Reigning seven time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi took his first pole position of the 2010 season during qualifying for round three at Le Mans in France.

The Fiat Yamaha star, who will start Sunday's race four points behind team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, emerged on top of an unpredictable hour in which Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Colin Edwards joined Rossi and Lorenzo in spending time at the top during the second half of the session.

Rossi took his 59th pole in all classes - a new record - by just 0.054sec from Lorenzo, with Dani Pedrosa just 0.165sec from Rossi in third for Repsol Honda. As in Jerez, where he had been on pole, Pedrosa feels he has work to do for race day.

Stoner had been on pole as the last five minutes began, but will start from the head of row two after losing out in the final laps. Ducati Marlboro team-mate Nicky Hayden followed Pedrosa on his best lap and was just a few hundredths behind Stoner for fifth on the grid.

The final place on the second row goes to home star Randy de Puniet, who was also the top satellite rider as he put his LCR Honda 0.666sec from Rossi.

Row three will be formed by Pedrosa's Repsol Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine of Edwards and the lone remaining Suzuki of Loris Capirossi. Capirossi was the final rider within one second of Rossi.

Top rookie was Pramac's Aleix Espargaro in tenth, with Marco Melandri - who has switched back to Showa suspension this weekend - eleventh for Gresini Honda.

Ben Spies will start his first French MotoGP from twelfth after braving the pain from an ankle injury sustained this morning, but Mika Kallio - who injured his shoulder in the same session - was left 16th and last.

The grid has been reduced to 16 riders because Capirossi's team-mate Bautista has been forced to withdraw after a big highside this morning, which was the last thing he needed after breaking his collarbone while training last week.

Qualifying:

1. Rossi
2. Lorenzo
3. Pedrosa
4. Stoner
5. Hayden
6. de Puniet
7. Dovizioso
8. Edwards
9. Capirossi
10. Espargaro
11. Melandri
12. Spies
13. Simoncelli
14. Aoyama
15. Barbera
16. Kallio

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