Dani Pedrosa took his first pole position of the 2012 MotoGP season after a thrilling qualifying session in constantly changing conditions at Le Mans. The Spaniard finally put one over on Repsol Honda teammate Casey Stoner who had finished top of every practice session so far in the weekend.
The track had been wet throughout the Moto3 qualifying session and remained damp at the beginning of MotoGP, leading to several different provisional polesitters. Nicky Hayden was the fastest man on wet tyres but his time was blown away by Stefan Bradl as the German gambled on a set of slicks. That choice was looking inspired but seconds after going quickest, the LCR Honda rider suffered a nasty highside at MusÃ©e, delaying the rush for dry tyres in the pitlane.
The CRT riders took the gamble and found themselves in unfamiliarly high positions but normal order was restored with just under half an hour to go as Stoner's slick-shod Honda went fastest by almost three seconds. Karel Abraham narrowed the gap to 0.282s but Stoner wasn't finished and went a further two seconds quicker on his next lap.
With twenty minutes remaining, Nicky Hayden went back to the top of the leaderboard, clocking a 1:36.426, but Andrea Dovizioso was coming into his own as the track offered more grip and dropped into the 1:35s, joined there by Cal Crutchlow. The Tech 3 1-2 was short-lived as Stoner regained pole position but Dovizioso kept the pressure on and was back in front heading into the final five minutes.
It was then that Jorge Lorenzo finally came into contention, taking second place, but Stoner took over at the top once again, setting the first sub-1:34 lap. Dovizioso decided that enough was enough and pulled into the pits but that wouldn't ensure pole for Stoner as his teammate pulled out a stunning lap to snatch pole position, three tenths quicker than the championship leader.
Dovizioso completes the front row for Tech 3 while Jorge Lorenzo starts fourth having missed out on the front row for the second race running. Cal Crutchlow and Ben Spies complete an all-Yamaha row two with Valentino Rossi heading the third row, his best qualifying result of the season so far.
Alvaro Bautista will start eighth ahead of Karel Abraham and Hector Barbera while Nicky Hayden ended up the slowest Ducati rider in eleventh despite showing such prodigious pace in the wet. Home favourite Randy de Puniet was the quickest CRT rider in twelfth and James Ellison had a similarly impressive session, taking the Paul Bird ART to sixteenth place.