Stoner on pole for Australian MotoGP

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PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia: Australian    Casey Stoner yet again mastered the challenging Phillip Island circuit yesterday to take pole position for the Australian MotoGP.

It was the Ducati racer’s third consecutive pole for his home grand prix as he lines up today chasing his fourth straight triumph in the Australian race.

Stoner, currently one point off third place in the championship, clocked a fastest lap of one minute 30.107 seconds and was 0.668secs faster than Spain’s newly-crowned world champion Jorge Lorenzo.

Stoner, who celebrated his 25th birthday with his 25th career pole, has a fantastic record at the exposed Phillip Island track and during his three-year winning sequence he has led at the end of every lap except one.

Stoner will be bidding for his third win of the season in today’s race after earlier consecutive successes at Aragon and Motegi.

“We have had virtually every single condition you could imagine thrown at us this weekend so we’ll have to wait and see what happens tomorrow (today) before we make any decisions on the bike set-up,” Stoner said.

“With the last two soft tyres I was able to make a substantial improvement in the lap time and we’re in the best possible position for tomorrow.”

American Ben Spies will be third off the front row of the grid, some 1.279 secs down on Stoner. — AFP

Italian Marco Simoncelli was fourth with seven-times MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi to start off the second row of the race grid after posting the eighth fastest time.

Lorenzo, who clinched the world MotoGP title with third place in last weekend’s Malaysian race at Sepang, was temporarily in pole position on his Fiat Yamaha only to be overhauled by Stoner late in the session.

“I wanted pole today but the weather and Casey stopped me — he is so quick here,” Lorenzo said.

“The conditions were really risky because it was so cold and also incredibly windy and it was hard to stay on the bike sometimes.

“We hope the weather is like this or better tomorrow with no rain. I am ready for the race and I just want to enjoy it.”

Rossi, who was unbeaten around Phillip Island for five years from 2001 to 2005 and has 12 podiums in all classes, was 1.5secs slower than Stoner’s best lap time indicating the gap he has to make up if he is to win his 80th race on Sunday.

Rossi has finished second on his Fiat Yamaha to Stoner for the last two years in Australia.

“I was really unlucky today because with each of the softer tyres, when I think I could have improved a bit, I had problems,” the Italian said.

“The conditions aren’t good and it’s a great pity because this is a fantastic track but you can’t enjoy it in this cold, as it takes so long for the tyres to get to the right temperature.”

Rossi is just one point ahead of Stoner in third place in the championship behind Lorenzo and Spain’s Dani Pedrosa heading into the final three races of the season. — AFP