Jorge Lorenzo missed out on a second consecutive pole position by just five thousandths of a second during qualifying for the French Grand Prix in Le Mans today, finishing second to fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa. His Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi was just edged off the front row at the end of the session and will start from fourth tomorrow.
After yesterdays rain it was another grey morning and the practice session was run in the dry but with track temperatures reaching only 17 degrees. After a slow start yesterday Lorenzo looked much happier this morning and was third in the standings, but Rossi found himself struggling to perfect his set-up and finished down the order in 11th. Heavy rain fell during the middle part of the day and a wet qualifying session was expected but just a few minutes into the hour the sun miraculously appeared and the track quickly dried out.
Both Rossi and Lorenzo looked strong throughout and the Spaniard especially was hugely consistent around the 4.185 km Bugatti circuit, eventually moving into pole with nine minutes to go. With a few minutes left Casey Stoner knocked the 22-year-old off the top spot but Lorenzo was able to make full use of his soft Bridgestone tyres at the end and retook pole, looking to have the session sewn up. It wasn't over however and Pedrosa's final lap was just 0.005 seconds faster.
The World Champion looked in much better shape this afternoon, having found a setting which enabled him to ride his M1 as he wanted. He wasn't quite as fast as his team-mate but it seemed he would hold onto the final front-row grid spot as the seconds ticked down before he, too became a victim of Pedrosa's last-minute charge and was bumped to fourth. Having won from that position last time out however Rossi is confident of being in the mix tomorrow when the race gets going at 1400 CET.
2nd - Jorge Lorenzo Speaks...
"I was tiny bit unlucky on that last lap, and we were so very close so it's a pity! Anyway the important thing is that we're on the first row and now we can try to get the good start that we need. I felt strong on the bike today and I was able to make a lot of consistent laps this afternoon, so I am happy about the shape we're in for the race. I really hope that the weather is the same tomorrow and I am looking forward to the race and to getting a good result, like last year here."
4th - Valentino Rossi Speaks...
"Qualifying was a lot better for us! Yesterday and then again this morning we weren't in such good shape, but we've done a good job to fix the bike and this afternoon I could ride how I wanted. It's not perfect and we can still make it better, but we're okay. We're on the second row and a good start will be important because all the top riders are very, very close and there are many that I think can challenge for the race tomorrow. I think it could be a very fun race; for the fans but I hope also for us! I do hope it's dry, like this, but if it's going to rain it would be better if it rained all day so we can try our wet setting in the warm-up, because finally here we've been more or less on a dry track for all three sessions."
Team Manager - Daniele Romagnoli Speaks...
"The weather helped us today and we've had two good sessions, which was important after yesterday. Everything worked to plan and we were able to test out the ideas that we had yesterday and this morning in order to refine our setting. Jorge's pace is quite good, he just missed pole due to a bit of traffic on his final lap but he's on the front row and that's the most important thing. Hopefully the French weather will be kind to us again tomorrow and we will be aiming for a return to the podium"
Team Manager - David Brivio Speaks...
"This afternoon went well and we have been able to recover from this morning, when we had some small difficulties to overcome. We still have room for a few little improvements in order to be in perfect shape for tomorrow, but we have time. Starting fourth is not so bad, it's where we started in Jerez and that went well! We're looking forward to an exciting race."
1. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda 1'33.974
2. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1'33.979
3. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 1'34.049
4. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1'34.106
5. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda 1'34.300
6. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha Tech 3 1'34.330
7. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki 1'34.676
8. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki 1'34.839
9. Marco Melandri (ITA) Hayate Racing 1'35.008
10. Randy De Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda 1'35.399
11. Toni Elias (SPA) San Carlo Honda 1'35.431
12. James Toseland (GBR) Yamaha Tech 3 1'35.524
13. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro 1'35.682
14. Mika Kallio (FIN) Pramac Racing 1'35.741
15. Yuki Takahashi (JPN) Scot Racing 1'35.774
16. Alex De Angelis (RSM) San Carlo Honda Gresini
17. Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Pramac Racing 1'36.136
Le Mans: Record Lap
V. Rossi (Yamaha) 2008, 1'34.215
Le Mans: Best Lap
D. Pedrosa (Honda) 2008, 1'32.647