Casey Stoner has taken his eighth pole position of the 2008 MotoGP season after an action-packed qualifying session for his home Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, which saw a nasty accident for newly crowned world champion Valentino Rossi.
Rossi ran wide through the fast third turn, a left hander which leads to the Honda hairpin, with 15 minutes to go and - after running along the slippery grass parallel to the track at over 100 mph - was kicked viciously from his Fiat Yamaha when he reached a gravel trap. Rossi had been heading directly for a tyre wall.
The Italian sat stationary for a long time afterwards, before getting to his feet under his own power and returning to the pits on the back of a motorcycle, where he had his neck examined by Dr Costa of the Clinica Mobile.
Rossi, tenth at the time of his accident, returned to the track with two minutes remaining, but wasn't able to set a fast lap and slipped back twelfth by the end of the session. Rossi had his neck examined once again when he returned to the pits.
The accident left Ducati star Stoner and Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa to challenge a pack of flying Michelin riders - with Colin Edwards (Tech 3), Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot), Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda) and Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha) all appearing in P1 during the second half of the one hour session.
Phillip Island fan Hayden led much of the closing stages, but was pipped by Stoner in the final minute - who in turn lost out to leading class rookie Lorenzo, chasing his second pole in a row.
Stoner, riding with a weakened wrist, then put it all on the line on his very final lap - and was rewarded with pole position by just 0.069secs from Lorenzo, with Hayden a mere 0.022secs further back in third!
Stoner and sixth placed Pedrosa were the only Bridgestone riders in the top eight, with LCR's Randy de Puniet snatching fourth - a mere 0.143 secs from pole - while rookie James Toseland, a Phillip Island race winner in WSBK, claimed an excellent fifth position by guiding his Tech 3 Yamaha around the seaside circuit just 0.366secs slower than Stoner.
Edwards qualified one place behind Pedrosa in seventh, with Dovizioso the slowest Michelin rider in eighth - on a day when it was confirmed that the French brand will not submit a bid for the single tyre contract.