MotoGP: Grip Becomes a Factor for Qualifying Down Under at Phillip Island and the Australian GP

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MotoGP action comes from the land down under this weekend, taking to the Australian track of Phillip Island. Treading on the home turf of Casey Stoner, fans will surely be treated to some good racing from the come-back kid. Stoner will have to show his strength has returned though, as both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo are looking for as many Championship points now that the MotoGP is getting closer to its conclusion.

Casey Stoner found his way to the front of the pack today, but only just barely. Trailing Stoner by only .05 seconds, Valentino Rossi will start from the second position on the grid. Dani Pedrosa, who completes the front row, also had a strong showing in the qualifying session, and finished only .679 seconds behind Stoner.

For the first time this year, Jorge Lorenzo will not be on the front-row, perhaps due to the fact the Spaniard and his crew were recovering from a bout of food-poisoning. Lorenzo will have to work his way to the front if he wants to keep his Championship hopes alive.

Many riders have been battling grip issues at the Australian track, which caught Ducati rider Niccolo Canepa off-guard. Canepa, who injured his arm in yesterday’s practice, had to undergo a skin graft and will miss tomorrow’s race. He is also expected to miss next week’s race in Malaysia. Stoner also complained of grip issues saying:

“We don’t have the same grip levels that we have had the last two years here. With the stiffer chassis which we have now it works very well at some circuits but not so well at others. So we have lost that advantage. We definitely have more corner speed but we are spinning a lot as we come out of corners and we can’t get it to hook up so we’re working a lot on the rear end. We’ve shortened the bike, we’ve changed some of the pivot positions, we’ve dropped the riding height, all sorts of things, but we are still searching for something for tomorrow. The warm-up session is going to be very important.”

Stoner will be looking for his third PI victory in a row tomorrow. After his strong showing in Estoril, we wouldn’t count him out, but Stoner himself is hedging his bets.

“It would be nice to win but if you get too hopeful of things they normally don’t happen. So we’re just going to see what we can do, try to play it as smart as we can in the race and come home and finish it. Then if we win obviously that is fantastic.”

Stay tuned tomorrow as 25 more Championship points will be up for grabs, and only 3 races remain in the MotoGP Championship series.

Results from Qualifying at the Australian GP at Phillip Island, Australia:

Pos No. Rider Bike Time Diff Diff. to Prev.
1 27 Casey STONER DUCATI 1’30.341
2 46 Valentino ROSSI YAMAHA 1’30.391 0.050 0.050
3 3 Dani PEDROSA HONDA 1’31.070 0.729 0.679
4 99 Jorge LORENZO YAMAHA 1’31.071 0.730 0.001
5 5 Colin EDWARDS YAMAHA 1’31.096 0.755 0.025
6 15 Alex DE ANGELIS HONDA 1’31.260 0.919 0.164
7 69 Nicky HAYDEN DUCATI 1’31.325 0.984 0.065
8 14 Randy DE PUNIET HONDA 1’31.380 1.039 0.055
9 36 Mika KALLIO DUCATI 1’31.384 1.043 0.004
10 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO HONDA 1’31.472 1.131 0.088
11 24 Toni ELIAS HONDA 1’31.640 1.299 0.168
12 52 James TOSELAND YAMAHA 1’31.722 1.381 0.082
13 65 Loris CAPIROSSI SUZUKI 1’31.873 1.532 0.151
14 33 Marco MELANDRI KAWASAKI 1’32.190 1.849 0.317
15 7 Chris VERMEULEN SUZUKI 1’32.338 1.997 0.148
16 41 Gabor TALMACSI HONDA 1’32.752 2.411 0.414