Valentino Rossi takes Le Mans pole
Valentino Rossi has qualified on pole for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France at Le Mans.
The popular Italian will start ahead of championship leading Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.
The final 10 minutes of the Saturday session saw the top spot on the timesheet change a number of times as the MotoGP riders pushed hard.
Rossi went around in a best time of 1:33.408s on the 28th of his 30 laps to take his first pole of the year, and his first pole at Le Mans since 2005.
Lorenzo made it a Fiat Yamaha one-two in the session, just 0.054s off Rossi’s pace on the penultimate of his 31 laps.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) completed the front row of the starting grid with a fine effort late on as well.
Australian Casey Stoner was in contention for pole but the Ducati Marlboro man had to settle for the first slot on the second row, 0.416s off Rossi’s time. Stoner had been struggling earlier in the session, but he felt the benefit of some changes to his front forks.
Stoner’s team-mate Nicky Hayden, at just two-hundredths behind, joined him as the final rider under the 1:34s mark to register the fifth best time.
LCR Honda rider Randy de Puniet will start his home GP from the second row as well after an impressive session placed him sixth.
Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso will start from the front of row three with a final lap that placed him seventh in the session. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech3) and Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi were eighth and ninth fastest respectively.
Completing the top 10 times of the session was Aleix Espargaró, who managed a run off at Turn 7 well to stay on his Ducati of the Pramac racing team and go on to set his best time with his last lap of the session.
Ben Spies (Monster Yamaha Tech3) and Mika Kallio (Pramac Racing) were both back on track after their crashes in free practice earlier in the day, and set the 12th and 16th fastest times respectively.
The race will start on Australian free-to-air television on ONE HD tonight at 9.30pm (check your local guides).