Casey Stoner set the pace at Le Mans in Saturday qualifying for the Grand Prix of France. The Australian stayed atop the time sheets the entire session, consistently maintaining a gap of almost a half second on the MotoGP field until the closing stages.
He finished the qualifying session with a best lap of 1:33.153 to take his 25th pole in the premiere MotoGP class (Stoner has yet to score a win at Le Mans).
Stoner’s Repsol Honda MotoGP teammate, Dani Pedrosa, stayed in second position throughout qualifying until Marco Simoncelli (Gresini Honda) put on a late charge in the closing stages to nab second position, relegating Pedrosa to third. Simoncelli finished the session with an impressive 1:33.212, just 0.059 off of Stoner.
Things didn’t end there. Pedrosa, who has started all three races this MotoGP season from the front row, was then relegated to fourth when Repsol Honda teammate Andrea Divizioso put in a flying lap to nab the third, and final spot on the front row (this marks the first time the Italian will start from the front row). Despite Pedrosa being relegated to the second row it was still a Honda sweep, filling the first four positions on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
Reigning World Champion, Jorge Lorenzo, led a quad of Yamahas that filled the next four spots on the grid. The Majorcan, who qualified fifth, is set to become the youngest rider to reach the milestone of 150 GP starts with tomorrow’s MotoGP – the current holder of that record is Pedrosa, whom he will be lining up next to.
The next Yamaha and perhaps the most impressive performance-given he’s a rookie and this is his first visit to Le Mans-was Cal Crutchlow. The British rider, aboard the satellite Monster Energy Tech3 Yamaha, earned his best result in qualifying with his sixth place. Crutchlow’s teammate, Colin Edwards, is top American in seventh.
The fourth Yamaha MotoGP is fellow American Ben Spies who, with an eighth place finish, is sandwiched between Edwards and Ducati’s Valentino Rossi on the third row. Rossi scored a second place here at last year’s race after relinquishing the lead to Lorenzo.
Heading the fourth row is Rossi’s Ducati teammate (and third American) Nicky Hayden. Next to him is Frenchman Randy de Puniet, who got off to a rocky start, ending up in the turn 12 gravel pit just ten minutes into the session. He regrouped to finish eleventh for his home country MotoGP race. Rounding out row four Alvaro Bautista put his Rizla Suzuki (the only Suzuki in the field) into 12th following an impressive ride-considering he’s still recovering from a broken femur.
Japanese rider Hiroshi Aoyama, on the San Carlo Gresini Honda, starts 13th/fifth row, alongside Hector Barbera and Loris Capirossi. Filling out the MotoGP grid for the Grand Prix of France are Czech rider, Karel Abraham and Spaniard, Toni Elias. Both riders crashed during qualifying but were able to continue.
2011 Le Mans MotoGP: Qualifying Results
- Casey Stoner 1:33.153
- Marco Simoncelli 1:33.212
- Andrea Dovizioso 1:33.621
- Dani Pedrosa 1:33.683
- Jorge Lorenzo 1:33.706
- Cal Crutchlow 1:33.804
- Colin Edwards 1:34.063
- Ben Spies 1:34.206
- Valentino Rossi 1:34.206
- Nicky Hayden 1:34.277
- Randy de Puniet 1:34.351
- Alvara Bautista 1:34.513
- Hiroshi Aoyama 1:34.612
- Hector Barbera 1:34.650
- Loris Capirossi 1:34.866
- Karel Abraham 1:35.010
- Toni Elias 1:35.433
The Grand Prix of France, Le Mans, airs on Speed TV, Sunday, May 15, at 8 a.m. (EDT).