Casey Stoner should be in contention for his second victory of the 2009 MotoGP season at Le Mans on Sunday, after qualifying on the outside of the front row, just 0.075sec from pole.
Despite one of the Desmosedici's difficult tracks, Stoner has been no lower than fourth in the three track sessions at Le Mans. For comparison, title leader Valentino Rossi has been no higher than fourth so far this weekend, at what has traditionally been one of the M1's best tracks.
Stoner will start Sunday's race eleven points behind Rossi and 13 ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, who will line-up first and second on the grid.
"This afternoon's session was always going to be something of a gamble because of the weather conditions,” said the Australian. “We went out and the bike felt quite good but we didn't get a really good time with the first softer tyre. When I went out with the second one unfortunately I got stuck behind Chris Vermeulen for a couple of laps and pretty much used the best of the tyre.
“I'm a bit disappointed because I think we could have been a little bit faster,” he claimed. “Anyway, I'm reasonably happy with my race pace. We've had a few issues with the bike that we've worked on well and it's important that we're on the front row. It's going to be a tough race tomorrow whatever the conditions, but I feel a little bit more confident here than in Jerez. I hope to able to stick at the front a little bit better! "
Stoner finished third at Jerez, albeit ten seconds behind race winner Rossi. Stoner's most recent victory was at the Qatar season opener.
Meanwhile, team-mate Nicky Hayden will start from 13th position. The American is still struggling to find confidence with the rear end of his GP9.
“We started over with some of the settings this weekend but like everybody the lack of track time at the moment is hurting us,” said Hayden. “We have made steady progress over the course of the weekend but at the moment I still don't have the rear grip going into the corners that I need.
“We've made little steps in some areas that we need to build on but at the end of the day the time sheets don't lie and we're too far from the front of the grid. The priority tomorrow is to get a good start and go fast early in the race. It would be nice to have some fun and finish with a good result,” he added.