Valentino Rossi qualified second for the second consecutive race at Phillip Island today, sealing his eleventh front-row start of the season at a track that has seen him top the podium seven times in his career. The Fiat Yamaha Team rider will share the front row with Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner, promising an exciting battle between the top three riders in the championship for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix. Rossi's team-mate Colin Edwards meanwhile had a less successful qualifying session, setting the eleventh fastest lap, which will put him in the middle of the fourth row on tomorrow's grid.
Following a day of changeable weather yesterday, this morning saw Rossi and Edwards sixth and tenth respectively in similar conditions, with the track starting out fully wet but drying quickly throughout the session to produce some faster times in the latter stages. Thankfully however the bad weather looked to have run its course by the afternoon and the riders were rewarded their first fully-dry hour on.
Rossi was lapping comfortably in the top third of the field through most of the session, as he made the most of the time available to refine his race set-up and tyre choice. With ten minutes to go his first lap on a qualifying tyre put him just ahead of Casey Stoner, the Australian having put in an early qualifying lap to provisionally head the board. Rossi however was soon knocked off the top by Stoner on his second tyre and then pushed down to third when Dani Pedrosa put in the eventual pole time of 1'29.201. With four minutes to go Rossi came close to edging the Spaniard off but eventually had to settle for second with a lap of 1'29.419. Edwards moved into the top six at one point during the session but was unable to find the right setting with which to properly exploit his Michelin qualifying tyre and his best lap was 1.475 off Pedrosa's, leaving him with an uphill battle for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix.
Valentino Rossi, "Today has been a good day and this afternoon especially we were able to have a very positive practice. This afternoon was the first full hour we've had in the dry and we were able to do some very good work on the setting. Now we have a clear idea about what we need to do for tomorrow, because we still have a few things to improve. We also need to make our final tyre choice and this is going to be very important for tomorrow. I'm really happy because today it was great fun to ride my M1 around this track, which I love. I was quite confident with the qualifying tyre and when I saw 29.4 I thought maybe it was enough for the pole, but Pedrosa was even faster. Anyway second is a good result and the important thing is that we're on the front row. We now need to improve our race pace a little bit more if possible and then I hope for a great race tomorrow.