|Rossi has been suffering from a shoulder injury sustained in a motocross accident [AFP]
World champion Valentino Rossi of Italy snatched pole position for the French MotoGP at Le Mans circuit.
Rossi clocked a fastest time of one minute 33.408 seconds with his Yamaha team mate Jorge Lorenzo of Spain coming home in second place.
Spaniard Dani Pedrosa, third on a Honda, completed the front row as the top three riders were separated by less than two tenth of a second and the pole changed hands many times in the final 10 minutes.
Australian Casey Stoner was fourth on a Ducati on a dry track in the Le Mans sunshine.
Lorenzo leads the world championships standings with 45 points, four ahead of Rossi, who has been struggling with shoulder pains since a motocross accident following the season opening Qatar MotoGP.
Rossi, who crashed last year in Le Mans and finished 16th, said: "I'm so happy about these weather conditions and I feel confident about the bike.
"Pole position is always good and that is a good lap time, for the race I am quite worried about my shoulder because after about 10 or 15 laps I started to lose power."
Spain's Alvaro Bautista pulled out of the Grand Prix after breaking his collarbone in the morning's practice, organisers said.
Toni Elias of Spain took pole position in the Moto2 category with compatriot Nicolas Terol proving the fastest in 125cc.