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Stoner takes brilliant French GP pole

Casey Stoner, Honda, Le Mans 2011Casey Stoner took his third pole position of the season as the Australian dominated qualifying for the French MotoGP at Le Mans.

The factory HRC Honda rider, who set the pace throughout practice, put on a similar display during the qualifying hour to eclipse the opposition with the fastest lap of the weekend.

Team-mate Dani Pedrosa briefly took the top spot 10 minutes into the session, but Stoner was having none of that, and quickly responded with a 1m33.401s.

That lap remained the mark until the last 10 minutes when the field started filing their qualifying efforts. That was also when the 2007 world champion turned up the wick, first with a 1m33.2s, and then finally a 1m33.153s.

In the end, Stoner's closest challenger was Gresini's wunderkind Marco Simoncelli, who pulled out a rapid 1m33.212s - the closest anyone has got to Stoner all weekend.

Andrea Dovizioso completed the front row, outqualifying Pedrosa - who starts the grand prix off the front row for the first this year.

World champion Jorge Lorenzo could only manage fifth fastest and first non-Honda rider on a track that once was a Yamaha stomping ground - the Spaniard more than half a second away from pole.

Next to him on the grid is British MotoGP rookie Cal Crutchlow, who gave French team Tech 3 something to cheer about on home ground in sixth, beating team-mate Colin Edwards to the second row of the grid by nearly three tenths.

Ben Spies lines up eighth on the second factory Yamaha while the factory Ducatis of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden completed the top 10.

Alvaro Bautista was a commendable 12th on the lone Suzuki as he continues his rehabilitation from a broken leg.

There were two accidents during the session, first for Randy de Puniet at Turn 12 on cold tyres early in the session, then Toni Elias who fell dramatically at Turn 8 without injury.

Pos  Rider             Team               Time       Gap
 1.  Casey Stoner      Honda              1m33.153s
 2.  Marco Simoncelli  Gresini Honda      1m33.212s  + 0.059s
 3.  Andrea Dovizioso  Honda              1m33.621s  + 0.468s
 4.  Dani Pedrosa      Honda              1m33.683s  + 0.530s
 5.  Jorge Lorenzo     Yamaha             1m33.706s  + 0.553s
 6.  Cal Crutchlow     Tech 3 Yamaha      1m33.804s  + 0.651s
 7.  Colin Edwards     Tech 3 Yamaha      1m34.063s  + 0.910s
 8.  Ben Spies         Yamaha             1m34.206s  + 1.053s
 9.  Valentino Rossi   Ducati             1m34.206s  + 1.053s
10.  Nicky Hayden      Ducati             1m34.277s  + 1.124s
11.  Randy de Puniet   Pramac Ducati      1m34.351s  + 1.198s
12.  Alvaro Bautista   Suzuki             1m34.513s  + 1.360s
13.  Hiroshi Aoyama    Gresini Honda      1m34.612s  + 1.459s
14.  Hector Barbera    Aspar Ducati       1m34.650s  + 1.497s
15.  Loris Capirossi   Pramac Ducati      1m34.866s  + 1.713s
16.  Karel Abraham     Cardion Ducati     1m35.010s  + 1.857s
18.  Toni Elias        LCR Honda          1m35.433s  + 2.280s

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