After losing ground to title leaders Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa at the last two rounds, Casey Stoner has an excellent chance of getting his 2011 MotoGP championship aspirations back on track after taking pole position in France.
The 2007 world champion, winner on his Repsol Honda debut in Qatar, starts the fourth round 24 points behind Yamaha's reigning champion Lorenzo, and 20 points from team-mate Pedrosa.
But while Stoner led every single track session at Le Mans en route
to his third pole of the year, Lorenzo and Pedrosa will start on the second row, after both suffered their worst qualifying of 2011.
And despite finishing just 0.059sec in front of Gresini Honda's Marco Simoncelli in qualifying, Stoner insists he was never at the limit.
"We're very happy with this pole, we focused a lot on race set up this afternoon going from one bike to the another making small adjustments to improve the bike a little,” said Stoner, who will race with the 2011 Öhlins front forks for the first time on Sunday.
“The conditions aren't perfect at the moment, it's quite windy so hard to see if you've improved or not, but my Honda was working really well and I never found myself pushing to the limit too much which is always good.
“This is our third pole of the season but we've only converted one of them into a victory so we hope to have a little more luck this week here in Le Mans and fight for the win."
Pedrosa will start from fourth position after lacking traction.
"We improved quite a lot compared to yesterday, but we still feel a lack of traction in the rear and good grip to have the tyre working as we would like,” said the Spaniard.
“In the warm up tomorrow we have to improve the bike a little and for the race it's important to get a good start. Here the first chicane is delicate and we need to avoid any trouble.