Dani Pedrosa put a halt to new world champion Casey Stoner’s domination at Phillip Island today when he surged to his third pole position of the season.
The Spaniard claimed his second successive pole five minutes from the end of a windswept but dry session when he posted a best time of 1.29.201.
Surprisingly nobody could better that benchmark in the time that remained as home hero Casey Stoner had to settle for third place on the grid for tomorrow’s 27-lap race.
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa, who had finished fourth fastest overall in the three free practice sessions, first started to make his move with 10 minutes remaining when a lap of 1.30.242 elevated him to third behind then leader Casey Stoner.
But his best lap was a massive 0.615s clear of the Aussie and he held on despite a late attack from seven-times world champion Valentino Rossi on the factory Fiat Yamaha YZR-M1.
Pedrosa, who goes into tomorrow’s clash 26-points adrift of Rossi in the fight for second in the world championship, said: “It was a good lap time. My best lap time in this track and the improvement from practice to qualifying was good. I hope tomorrow the weather stays stable and now we need to see if we can make a good race tyre choice. I think the top three riders are on the front row so we will see what happens.”
Valentino Rossi’s late challenge with three minutes remaining wasn’t good enough to clinch his first pole position since the Catalunya MotoGP in June.
The Italian logged a 1.29.419 but that was 0.218s slower than Dani Pedrosa’s best.
Valentino Rossi had looked on course to end his pole position drought when he jumped to the top of the timesheets with nine minutes remaining.
A 1.29.991 moved him just 0.007s clear of Casey Stoner and Rossi said: “This afternoon we are able to make a good practice and work well on the setting because this was the first full hour in the dry.
"Now we have some clear ideas for tomorrow. I am quite happy about the setting but we can make better with the race tyres. Making a good tyre choice will be very important for tomorrow but I am happy.
"I made a great lap at the end and I was confident with the Michelin qualifying tyre. When I saw 29.4 I thought this might be enough for pole position but Dani was faster. Second is a good result and we must wait for tomorrow because we have to be better with the race pace.
Ducati's Casey Stoner missed out on the chance to continue his domination of his home race when a qualifying tyre gamble backfired.
Having topped all three free practice sessions, Casey Stoner opted to run one of his two Bridgestone qualifying tyres early in the session, mindful that rain showers had hit every other session.
But the rain never came and he was left with only one tyre for the crucial laps at the end.
He used his first qualifier after just 18 minutes had elapsed when a 1.29.998 moved him 0.331s clear of factory Ducati team-mate Loris Capirossi. The Italian veteran had also gambled to run one of his qualifying tyres after just 13 minutes had elapsed.
Casey Stoner escaped injury from a big crash exiting the Siberia left-hander this morning - his second spill of the weekend – and he said: “This has been the worst session of the weekend.
"We went out on a qualifier early because in every other session the rain has come and I wanted to get in a decent lap before the rain came. But that wasn’t the best idea and I only had one tyre left for the end of the session.
"I thought I could go about a second faster but I got held up on both laps and also made a small mistake. I was not anywhere near the pace but the setting for the race is good.”
Casey Stoner ended with a best time of 1.29.816.
Former world champion Nicky Hayden was fourth fastest ahead of Japanese MotoGP winner Loris Capirossi, with factory Kawasaki rider Randy de Puniet completing the second row of the grid.
The French rider was third with just seven minutes remaining when he clocked a 1.30.110. He looked on course to knock Casey Stoner off the front row with an impressive first sector split time, but he faded and couldn’t improve on his 1.30.110.