Rossi breaks pole drought at scorching Catalunya.
MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi took his first pole position in eleven months at a scorching hot Catalunya today - after overcoming the exciting challenge of John Hopkins and Kenny Roberts Jr.
Prior to this afternoon, Rossi hadn't taken a pole position since last July's British Grand Prix - but was in confident form throughout the one-hour session on the outskirts of Barcelona.
The Italian superstar led for the first time with 19 minutes gone - before pole was briefly taken by home hero Dani Pedrosa, who in turn quickley lost out to Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano.
Nakano remained in charge until rookie team-mate Randy de Puniet replaced him at the top after 37 minutes, but the Japanese seized the position back just seconds later - raising the temperature in the Team Green pits still further.
The ZX-RR reign finally came to end when fellow Bridgestone backed rider Hopkins put his Rizla Suzuki on pole with the fastest lap of the weekend so far, but Rossi raised the bar to new heights with a new Circuit de Catalunya lap record with 13 minutes to go.
The Camel Yamaha star backed that up with a stunning 1min 41.855secs circulation, his eventual pole time, which was set with seven-minutes remaining and put him over half a second clear of the field. That gap would be reduced substantially, but never fully bridged.
But not because of a lack of effort: First Nakano jumped into second place then, in the very final minute, Hopkins - with his elbow dragging on the ground in trademark style - wrung every last ounce of speed from his GSV-R to lap just 0.129secs from Rossi.
That secured Hopper a well deserved second on the grid, while countryman and joint world championship leader Nicky Hayden slotted into third – only to be knocked down a position by another American; Kenny Roberts Jr. KR Jr has been in front-running form on his father's Honda powered KR211V all weekend and has now rewarded the independent Banbury based outfit with their first front row start of the year.
Hayden, meanwhile, was clearly unhappy about something - on board footage showing the 2005 US GP winner waving his hand at someone, presumably for blocking. The Kentuckian's day then went from bad to worse as he lost fourth to an excellent performance from Suzuki rookie Chris Vermeulen, then fifth to Nakano and then sixth to Ducati's Loris Capirossi, who shares the championship lead with Hayden and who had leapt up from 12th on his very last lap.
Honda LCR rookie Casey Stoner and Marco Melandri - who fell in the closing stages after spinning off his Fortuna Honda - will start alongside Hayden on the third row of the grid, while de Puniet completes the top ten.
But where was Pedrosa? After leading three times during the first third of the session, Dani was just ninth as the final laps began - then amazingly went backwards to eleventh after failing to improve on his final run. Like team-mate Hayden, Pedrosa was also seen waving his hand in anger at an apparent block.
Also losing out badly in today's session were Colin Edwards and Sete Gibernau; Edwards was left just 12th after unknown issues, while home rider Gibernau was unable to replicate team-mate Capirossi's last gasp surge on what looks like being a tough race for the Ducati Marlboro Team - despite the performances of fellow Bridgestone teams Suzuki and Kawasaki.