In-form Spaniard Dani Pedrosa snatched his first pole position of 2009 right at the death of Saturday afternoon’s MotoGP qualifying session at the Grand Prix de France as the riders got the chance to give it full gas on a dry track.
With Le Mans typically experiencing four seasons in a day morning rain gave way to afternoon sunshine, with provisional pole changing hands several times, before Pedrosa made it his own with a best effort of 1’33.974 on his final lap, to take first spot by a 0.005s margin.
The factory Honda rider who appears to be getting stronger every time he gets on his RC212V at present, following an injury plagued winter, will be joined on the front row by fellow Spanish rider Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha) and Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro).
Valentino Rossi made improvements as the session went on, his final position of fourth being a significant step forward having lapped eleventh fastest on Saturday morning.
Rossi’s compatriot Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and his former team-mate Colin Edwards, who briefly held provisional pole in the session, will line up behind him on the grid.
The third row will feature Rizla Suzuki pair Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi who both qualified within a second of Pedrosa, at a track where Vermeulen took victory in 2007.
The top ten was rounded off by Italian competitor Marco Melandri (Hayate Racing) and home rider Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) who both bounced back from crashes in the hour-long session.
The weathermen have suggested that there is an 80% chance of rain on Sunday at the time of the fourth MotoGP race of the year.
Álvaro Bautista (Mapfre Aspar) heads a title-chasing front row in the 250cc class, courtesy of a 1’38.270 hot lap on 21st of 23 turns of the historic French circuit – which put him 0.382s ahead of World Champion Marco Simoncelli (Metis Gilera) on the timesheet.
Behind 250cc title holder Simoncelli on the front row are championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Racing) and Saturday morning’s pace-setter Thomas Luthi (Emmi – Caffe Latte), who both put in similar times to the Italian.
Bautista’s Aspar colleague Mike di Meglio, at his home Grand Prix, heads the second row, followed by highly experienced Spaniard Álex Debón (Aeropuerto Castello-Blusens), young Italian Raffaele de Rosa (Scot Racing) and Czech rider Lukas Pesek (Auto Kelly – CP).
Red Bull KTM rider Marc Márquez set pole right at the end of the 125cc qualifying session and the 16 year-old will look to follow it up with his second podium in two races having placed third at Jerez two weeks ago.
Behind the young Spaniard on the Grand Prix de France grid will be another 16 year-old, Scott Redding (Blusens Aprilia), who also registered his best time, 1’47.173, just 0.093s behind Márquez, in the final seconds of the qualifying practice as the track dried following morning rain.
Completing the front row are another Spaniard Nico Terol (Jack&Jones Team) and Swiss rider Dominique Aegerter (Ajo Interwetten), who both recorded hot laps right at the death.
The second row will feature the experienced Joan Olivé (Derbi Racing Team), Bancaja Aspar teammates Bradley Smith & Julián Simón and Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing).