Casey Stoner proved he was human. Then, perhaps that he's superhuman.
Stoner claimed pole position at the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in extraordinary style on Friday, clocking his best lap after being flipped off his bike at high speed. Already carrying an ankle injury, the Australian dusted himself off, got on a new bike, then clocked a flying sub-1m 30s lap time to give himself the best possible shot at a sixth successive win at Phillip Island in today's race.
He backed up that amazing effort with even quicker laps for the rest of the session. His best of 1:29m.623s put him on pole ahead of Yamaha's championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (1m 30.140s) and Stoner's Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa (1m30.525s). Another record attendance of more than 40,000 watched Stoner in his home MotoGP farewell before he retires.
He started the day with more head-shakingly quick laps in morning practice, following on from dominating both practice sessions on Friday. But after a fast early qualifying lap, all held their breath as Stoner was bucked off a bike which trailed desperately close to his injured leg as both slid off the circuit.
After limping away to get some new wheels, Stoner then came out and did what no one else was able to do at Phillip Island this weekend - break 1m 30s. He did it six times.
Lorenzo leads Pedrosa by 23 points in the championship going into the penultimate race of the season. Only they can win the MotoGP title.
Earlier, Lorenzo said he was not panicked by Stoner's remarkable pace in practice. Lorenzo knows the real race for him is against his fellow Spaniard, not Stoner.
"Casey is very fast. He's on another level at this track," Lorenzo said after the Australian dominated earlier practice sessions. "But I think we are close to Dani so our goal is to try and beat him."
Stoner produced scintillating speed to be the fastest man in both sessions by almost a second in each. Chasing his sixth consecutive Australian Grand Prix win, Stoner laid down early markers - then went even quicker as his rivals closed.
- AAPBy Guy Hand