Huge doubts surrounding the fitness of two-time world champion Casey Stoner coming into what will be just his third race after major ankle surgery were put to rest at this weekend’s MotoGP event in Phillip Island, Melbourne.
Stoner erased any doubts critics may have had with a superhuman effort at the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix qualifiers on Saturday, crashing before claiming pole position ahead of the competition's top two riders.
Stoner flipped his bike and landed awkwardly as his home soil fans sat and watched in dismay, but the 27-year-old Australian hobbled off to the pits to collect his spare Honda before polling a couple of incredible times.
He went on to break the 1m 30 sec lap barrier three times, a feat no other rider has yet to complete this weekend, and pole first ahead of Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa.
Unfortunately, this weekend won’t be more than a proud send off for the champ. Stoner, third in the MotoGP standings, can’t compete for the title after missing three races due to that ankle surgery. Still, he wowed the home fans that turned out in abundance to see their hero for a final time. Organisers estimated over 40,000 people were in attendance for the qualifiers.
The MotoGP title will come down to Lorenzo and Pedrosa. Lorenzo leads the title race by a meagre 23 points and was also able to get his Yamaha on the first row, fourth tenths ahead of Pedrosa.
Lorenzo isn’t expected to try chase down Stoner tomorrow and will instead attempt to hold Pedrosa behind him and maintain his standings lead with just a couple of races remaining in the MotoGP seaosn. Lorenzo’s caused won’t be helped either, Stoner looks to be after a final Phillip Island win rather than assisting his teammate neutralise Lorenzo.
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