Dani Pedrosa secured his first MotoGP pole position of 2012 at Le Mans as a drying track produced an ever-changing session which built into a spectacular last-gasp shootout.
Few ventured out in the early stages when the track was at its wettest, but after Mattia Pasini served notice that slicks had become the best option by going fifth, times began to tumble rapidly. Honda's Casey Stoner was the first to make his move, going almost two seconds clear at the top, but within five minutes he had been relegated to 11th as Tech 3's Andrea Dovizioso led a spate of improvements.
Eight minutes from the end Dovizioso had once again displaced Stoner at the top of the times, but with the track now ostensibly dry it came down to a final shootout in the closing five minutes. Dovizioso improved his own benchmark and dipped into the 1m33s, but his lead was fleeting as Stoner shaved off three hundredths of a second to go top.
With Dovizioso pulling into the pits, Stoner's main competition then came from Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo and the second works Honda of Pedrosa. Lorenzo ultimately fell short, the final sector his chief downfall as he ended the session fourth, just over one tenth down on Dovizioso. Pedrosa, however, found a significant chunk in the final minute, his 1m33.638s enough to earn him pole by more than three tenths of a second.
Cal Crutchlow and Ben Spies finished fifth and sixth fastest to complete an all-Yamaha second row, while behind them the Ducatis of Valentino Rossi and Hector Barbera (Pramac) were split by Alvaro Bautista's Gresini Honda.
The satellite Cardion Ducati of Karel Abraham then edged out Nicky Hayden's works counterpart for 10th, while Aspar's Randy de Puniet put his CRT machine above the LCR Honda of Stefan Bradl, who suffered a high side at Museum 25 minutes into the session.
Pos Rider Team/Bike Time Gap
1. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m33.638s
2. Casey Stoner Honda 1m33.941s + 0.303s
3. Andrea Dovizioso Tech 3 Yamaha 1m33.976s + 0.338s
4. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m34.104s + 0.466s
5. Cal Crutchlow Tech 3 Yamaha 1m34.178s + 0.540s
6. Ben Spies Yamaha 1m34.669s + 1.031s
7. Valentino Rossi Ducati 1m34.907s + 1.269s
8. Alvaro Bautista Gresini Honda 1m34.922s + 1.284s
9. Hector Barbera Pramac Ducati 1m34.950s + 1.312s
10. Karel Abraham Cardion Ducati 1m35.250s + 1.612s
11. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m35.291s + 1.653s
12. Randy de Puniet Aspar Aprilia 1m35.694s + 2.056s
13. Stefan Bradl LCR Honda 1m35.862s + 2.224s
14. Michele Pirro Gresini FTR-Honda 1m36.646s + 3.008s
15. Yonny Hernandez Avintia FTR-Kawasaki 1m37.202s + 3.564s
16. James Ellison Paul Bird Aprilia 1m37.666s + 4.028s
17. Aleix Espargaro Aspar Aprilia 1m37.760s + 4.122s
18. Danilo Petrucci Ioda-Aprilia 1m37.767s + 4.129s
19. Ivan Silva Avintia Inmotec-Kawasaki 1m38.198s + 4.560s
20. Mattia Pasini Speed Master Aprilia 1m38.511s + 4.873s
21. Chris Vermeulen Forward Suter-BMW 1m38.658s + 5.020s