Tough day for Capirossi
Ducati Marlboro Team rider Casey Stoner continued his remarkable run of performances with a stirring ride in this afternoon's French GP qualifying session that puts him second on the grid, just 0.094 seconds off pole position. Team-mate Loris Capirossi
had a tougher day, ending up 15th fastest.
World Championship leader Stoner has now qualified on the front two rows of the grid at all five races so far this year, today's second place his best grid slot since the season-opening Qatar GP.
Even more impressive today was his pace in race trim - a run of low 1m 35s laps that he finished off with an amazing 1m 34.7s on well used tyres. Stoner's best lap on qualifying tyres was almost three tenths inside last year's 990cc Le Mans pole, highlighting the superb performance of Ducati's 800cc GP7 and its Bridgestone tyres.
Capirossi was super competitive through the faster sections of the Le Mans circuit today but struggled through the slower parts. He finished the session 1.2 seconds off pole. Latest weather forecasts suggest that tomorrow's French GP could be the first wet race of the season.
CASEY STONER, 2nd fastest, 1m 33.710s
"I haven't been off the front two rows this year which is a big surprise for me because I'm not usually much of a qualifier. I thought we might've had the pole today but Colin [Edwards] just pipped me at the end. Anyway, the bike and tyres have been working brilliant all weekend. Today we capitalised on the work we did yesterday - we made a few more minor improvements, improving rear grip a little bit and getting the corner entry a little better, so it's helping me all round. This afternoon we were doing low 35s and I did a 34.7 with tyres that had done over 20 laps so we're looking pretty strong.
I'm not doing anything much different myself this year but I've gone up a level in team and found a bike and tyres that suit me, so the level of everything has jumped up and we're able to keep that level through most racetracks and most sessions, so it's real good. I've heard all sorts of weather forecasts for tomorrow, so we'll just have to wait and see what tomorrow holds, you never really know what it's going to do here from hour to hour."
LORIS CAPIROSSI, 15th fastest, 1m 34.903s
"Qualifying was difficult for me today, I'm not at all happy. What's really disappointing is that I'm one of the fastest guys in the first two splits, maybe even the fastest, but I'm losing a second through the slower corners in T3 and T4. I've got no feeling with the gas, with the throttle connection, so I'm struggling there. This is a big problem that we need to work on. For sure this bike is a winning machine with great potential but at the moment I can't use it at its best. For sure I need to work on my riding style but I also need help from Ducati. I have every confidence in them but we have to work on this engine. For tomorrow I'm sure I'll be better in race conditions. I'll give my best as always but starting from 15th will make my race very difficult."