There was a subdued atmosphere during MotoGP qualifying at Mugello following the news that home hero and reigning seven time MotoGP champion, Valentino Rossi, had fractured his tibia in morning practice.

The Italian is presently undergoing surgery, after which a better idea of recovery time will be known, but his 2010 title chances look to be over.

Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo is already nine points ahead of Rossi, after winning the last two rounds, and the 2010 MotoGP title now looks like his to lose, with third placed Andrea Dovizioso already 28 points from the top.

Lorenzo and fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa occupied the top two places throughout qualifying, which ended with Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa grabbing his second pole of the season by 0.177sec in the very final minute.

Joining Pedrosa and Lorenzo on the front row will be 2009 Mugello winner Casey Stoner, but the Australian was left over 0.6sec from Pedrosa and is far from confident heading into Sunday's race.

Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden briefly split Lorenzo and Pedrosa on the eve of the final five minutes, but the American was then bumped back to a second row start in fourth - the same place he has finished at all three races so far this season.

The American will be joined on row two by a revitalised Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), with fellow satellite rider Randy de Puniet sixth for Honda LCR.

Edwards' team-mate Ben Spies was the top rookie in seventh, and the first rider over one-second from Pedrosa, with new top Italian Dovizioso sure to be disappointed with eighth in front of his home fans.

By contrast, ninth was a very good result for Aleix Espargaro (Pramac), with fellow rookie Hiroshi Aoyama completing the top ten, after appearing as high as fifth heading into the last 15 minutes.

Former 250cc title rival Marco Simoncelli will start his first home MotoGP from eleventh, just ahead of countryman Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki).

Hector Barbera (Aspar Ducati), Marco Melandri (Gresini Honda), Mika Kallio (Pramac) and Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) round out the reduced 16 rider grid.

Qualifying:

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

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