Casey Stoner may have lost the chance to defend his MotoGP title, but the Ducati star's raw speed is beyond doubt and the Australian secured the 2008 'MotoGP Best Qualifier' award, two rounds early, with a hard earned home pole position at Phillip Island on Saturday.

With the qualifying award now being decided by points rather than cumulative time, Stoner has clinched another new BMW road car by taking an untouchable 66 point advantage over newly crowned six time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi.

Stoner has taken eight poles from 16 attempts this season - but all his poles have come during the last ten rounds, including seven in a row. Stoner's latest pole saw the Ducati rider edge out Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo by just 0.069secs, with Casey also the only Bridgestone rider in the top five.

"We struggled a little b it this morning with race set-up so we needed this afternoon to sort things out and get the bike working properly on a race tyre," said Stoner who, like all four Desmosedici riders, fell this morning. "Once we did that I felt pretty confident that we could stick a qualifying tyre in and put a good lap together.

"This is actually the first time this season we've had three identical qualifying tyres and the first one ran out of grip in the final sequence of left-handers. With the last one I tried to preserve it a bit better by picking the bike up out of the corners earlier and even then it was do-or-die in those final three bends.

"I thought the lap time would be good enough for a front row start but we ended up on pole position so I'm surprised and extra happy today. This is my home race but there is no pressure on us and I just want to enjoy it. I hope the fans do too," he declared.

Stoner will start Sunday's Australian Grand Prix 11 points ahead of Dani Pedrosa, who qualified sixth on the grid for Repsol Honda. Rossi, who has won the last five MotoGP races in a row, will start just twelfth after an accident.

Meanwhile, Stoner's team-mate Marco Melandri - currently 18th and last in the best qualifier standings - will start from just 17th position.

"I'm really disappointed because this was supposed to be a good track for us but it's turned out to be even more difficult than the rest," said the Italian. "After the problem we had this morning and the crash, which was really strange because I was riding slowly and upright, things didn't improve. Normally I try to brake really hard to make up for the fact we're losing out on corner exit but today I couldn't do that because I had no confidence under braking. It's a really difficult situation and we'll have to wait and see if we can turn it around for the race."



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