Pole position for Stoner in Australia after fall

Saturday, October 27, 2012
Home star Casey Stoner shrugged off a highside fall to claim pole position for his final Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island.

The double world champion had been over one-second clear of the field after final practice and duly romped to pole by 0.517s in qualifying - his fifth pole in a row at Phillip Island.

Stoner's session was interrupted by a corner-entry highside after 20 minutes of the hour, at the Honda hairpin.

The cool, cloudy conditions - plus ever present threat of rain - meant soft tyres front and rear were the standard choice for qualifying, and Stoner's accident occurred on his out-lap on the harder rear.

The back of his RCV kicked out as he turned into the right-hand hairpin, flicking Stoner into the air, but fortunately not damaging his healing ankle.

Typically, the incident only seemed to sting Stoner into action. The 27-year-old returned on his spare bike (and soft tyres) within five minutes and promptly pushed pole 0.8s away from nearest rival Jorge Lorenzo.

World championship leader Lorenzo responded, lapping half-a-second faster than he had gone in practice, but Stoner continue to raise the bar and the final stages began with the Repsol Honda star 0.445s ahead of Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa over one-second adrift in third.

Stoner went on to set the fastest lap of the weekend on his 19th of 22 laps, with drizzle calling a halt to qualifying two-minutes early.

The front row riders - Stoner, Lorenzo (+0.517s) and Pedrosa (+0.952s) - were thus unchanged from practice, but Pedrosa looked to lose ground, never able to seriously threaten Lorenzo.

Yamaha star Lorenzo, who holds a 23-point lead, will be crowned MotoGP champion for a second time on Sunday if he can gain at least three points more than Pedrosa.

Pedrosa's team-mate Stoner, whose 2012 title hopes were ended by ankle injuries, will be chasing a sixth successive home win on Sunday, in his penultimate race before retirement.

The second row of the grid will be occupied by Cal Crutchlow (Tech 3 Yamaha), who lapped just 0.188s slower than Pedrosa, plus Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) and Andrea Dovizioso (Tech 3 Yamaha).

Alvaro Bautista (Gresinii Honda), Valentino Rossi (Ducati) and Randy de Puniet (Aspar Aprilia) forming row three. de Puniet's ninth place is the best yet qualifying for a CRT rider.

Rossi's factory Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden completed a top ten, covered by 2.058s.

Local rider Kris McLaren, drafted into the Avintia Blusens squad in place of the injured Yonny Hernandez , suffered a big highside 20-minute mark and missed the qualifying cut by 0.428s.

Lorenzo's team-mate Ben Spies is out for the rest of the season following shoulder surgery to repair damage sustained in last Sunday's Sepang fall.

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