Rossi claims close pole at Assen.

Valentino Rossi moved a step closer to claiming his 100th grand prix victory at Assen by claiming a close position for the Dutch TT.

    The reigning six time MotoGP world champion had been fastest early in the hour, and returned to the top with ten minutes to go. 

    Team-mate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo then wrestled the position from him, but Rossi - with Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa in tow - pulled pole back with two minutes remaining, gaining all his time over the #99 in the fast final sector.

    The injured Pedrosa was towed to within 0.085sec of Rossi for second on the grid, while Lorenzo's last pole attack was on target until the final sector. Lorenzo, tied with Rossi and Casey Stoner for the world championship lead, was left 0.368sec from Rossi in third position.

    Having survived a big rear-wheel slide earlier in the session, Stoner finished the hour in fourth place and furious with a fellow competitor - presumably for blocking. As he returned to the pits, Stoner signalled his frustration as he passed the unseen offender's pit garage, then tapped his helmet with his finger when back in the Ducati pits.

    Alex de Angelis was equally angry, the Honda Gresini rider being badly baulked by Loris Capirossi when the Rizla Suzuki rider surprisingly shut off on the exit of the final chicane. As he protested, de Angelis held up Yuki Takahashi. de Angelis will start eleventh, with Capirossi sixth.

    Lining up between Stoner and Capirossi will be Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards, on pole with 20 minutes to go, while Chris Vermeulen just missed out on row two with the second GSV-R.

    Andrea Dovizioso will be disappointed with eighth on the second factory Honda, while James Toseland was ninth for Tech 3 Yamaha and Thursday pace setter Randy de Puniet tenth for Honda LCR.

    Mika Kallio was once again the leading rookie in twelfth for Pramac Ducati, with Nicky Hayden unable to repeat his morning seventh as he recorded 13th on the second factory Desmosedici.

    Gabor Talmacsi once again rounded out the field, but was only 0.3sec slower than Scot Honda team-mate Yuki Takahashi after only his second MotoGP qualifying session.

    Having conquered qualifying, Valentino Rossi will attempt to break clear of title rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner by claiming his 100th grand prix victory at Assen on Saturday.

    The reigning six time MotoGP world champion starts round seven of 2009 equal on points and race wins with Fiat Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo and Ducati star Stoner, who will start third and fourth on the Dutch TT grid.

    Honda's Dani Pedrosa tucked in behind Rossi to help claim second place in qualifying, just 0.085sec behind the Italian, but the Spaniard's injuries mean he is unlikely to match the 'big three' over a full race distance.

    Rossi's only previous 2009 'pole' was at Motegi, but on that occasion the position was handed to him by virtue of his free practice pace after rain forced qualifying to be cancelled.

    “This is a really good pole position because I've only had one other this season, at Motegi in strange conditions,” he said. “I had a lot of traffic around me in the last few minutes so I had to be careful to judge exactly the right point to push, but I got it right and I was really happy with my great lap at the end.

    “I feel good and I am very strong with the Bridgestone race tyres but it's going to be a hard race because the others are also very fast. We still have two or three points on the track where we could improve our performance a bit more so we still have a bit of work to do, but I am confident that we can make another great race. 

    “Of course we don't know about the weather, but this is normal for Assen and we will just have to manage!” he added, referring to the constant threat of rain.

    Rossi put together eight consecutive race simulation laps early in qualifying, all but one of which was below 1min 38sec. 

    Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo once gain put in a longer run, of 18 laps, 15 of which were under 1min 38sec. Rossi's best during his run was a 1min 37.314sec, Lorenzo's a 1min 37.424sec.

    Pedrosa did seven consecutive laps, but only three under 1min 38sec (best 1min 37.486sec) while, as in Catalunya, Stoner only did a brief run - four fast laps, three of them under 1min 38sec and a best of 1min 37.379sec.

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