8 Andrea Iannone (Italy) Speed up 1min34.714
9 Anthony West (Australia) Speed up 1min34.765
10 Esteve Rabat (Spain) Kalex 1min34.900