Sunday, May 20


Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa timed his run to perfection to grab pole position for the fourth round of the MotoGP Championship at Le Mans, scheduled for Sunday night NZ time.

The qualifying session started with a wet track all the riders went out on rain tyres but when it started to dry, they pitted to conserve the limited numbere of 'wets' they have.  The track eventually developed a dry line but before that, the struggling Valentino Rossi was fastest for a while, running his Marlboro Ducati 1000cc V4 on full wet weather tyres.

The three prior practice sessions had been run on a dry track and once a dry line emerged, German MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl seized the initiative, got out on slicks and posted fastest time mid-session, only to crash a lap later when a light skiff of rain dampened a couple of corners on the French track.

It was a stressful time for riders and teams, deciding what tyres to use, and when to go out for a fast lap.

Tech 3 Yamaha's Andrea Dovizioso topped the session several times in the second half after Jorge Lorenzo had been fastest on the damp track early on. But when Dovizioso was setting the pace, Texan Ben Spies was languishing in 11th position, agonising over when to push for a fast lap on the second factory Yamaha.

Then Australian Casey Stoner came out and blazed off a 1m 33.941s lap with only minutes to go to top the session.  But with less than two minutes remaining, Pedrosa topped that with a sizzling 1m 33.638s lap.  Stoner responded but was baulked by slower riders, rolled off the throttle and cruised back to the pit.


Pedrosa's pole time was almost a second slower than his 2008 pole record lap of 1m 32.638s but given the conditions, it was a sterling effort.

"I'm not a pole man," said Pedrosa later, "so I'm happy to be here for the first time this season; front row is always good and the team has done a great job with the bike.  It's been a difficult session, quite similar to Jerez, the track was drying up but we had some drops again in the last five minutes.  So it's been key to choose the right moment to push and to not get out of the line.  Let's see what the weather does tomorrow but we have to be ready to go fast in any conditions.  The race is very long here, 28 laps, and everything can change during that."

Meantime Casey Stoner seemed sanguine about being bested by his team-mate.

"We're really happy to be on the front row, but qualifying definitely didn't go to plan," said the reigning World MotoGP Champion. 

"The track was drying out and we knew we had the pace, you just had to be a little cautious in some areas that were still holding water.  We felt we were fast enough to be on pole position but every time I was on a good lap or building up to one, I got held up.  I think we're looking good for the race, we're pretty comfortable in dry conditions but we still have warm-up and a chance for the others to find something extra, so we're going to have to improve our bike a little also and wait for the race as the weather conditions are still unpredictable.”


While Andrea Dovizioso made it onto the front row alongside the two Repsol Hondas, the factory Yamaha men were on the second row.

Jorge Lorenzo made a step forward from Friday's practice sessions but was unable to complete a perfect lap to get on the front row.  Team mate Ben Spies made the best of a tricky day having lost a set of the new Bridgestone tyres in Friday's crash, which hampered the final set up of his M1 in Saturday morning’s practice.  Still, it wasn't all bad for Yamaha: the final grid sees four Yamaha YZR-M1s in the top six positions.

"I’m not happy," Lorenzo admitted.  "I wanted to be at least on the front row but it was not possible, Andrea was very fast today.  I didn’t make one perfect lap, maybe three or four tenths could be improved with a perfect lap but the track conditions were very difficult today and it was very easy to crash and get injured.  We are in fourth position and tomorrow I think we can fight for the podium and the victory.  I will try to make a very good start."
Echoing Lorenzo's concern about the conditions, Spies said  "today was a tricky session for everybody, kind of risky.  Finally the track started to come good but the guys who did the better lap times were a little bit braver than others.  With this tarmac it’s hard to see if it’s wet or dry in some places.  We did the best we could and put together a decent lap to get on the second row.  It was pretty hard to commit to 110% when the track is like that so the result is good."


After topping the session early on, Valentino Rossi ended up on the third row of the grid, seventh fastest - amazingly his best qualifying position of the season so far but still more than a second off the pole time.
Like Stoner and Lorenzo, Rossi too was baulked when on a faster lap late in the session.
"I had to pass a rider on my good lap, otherwise I could have been faster, but anyway, I’d say that it’s going pretty well," Rossi said.  "I’m a bit sorry not to have made the second row, which was pretty close, but the fact remains that this is our best qualifying session of the season and that we were also at the same level in this morning’s dry session.  This afternoon we did a good job of adapting to the track conditions, which changed quite quickly, and every exit I found myself on the track at the right time.  We made another small step forward compared to Estoril, and we worked well.  We’ll see what conditions we find tomorrow.  If it’s dry we’ll have to try to start well and stay with those in front for as long as possible, and maybe we’ll be able to cut a little more time," he said, hopefully.
Marlboro Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden, who had been fastest in the middle of the session, ended up on the fourth row.
"It was quite a hectic session, with just enough rain to complicate things," he said.  "With us being behind on the set-up, we needed some dry time, as the lap times just aren’t coming for us in those conditions.  We’ve tried a lot of different options, but we still haven’t solved the problems we have on this track: running wide in some places, problems turning, and some chatter.  We’re having trouble finding a really good direction.  The team’s not giving up, and we’ll be back to do our best tomorrow."

For the complete qualifying time sheet, click here

For the full qualifying result sheet, click here