Casey Stoner set a blistering pace, even by his own standards, to take pole position for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix. The home favourite will be crowned champion if he wins tomorrow with Jorge Lorenzo off the podium and the first part of that scenario looks highly likely based on today's events.
The session got off to a dramatic start as Ben Spies suffered a high speed accident on his Yamaha. The American lost the front end of the YZR-M1 at turn three and needed assistance from the marshals as he walked away. Thankfully, he would return to the track later on.
A close battle for pole looked in prospect early on as Lorenzo set the pace on a 1:30.991 before Dani Pedrosa sprung to life after a quiet start to the weekend, snatching top spot with a 1:30.871.
But once Stoner set off on an all-out qualifying attempt, all bets were off as the championship leader clocked a 1:30.042 to pull out the thick end of a second over the rest of the field. He wasn't finished there though and produced two more laps in the 1m29 bracket to demoralise the opposition.
Attention switched to who would join him on the front row and Lorenzo sealed his place in second with a 1:30.448. With four minutes to go, Andrea Dovizioso jumped up to third on his Repsol Honda but Alvaro Bautista tucked into his slipstream to great effect, putting the Rizla Suzuki on the front row with a sensational lap.
Marco Simoncelli would deny the Spaniard in the end by just over a tenth of a second but fourth represents the best qualifying result in Bautista's MotoGP career. Dovizioso will line up fifth while Nicky Hayden will complete the second row after an excellent lap on his Ducati.
Ben Spies recovered up to seventh after his early spill while Dani Pedrosa couldn't improve on his early pole lap which dropped him all the way to eighth. Colin Edwards will round out the third row for Tech 3 while Loris Capirossi qualified a superb tenth on the Pramac Ducati.
Phillip Island is among the Italian's favourite circuits and Valentino Rossi shares that sentiment although you wouldn't have thought so in qualifying. The five time winner struggled to 13th, one place ahead of Britain's Cal Crutchlow.