Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi will start tomorrow's French Grand Prix at the head of the second row, after qualifying fourth in Le Mans this afternoon.
Following on from a tricky afternoon yesterday, today was much better from the start for the 29-year-old Italian and he was second fastest in this morning's free practice session and much happier about his race pace. This afternoon saw more of the same good work from Rossi as he concentrated on refining set-up and finalising his tyre choice with Bridgestone, before using his three qualifying tyres in the later stages of the session. With his last tyre Rossi was confident of making a run for the front row but he could not quite make it and had to settle for fourth, though he remains confident of being able to play a key part in tomorrow's 28-lap race.
His team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was unfortunate to crash again in practice this morning but escaped any further injury to his damaged ankles and was able to qualify in fifth, next to Rossi. Dani Pedrosa took pole and Tech 3 Yamaha rider Colin Edwards added to Yamaha's impressive 2008 front-row tally by qualifying second, which means that the four Yamaha riders have now filled ten out of the 15 front-row grid spots between them this season.
Valentino Rossi 4th 1'33.157, "Today everything seemed to go very well and I was quite confident; I thought that with the last qualifying tyre I could do 1'32.9 or even 8 and be on the front row, but at the end we had a small problem and couldn't manage this. Of course the first row is always better but with the race tyres we are in good shape, with a strong rhythm and a great set-up. Tomorrow I will look to make a good start, try to get to the front immediately and then try to stay there with the other fast riders. As I said, our race pace is fine but there are four or five other riders with a similar fast pace so it's going to be a very interesting race tomorrow! My target is to be on the podium so now we're hoping for another dry day and then we will do our very best to be there."
Davide Brivio - Team Manager, "We improved a lot today in comparison to yesterday, now we have a good pace for the race tomorrow and we're going much better all round. We were able to be quite competitive in the qualifying and fourth place is not so bad, so it seems that Valentino is in good shape now for the race. We will have to wait and see now for tomorrow but it's been a positive day and now we will just have to make a few final checks tomorrow morning during warm-up to make sure everything is perfect. We've been waiting for the rain now since Friday so let's just hope that it can hold off for one more day!"
It was another nervous day for the team of Lorenzo as they watched their injured rider battling through the pain barrier in Le Mans. Despite his injuries however he was able to qualify fifth, in the middle of the second row, for tomorrow's French Grand Prix.
The 21-year-old rookie gave his team another scary moment this morning when he crashed out during first practice and was carried off by stretcher. A quick check up at the circuit clinic however revealed that he had luckily done no further damage to his two fractured ankles and he was able to take part in this afternoon's qualifying session. There were a few more nervous moments for his team when he twice ran off track, but despite his difficulties he was able to use all of his Michelin qualifying tyres and fifth on the grid is an excellent result in the circumstances.
Jorge Lorenzo 5th 1'33.269, "This is a very difficult time and I have a lot of pain in all of my body, but I want to keep going and I think fifth place is a very good position for me today. Of course I know it's a risk for me, but this sport always has some danger and I don't think about this. Today was hard and my crash this morning didn't help, but I didn't make anything worse and I was able to ride this afternoon and to try hard with my qualifying tyres. We need to improve the bike more for this track, especially the electronics and the chassis, but I know that we can be better tomorrow and I am sure that my physical condition will be better as well. Neither our bike nor my mental or physical condition is perfect here and my rhythm is not as good as at the other races, but of course I still want to try to be in front and this is why I have made some mistakes today. It's not the end of the world however, I've been in worse situations in the past and I won't panic. Tomorrow is another day and, although today I was lacking some confidence, I know I will feel better in myself tomorrow and that I will be able to try to take some points."