Casey Stoner put himself on course to make it a hat-trick of wins in his homeland by claiming pole position for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
The Ducati rider has tasted victory at Phillip Island for the last two seasons and dominated qualifying on Saturday as he posted a time good enough to edge out reigning champion Valentino Rossi by just 0.05secs.
Rossi had knocked Stoner off top spot in the final 10 minutes of the session but the Australian responded with a lap of one minute 30.341 seconds to register his second pole of the season.
Stoner’s path to pole position was not without one or two handling issues, but he is upbeat over his chances tomorrow.
“The past two years here our bike’s been perfect due to the fact that we normally have very good traction here,” said the 2007 champion.
“This year we have improved the turning in the long corners, but we’ve lost the rear grip coming out of the corners, so we’ve been working all weekend to try and improve that, but the general bike’s been perfect.
“We’ll just see what we can do tomorrow.”
Second-placed man Rossi leads Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo by 18 points with three rounds remaining in the 2009 FIM MotoGP World Championship, and was content to finish two places ahead of the Spaniard in qualifying.
“Today we worked well on the bike, we found a good setting, and I am quite fast,” he said. “But it’s a pity because it was possible to take pole position but I made a mistake and Casey beat me.
“But from the championship point of view it is okay because I’m faster than Jorge. We have a good advantage, so I hope tomorrow to fight for the victory with Casey.”
Lorenzo, the winner in Estoril last time out, missed out on third place by just 0.001secs to Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who recovered well from a heavy fall midway through the session.
Colin Edwards claimed fifth for Tech 3 Yamaha while Honda Gresini’s Alex de Angelis completed the top six. Stoner’s team-mate Nicky Hayden will line up seventh while Britain’s James Toseland will start 12th on the second Tech 3 Yamaha.