World Champion grabs French pole position

Four-time and reigning World Champion, Valentino Rossi, took pole position for tomorrow's French GP at Le Mans. And with the help of Colin Edwards, the Gauloises Yamaha team qualified 1-2 for the first time this season. On Friday, during the...

Four-time and reigning World Champion, Valentino Rossi, took pole position for tomorrow's French GP at Le Mans. And with the help of Colin Edwards, the Gauloises Yamaha team qualified 1-2 for the first time this season.

On Friday, during the first practice session of the GP, it was dry. The Friday morning session gave us a small insight into the strength of the Yamahas, with Edwards finishing the day fastest with a time of 1:34.701. Edwards's ex-teammate, Sete Gibernau, finished the morning second-fastest, and only two tenths behind the American. Alex Barros, who won the Portuguese GP, was a further two tenths behind. Fourth-fastest honors went to Rossi, with Carlos Checa placing his Ducati V4 fifth.

The afternoon session brought a couple of new faces to the top-five. It also brought rain in the middle of the session. The Hondas took over the top-three positions. This saw Barros at the lead, followed by Gibernau and HRC-rider, Max Biaggi. Edwards finished fourth with Kawasaki-rider, Shinya Nakano, completing the top-five. The replaced riders, Rossi and Checa, demoted to 13th and 8th respectively.

Today's morning practice was wet, this saw all riders ten-seconds slower than in the dry. Again, three Hondas led the top-five. This time Marco Melandri set himself at the front, followed by Barros and Gibernau. Rossi took over Edwards's place in fourth, while Checa returned to the top-five. In the wet, the top-five's fastest lap was all within three tenths of each other. In fact, it was only Melandri that had the biggest gap to the rest, enjoying a two-tenth lead on Barros. The rest, Barros, Gibernau, Rossi and Checa, all finished in the 1:44.300s.

The grid for tomorrow was set in dry conditions and will see a Yamaha 1-2 for the first time this season. Rossi qualified fastest, with a time of 1:33.226, two tenths below the current lap record previously held by Gibernau. Edwards will start second and qualified only two tenths behind his teammate. Melandri will round up the front row and was only two hundredths of a second behind Edwards. Melandri's Telefonica-MoviStar teammate, Gibernau, will lead the second row for tomorrow's French GP. Next to him will sit Nicky Hayden who out-qualified sixth-fastest, Nakano, by two hundredths of a second.

Third row will be led by John Hopkins aboard the GSV-R Suzuki. With Biaggi sandwiched between Hopkins and Checa.

Looking at the lap-per-lap analysis, if the race is held in the dry, the pace will be somewhere in the 34s. On Friday, Edwards and Gibernau were the only ones to dip into the 34s, but only Edwards did it more than once, the number 5 completing five laps. In the afternoon, Gibernau and Barros both completed the most laps in the 34s, five and six respectively, while Biaggi and Edwards only managed two. During qualifying, the top-five brought with them their A-game and all five dipped into the 33s. Rossi did five laps in this range, with eight in the 34s. Edwards completed three in the 33s and also eight in the 34s. Melandri matched Edwards in the 33s, but only five in the 34s, with his teammate only completing three in the 33s and the rest in the 35s or above. Lastly, Hayden completed two in the fabled 33 range and seven in the 34s.

If tomorrow's race is held in the dry, both Yamahas certainly seem to have the pace needed to fight for the lead. The two should be hounded by the Hondas of Melandri, Gibernau, Hayden, Barros and Biaggi.

Most MotoGP followers will have noticed Makoto Tamada's name being off the list. That is because at the last minute, he opted to play it safe and not ride at Le Mans. His replacement will be the same rider that took his place in China, Jurgen van den Goorbergh.

Let us pray for dry conditions for tomorrow, even though the weather chumps call for rain.

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Valentino Rossi , Colin Edwards , Alex Barros , Sete Gibernau , Shinya Nakano , John Hopkins , Jurgen van den Goorbergh , Makoto Tamada , Marco Melandri