Speedy Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo set a new MotoGP qualifying benchmark with a stunning display of precision and speed to claim pole position for the Australian Grand Prix.
Lorenzo stunned a seagull and then smashed Casey Stoner’s outright lap record by 0.7 seconds at an average speed of 113.81 mph.
This is the fastest average speed for a qualifying run on any track on the MotoGP calendar. Lorenzo’s lap time was 1m 27.899s.
The previous record was set by Stoner on a Ducati in 2008 prior to the retired Australian winning the second of six consecutive races at the Island.
Lorenzo is joined on the front row by championship leader Marc Marquez (Honda) and his Yamaha teammate, Valentino Rossi.
Lorenzo was unfazed on his first qualifying run when a seagull became wedged in a fairing intake and went along for the ride.
Lorenzo is intent on delaying Marquez’s World Title celebrations with a win in Sunday’s race, and took maximum benefit of the grippy new track surface at the Island.
“It was a really fun lap because with this new asphalt, the track is more enjoyable to ride in these corners without bumps and with more grip,” Lorenzo said.
“Obviously, Casey was unbelievably fast here, so without him, for everyone it’s easier — in theory.
“We’ve tried our best to be competitive for all of the weekend. But, to be honest, I didn’t expect this lap. It’s a lap that you only can do with a Playstation.
“I saw so many birds during the first lap I thought I might hit one, and when I got into Lukey Heights, I saw one very close to my bike, so I put my head down and then the bird went down into the bike.
“I didn’t know the bird was stuck there, but it didn’t affect me too much; I did a 1m 28.5 lap — my fastest time to that point — and then went faster on my second lap.”
Race officials later declared that the Australian GP will be run over 26 laps with a mandatory pit stop because of quality and safety issues with the Bridgestone tires.
Inexplicably, Bridgestone did not complete a preseason test session to assess tire wear on the new tarmac at Phillip Island, and has insisted on the pit stop because of blisters forming in the overheating tires.
Lorenzo and Rossi both said the problem was not the new track surface but issues with the construction and compound of the tires supplied by Bridgestone.
“The new track is fantastic,” Rossi said.
The race will be run under the flag-to-flag rule whereby riders will swap to their second bike, fitted with new tires, during the pit stop.
A maximum of 14 laps will be allowed on either bike. Pit stops can begin from lap 12.
Lorenzo is unhappy with the format, usually reserved for wet-weather races,
“The flag-to-flag race is dangerous for the riders when they re-enter the track in Turn 1 where there is not a lot of room on a good line when another rider is racing on a fast lap,” Lorenzo said.
“Also, the new tire on the second bike at the changeover could be very dangerous on the first lap.”
But Lorenzo said he will put aside his concerns and fight for a race win. To clinch the championship at this race, Marquez must win with Lorenzo finishing third or worse — an unlikely scenario given Lorenzo’s record-breaking pace in qualifying.