Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner earned his third pole position of the year as he continued his dominating performance at Le Mans, site of tomorrow’s Monster Energy Grand Prix of France.Stoner led every session at Le Mans on his RC212V and the final qualifying session was no exception, but one man came very close to knocking the Australian from the top spot: Marco Simoncelli. The Gresini Honda rider got to within .059 of as second of Stoner on his last lap, the effort matching the Italian’s best qualifying effort, set at the last round in Portugal.
“We’re very happy with this pole, we focused a lot on race set up this afternoon going from one bike to the another making small adjustments to improve the bike a little,” Stoner said in a team release. “The conditions aren’t perfect at the moment, it’s quite windy so hard to see if you’ve improved or not, but my Honda was working really well and I never found myself pushing to the limit too much which is always good. This is our third pole of the season, but we’ve only converted one of them into a victory so we hope to have a little more luck this week here in Le Mans and fight for the win.”For Simoncelli, it was close. Very close. And he says he will be there at the finish of this one.I got really close to my first-ever pole today 0.059s is hardly anything!” Simoncelli said. “Strangely it is the same gap that I missed out on the podium by last year at Estoril. In any case I am happy and we are not in bad shape for the race. We have improved from session to session so I am confident. We have improved under braking today, but I still don’t feel 100% secure. My objective tomorrow is to get to the end of the race and bring some important points home. I won’t be pushing over the limit to get a result at all costs. I want to manage the race well.”Then came Stoner’s teammate, though probably not the one most anticipated as Andrea Dovizioso put his RC212V on the front row for the first time this season.”I’m very happy to start from the first row, even though this was our target, I didn’t expect it,” Dovizioso said in a team release. “I was behind [Marco] Simoncelli for two laps and this helped me because I followed his lines. This afternoon we did some small changes to the set up and my feeling with the front improved. We arrive to the race very confident, I think we can fight for the podium. Tomorrow the race will be tough, Casey [Stoner] is very fast and he may try to run away, I have a good pace and I think I will fight with Simoncelli and Dani [Pedrosa]. I want to thank my team for all their hard work and hope we can get a good result tomorrow”.Another Honda was fourth with Repsol’s Dani Pedrosa leading row two over countryman and World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, giving Honda the top four spots on the grid. It was the first time the two Spaniards failed to qualify on the front row this season and the pair were both over half a second behind Stoner.Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow was a best ever sixth in is rookie season, the Brit besting his teammate Colin Edwards by .259 of a second with those two the last riders within a second of Stoner.Yamaha’s Ben Spies and Ducati’s Valentino Rossi had the exact same time and will join Edwards on the third row, with Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden leading row four. He’ll be joined there by Randy de Puniet, Alvaro Bautista and Hiroshi Aoyama.
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:33.153
2. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:33.212
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:33.621
4. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:33.683
5. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:33.706
6. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:33.804
7. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:34.063
8. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:34.206
9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:34.206
10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:34.206