Reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi took the 59th pole position of his career and his first of the season today with an authoritative performance in sunny Le Mans.
His teammate Jorge Lorenzo was just five hundredths of a second off his time, as the Fiat Yamaha pair put up a commanding display ahead of tomorrow’s French Grand Prix.
After topping the time sheets yesterday, Rossi was third this morning with Lorenzo ahead of him in second. This afternoon temperatures once again soared into the high twenties and both riders looked in menacing form, having already found excellent base settings for their M1s yesterday.
Both had spent time at the top of the standings before the session entered its final quarter and with ten minutes to go Lorenzo went top again, becoming the first man to dip into the 1’33s.
The Mallorcan held out for a few minutes before Casey Stoner and then Dani Pedrosa took over but it was Rossi who had the most still hidden up his sleeve, the 31-year-old maestro pulling out a brilliant lap in a time of 1’33.408, a target that proved unassailable in the final two minutes.
Rossi is still worried about his damaged shoulder over race distance tomorrow but he will be doing all he can to take a second win of the year, as will his championship-leading team-mate Lorenzo, when the third round of the season gets underway at 1400 CET tomorrow.
Valentino Rossi says: "This weather is really making me very happy, because for once in Le Mans we have been able to use all of the sessions properly and now here we are on pole. My setting is good, I feel comfortable on my M1 and Bridgestone tyres and my race pace is not bad either so everything is working out. It’s a great pleasure to be on pole and when I looked and saw the lap time I was very pleased with my performance and with how well we had worked, so thanks to all my team."
Jorge Lorenzo says: "This was another good session and we are very strong, although there are quite a few riders here who are fast with a good race pace. Today I was consistent and I can ride happily at around 1’34.5 so if I can keep this up during the race then we have a good chance. I need to try to get a good start tomorrow and be stronger during the first few laps, then I think I can fight for victory."
Davide Brivio (Rossi Team Manager) says: "A good job from us all to get the first pole position of the year. The bike is working well and we only need to make a few small adjustments for tomorrow to be ready to fight. Valentino’s shoulder isn’t 100% and we aren’t sure how it will hold up under race distance but we’ve done the best we can do to put him in the right position so now we will just have to see how it goes. It looks like the weather could be even hotter so at least we don’t have to worry about that!"
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’33.408
2. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’33.462
3. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 1’33.573
4. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’33.824
5. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’33.845
Event: Grand Prix of France – Qualifying
Date: 22nd May 2010
Ambient temperature: 28 degrees
Track temperature: 46 degrees
Le Mans: Record Lap
V. Rossi (Yamaha) 2008, 1’34.215
Le Mans: Best Lap
D. Pedrosa (Honda) 2008, 1’32.647