Casey Stoner will start his home Grand Prix at Phillip Island from pole position for the second successive season tomorrow after snatching top spot by just 0.050 seconds in an exciting finale to today’s single qualifying practice. With dry but cool conditions prevailing once again this afternoon, track conditions were not ideal but the Australian produced a late charge to topple Valentino Rossi on a soft tyre.
His team-mate Nicky Hayden will start from the front of the third row after an improved showing on his Desmosedici GP9. The American bettered his fastest lap from yesterday on his first outing in this morning’s final free practice session before the onset of heavy rain, although he continued to make progress in the afternoon and registered the seventh quickest time overall, just over two tenths off the front row. Stoner, who was comfortably the quickest rider in that brief wet spell this morning, will run a special livery tomorrow.
CASEY STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) (1st; 1’30.341)
“It’s a great feeling to be on pole position again, especially here at my home race. I’ve had great support from the fans here this weekend and it is nice to give them something to cheer for today, although the real work starts tomorrow. To be honest we’re still struggling for traction, which seems to be the same problem for everybody, but we have worked hard this season to create a bike that turns well – trying things like going back to the aluminium swingarm – and it has paid off so far this weekend. This is a great track to ride at when you’re comfortable with your bike and even though we still don’t have a perfect set-up I still felt confident enough to push it at the end and it was good fun. Now I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, especially because we’re going to be running a special livery and I’d really like to thank our sponsors for that.”
NICKY HAYDEN – (Ducati Marlboro Team) (7th; 1’31.325)
“The bike felt a lot better this morning compared to yesterday although to be fair we only ran it on new tyres before the rain came and maybe that gave us a false impression of just how good it was. Having said that, it felt okay this afternoon too and I was able to push it pretty hard and enjoy myself – probably for the first time this weekend. I was in fifth place for a good while in the first half of the session but ended up seventh, just over two tenths off the front row, and I’m disappointed with that because I really hoped we’d be closer to the front at this track. Anyway, it’s tomorrow that counts and I’m looking forward to the race because as I said I’ve finally started to enjoy myself this afternoon. The problem could be that the race doesn’t start until 4pm so it will be approaching 5 by the time we finish, and that is going to have a massive effect on tyre choice and everything else.”
Circuit record lap: Nicky Hayden (Honda – 2008), 1’30.059 – 177.803 Km/h Best Pole: Casey Stoner (Ducati – 2008), 1’28.665 – 180.598 Km/h 2009 Pole Position: Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1’30.341 – 177.248 km/h