Stoner takes brilliant French GP pole
|By Simon Strang||Saturday, May 14th 2011, 13:05 GMT|
Casey 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