Casey Stoner stormed to his first pole position since the opening round of the season to delight a large home crowd at Phillip Island this afternoon.
Just two minutes of an exciting qualifying session remained when the Aussie posted a best lap of 1.30.386 to move in front of Valentino Rossi by just 0.005s.
But the 24-year-old was able to lap marginally faster on his last flying lap, the 2007 world champion powering his factory Ducati GP9 to a lap of 1.30.341.
That time secured the 24-year-old his first pole position since the opening race in Qatar, with Rossi ending up 0.050s adrift in second.
Looking back to his brilliant best after a recent three-race sabbatical, Stoner romped to his ninth front row start of the campaign to give his hopes of notching a third straight victory in Phillip Island a massive boost. Rossi secured second spot with a best lap of 1.30.391 that the Italian posted with six minutes remaining.
That had put him 0.075s clear of Stoner but the reigning world champion, who will start tomorrow’s 27-lap race with an 18-point lead over rival Jorge Lorenzo, was unable to respond in the final moments to Stoner’s impressive burst of speed.
Dani Pedrosa completed the front row with the Spaniard producing gutsy performance. He claimed third spot in the closing moments with a best lap of 1.31.070, despite a high-speed crash entering the Southern Loop just before the halfway stage.
Pedrosa, who crashed out of last year’s race on the first lap at the same corner, walked away unhurt and bounced back in superb fashion to bump Lorenzo back onto the second row at the end of the hour-long session.
Pedrosa’s late attack cost Estoril winner Lorenzo his 100 per cent front row qualifying record as the Spaniard’s tough weekend continued.
A lowly sixth yesterday with illness and rear grip issues, the title contender missed out on third by just 0.001s when it looked like he’d done enough for a 15th straight front row.
Three Yamaha YZR-M1s will start in the top five with Texan Colin Edwards in fifth spot. He logged a best time of 1.31.096 to finish just 0.026s away from securing his first front row start of the season.
With Andrea Dovizioso though struggling down in 10th place, Edwards’ hopes of securing fifth place overall in the world championship could get a major boost in tomorrow’s race. British rider James Toseland will start from 12th position after he clocked a quickest lap of 1.31.722.
The 28-year-old had to settle for a fourth row slot despite only finishing 0.7s away from Pedrosa in third.