Marco Simoncelli provided the perfect comeback to the criticism he has faced since Le Mans, by claiming his first ever MotoGP pole at Catalunya.

Simoncelli had been facing accusations of dangerous riding even before clashing with Dani Pedrosa for second-place in France, which resulted in a broken collarbone for Pedrosa and a ride-through penalty for Simoncelli.

The debate over Simoncelli's pass - many fans, and some ex-riders, felt he shouldn't have been penalised - was drawn out even further when Race Direction called the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider to a meeting to re-live the incident on the eve of Catalunya.

Add to that title contender, Catalan hero - and fellow HRC rider - Pedrosa withdrawing from this weekend's event due to his injury, plus reports of death threats sent to Simoncelli by some 'fans' and the former 250cc world champion could be forgiven for being a little below par this weekend.

Instead, Simoncelli has looked as quick as ever.

The #58 was second to Casey Stoner in both of Friday's practice sessions, third on Saturday morning, then snatched pole away from Stoner by just 0.016sec in the last minute of qualifying.

"It went well and I am much happier now than I have been for the past two weeks leading up to the grand prix," admitted Simoncelli. "I was strong even though we had a few problems at the start of the session when I couldn't push as hard as I would have liked.

"By the end we had solved the problems and I was able to ride really fast, although I never thought I would be able to set pole because Casey had been so fast in every session. I took a bit of a risk on the last lap trying to go faster and managed to save it, so finally my long legs have been good for something!"

Unsurprisingly, Simoncelli now has his sights set on finally achieving a first MotoGP rostrum on Sunday - at the very least.

"Tomorrow won't be easy because both Casey and Jorge [Lorenzo, third] have a fast race pace but I will try to stay with them. My first target is to finish the race, the second is to finish on the podium and you can guess the third!"