Stoner takes French front row Casey Stoner has claimed third place for tomorrow's French Grand Prix at the Bugatti circuit in Le Mans, his second consecutive front row grid position of the season. Stoner will start the race as the highest-placed...
Stoner takes French front row
Casey Stoner has claimed third place for tomorrow's French Grand Prix at the Bugatti circuit in Le Mans, his second consecutive front row grid position of the season. Stoner will start the race as the highest-placed Bridgestone rider as on-form Dani Pedrosa took pole position ahead of Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards. The front row riders were the only men to lap under the 1m33s mark in this afternoon's qualifying session.
Fiat Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi will head the second row having qualified in fourth position while last year's race winner Chris Vermeulen and Kawasaki rider John Hopkins add two more Bridgestone riders to the front half of the grid in eighth and ninth respectively. Just one second covers the top twelve riders and the top eight riders all lapped quicker than last year's pole position time around the modified Le Mans track which has seen revisions made to turn eight, slightly extending the lap to 4.185km.
Pace on race tyres appears to be equally closely-fought at the front end of the pack with many riders setting a hot pace in the comparatively cool climate in Le Mans this weekend. There remains an ever-present threat of rain ahead of Sunday but Bridgestone has completed a detailed slick tyre evaluation in the four timed sessions so far this weekend with medium and hard compounds tested with all teams.
Tyre Talk with Tohru Ubukata - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
Did the performance of the Bridgestone qualifying tyres meet expectations today?
"We are still searching for the elusive first pole position of the season, but I think Casey did a very good performance with the qualifying tyres this afternoon. He said he was a bit too conservative on his final run, but I think his third place is a good achievement nevertheless. We have brought the same construction qualifying tyres as we had in China, but we have adapted the compounds to fit the lower temperatures at Le Mans. The track has been modified since last year and the lap times are quicker as a result. Three riders, including Casey, all lapped in the high 1m32s in qualifying which was much faster than last year. I am a bit disappointed that our tyres could not help more riders break into the top ten, but only one second covers two-thirds of the grid, so it has again been incredibly close here at Le Mans. We still have work to do on our qualifying tyres looking at the continued performance of our rivals."
How would you assess the race tyre pace and performance?
"Some of our riders have carried out a medium-length run with their preferred tyre today and we have been able to check the degradation levels. We are happy with the result and can be satisfied with our preparations so far. Most of our teams have a good idea of what specification tyre they will use tomorrow if it remains dry. The new specification tyres that we have brought here this weekend have performed as we hoped and several riders have been competitive in race trim. Especially Casey, Valentino, Chris and John appear to have good potential heading into tomorrow and such pace across four different manufacturers is encouraging. However, there are also a few riders on our rivals' tyres who have been very strong also, so it promises to be a competitive race."
Weather: Dry - Air 17C, Track 33C (Bridgestone measurement)