Jorge Lorenzo saw off the challenge of Marc Marquez to claim his first pole position in thirteen races at Phillip Island. The Yamaha rider smashed the previous pole position record to beat Marquez by a quarter of a second with Valentino Rossi putting his Yamaha on the front row for the second weekend in succession.
The session was taking place against a backdrop of major uncertainty with Bridgestone’s tyres showing signs of suffering in the unusually high temperatures in southern Australia. The warning signs were showing in final practice that the harder compound was struggling to last a race distance on the resurfaced tarmac before overheating. Perhaps as a precursor to what may take place tomorrow, race direction made a ruling shortly before qualifying that provisions were in place to “change the length of a race outside of the minimum and maximum lengths defined elsewhere in the regulations”, suggesting that the distance may be shortened tomorrow due to fears over tyre durability.
With no such concerns in qualifying, the riders dashed out on track for qualifying and Lorenzo’s newest concern came in the form of a seagull which flew into his path and became lodged in the side of his YZR-M1. You wouldn’t have guessed Jorge was carrying extra weight from his opening lap time of a 1:28.681, the quickest of the weekend, but Marc Marquez responded with a 1:28.384, a tenth faster than Lorenzo and his unfortunate passenger after a second timed lap from both Spaniards.
While the major contenders returned to their garages for a change of tyres, or in Lorenzo’s case the removal of said seagull, Valentino Rossi took advantage of a clear track to go third and that position would stick with Alvaro Bautista and Dani Pedrosa unable to beat the second Yamaha. The top two weren’t finished though with Marquez lowering the benchmark time by a quarter of a second but he couldn’t break into the 1:27s. That honour would be saved for Lorenzo who set the fastest ever lap of Phillip Island to claim pole, two tenths clear of Marquez and 0.748s clear of teammate Rossi.
Bautista and Pedrosa will be disappointed to start on row two having been pipped by Rossi while Cal Crutchlow will have been relieved to see off his teammate Bradley Smith for sixth with the British rookie producing his strongest performance yet. Smith will have a trio of Ducatis behind him with Nicky Hayden leading Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone while Colin Edwards and Randy de Puniet completed the Q2 line-up after both crashed out.
Aleix Espargaro was the big name casualty in Q1 after being held up by Yonny Hernandez on a late flying lap. The Spaniard’s reaction on the way back to the pits which almost saw him come to blows with the Colombian is sure to land him in hot water with race direction though. Hernandez, who also baulked Dovizioso during the session, could only managed fifteenth on the grid with his former teammate Michael Laverty eighteenth on his first visit to Phillip Island.