Team Suzuki and Mickael Pichon hold pole position for the Grand Prix of Deutschland at Gaildorf, the circuit that bore witness to their championship-inning celebrations for the last two years.

Pichon scorched to a lap over two seconds faster than his rival for the championship, and current standings leader, Stefan Everts.

As per normal this season for a grand prix weekend, the weather was nothing short of perfect with blue skies delivering hot sunshine and high temperatures. The track was hard and dusty and soon became very rough as the day's activities unfolded.

After two free practice sessions where the 27-year old defending number one didn't register in the top ten, it was obvious that the Frenchman was saving his fastest laps until the timed 30-minute period that determined the line-up in the gate for tomorrow's GP.

Pichon reverted to the settings on the RM250 that won the 2002 250cc GP at the track twelve months ago in convincing fashion. The switch worked as he topped the chrono towards the end of qualification with a lap several seconds faster than his peers, and then lowered his time even further to be the only rider to dip under the 1min 49secs barrier.

It was an impressive comeback after the slightly disastrous GP in Lierop and signalled the intent with which the most successful French motocross rider in the history of the sport is now approaching the final three grands prix.

"I like this track and I was impressed with my times because I did not push that hard," Pichon said, "I have a good feeling on the bike and know my lines. In practice, I just focused on my riding and was looking at some sections of the circuit. I was having fun.

"I had a hard time in Lierop and it hit my confidence. I tried to forget about this as quickly as possible. The gap now is at twelve points, but the championship is not over. I still believe I can win it. In Holland, after the GP, I thought 'there was 75 points left to win and that I liked the three tracks remaining in the calendar' and that helped with the pain. I now need a victory as soon as possible and I will not give up."

Kevin Strijbos was consistent with his speed throughout the day and was constantly hovering just outside the top ten, the 18-year old Belgian eventually settling into 14th. His lap of 1min 53.8secs was just over two seconds away from Everts' quickest effort in second place, and the small time difference covered 13 riders.

"I thought today might be a lot harder that it turned out," Strijbos remarked, "Like Mickael, I felt comfortable on the track right away and I quite like the layout here. I am now looking at a top ten finish in the championship, so I have to keep watching riders like Atsuta and Bervoets. With a strong start tomorrow, I hope for some decent points."

Marco Dorsch guided the new 250cc four-stroke to tenth position in the first 125cc qualifying race, and is now set to give the quarter-litre machine its debut GP outing.