But struggles a bit on race pace
Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden will start tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix from pole position after a brilliant qualifying lap at a sunny Phillip Island circuit today.
It's the second year running that Hayden has taken pole position
at one of his favourite circuits.
The straight-talking American admitted there's still some work to do on his race set-up to improve the traction from his RC211V, but today's stunning qualifying performance will give Hayden the perfect starting point from which to defend his 22-point lead in the world championship.
The pole position also cemented Hayden's clear lead at the head of the MotoGP Best Qualifier Award. The 25-year-old's ability to produce scorching laps on his qualifying Michelins sees him sitting more than six seconds clear of his nearest rival, Colin Edwards.
Dani Pedrosa will start from tenth place after making steady progress on bike set-up today. The 20-year-old Spaniard is still in some pain from injuries endured in a crash at last week's Malaysian Grand Prix and these prevented Pedrosa from achieving his usual phenomenal pace.
The tough Catalan rider refused pain-killing injections today but will decide tomorrow whether they are necessary for the race. Lying in second place in the world championship, Pedrosa will be aiming to once again defy the odds and record his sixth podium finish in seven races.
Nicky Hayden :
“It's really nice to be on pole and to get a good lap in. That Michelin qualifier worked so good and my bike felt awesome for that one lap. I was able to open the throttle as hard as I liked and it was really fun – though it doesn't count for anything other than a really good grid position.
I knew before the start of my lap that my timing wasn't good and I wasn't going to get use my last qualifier so I knew I had to get in a good lap. On race pace I'm struggling a bit and I just cannot find any traction. We've changed everything on the bike to try and get some grip and not just spin the tyre. Nonetheless it feels good to get a good lap in - we've still got some work to do if we want to do 27 of them tomorrow.”
“Today we worked on set-up and my feeling on the bike was not quite as good as I'd have liked. We are tenth on the grid and that is not fantastic but it's much better than 15th which is where I have been for a lot of the weekend. I was able to ride quite hard on the qualifying tyre, but I'm losing a lot of time on every lap in the first sector so I will have to improve that for the race. The bike set-up is not bad, although we still have to decide on the right Michelin race tyre. Tomorrow is another day so I'm not sure of my potential yet. I don't know yet if I'll have painkillers – I prefer not to but it may be necessary.”
“It was very exciting at the end of qualifying and Nicky showed us the perfect way to ride an attacking lap. It really demonstrated his riding spirit. He's been very close to getting more pole positions this year but finally his day has arrived. I want to say congratulations to Nicky. We still have work to do for the race but it's very important to show strong pace at the critical moments, and I hope he will show his strong spirit again in the race. Dani improved his pace gradually and got tenth on the grid. Of course it's not a happy position for him but he's in front of some of his strong rivals. We know it will be another tough race for Dani tomorrow but everyone knows he has a real fighting spirit. I want to ask all the fans to give Dani a big cheer and give him even more support than normal because he's in a tough situation.”
Repsol Honda Team