Rizla Suzuki’s Álvaro Bautista will start the Australian Grand Prix from the front of the second row after qualifying in fourth place.
Bautista (1’30.714, 28 laps) made improvements to his GSV-R during this morning’s final practice session and the early parts of this afternoon’s qualifying to help him find the grip he was looking for around the 4,448m Phillip Island circuit. The changes certainly paid dividends because as the qualifying session wore on, Bautista was close enough to Andrea Dovizioso to use the Italian as a mobile wind-screen to help him push through the gusting gales and head for a quick time. Bautista’s lap was over a second quicker than his best time from yesterday and over two-and-a-half seconds better than his qualifying time in similar conditions at last year’s Australian Grand Prix. He is now in a strong position for the race and will be looking to capitalise on today’s performance in tomorrow’s 27-lap encounter.
Conditions were quite different at Phillip Island today as temperatures dropped and the wind speed increased, bringing with it threatening rain clouds, which fortunately held off for the duration of the session. Home star Casey Stoner took pole position, his 11th of the season, with reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo second. Marco Simoncelli took the final place on the front row, just 0.115 seconds in front of Bautista.
Tomorrow’s event is round 16 of the 2011 World Championship and the lights will change to signal the start of the race at 16.00hrs local time (05.00hrs GMT).
“I’m very happy with today, because I got my best qualifying result so far in MotoGP and at the toughest track for Suzuki, so that shows what good work we have done since last year. It was a fantastic lap behind Dovizioso and when I saw him in front of me on the track, I thought this is my opportunity – if I can’t do a good lap now, I’ll never do one! Third row was not difficult to achieve today, but when I followed him everything seemed easier. With this type of track in this wind and with these types of corners, it helps if you can follow another rider, you can certainly improve a lot and it feels much easier to ride. My feeling is good for tomorrow and I’ll try to make a strong start and stay with the front guys in the first one or two laps. If we can do that I think we will be competitive, because in the first few laps all riders will push hard and after six or seven laps the tyres will probably drop off and the rhythm will settle down. I will try to do a good race tomorrow and get the best possible result I can.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“To achieve Suzuki’s best qualifying since Mugello in 2009 - and Álvaro’s best so far - here at Phillip Island is almost funny! Álvaro has had a steady pace all weekend and when it mattered today he managed to tuck-in behind Dovizioso, and use him as a wind-break, and do an absolutely awesome lap-time. It’s been clear from the potential shown this year just how much the GSV-R has improved and for it to perform around here in cold and windy conditions - how it has done today – is testament to the hard work of Sahara san and his engineers in Hamamatsu and to Tom O’Kane and his crew here.
“As always to live with the factory Hondas and Yamahas will be a tough ask tomorrow, but Álvaro has put himself into a great position and if he can get a good start who knows what can happen.”
Iveco Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Practice Classification:
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’29.975: 2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) +0.473: 3. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) +0.624: 4. ÁLVARO BAUTISTA (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +0.739: 5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) +0.805: