Dani Pedrosa will lead off on race day after he became the only competitor to break the one minute, 34 barrier [AFP]

Spain's Dani Pedrosa has secured his fourth pole position of the season after setting the fastest time in qualifying ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix.

The Honda rider clocked one minute, 33.948 seconds around the 4.180 kilometre (2.597 mile) Misano circuit on Saturday, a full three tenths-of-a-second quicker than his compatriot Jorge Lorenzo, with Australia's Casey Stoner completing the front row for Ducati.

Reigning world champion Valentino Rossi heads up the second row in his home race, with Ben Spies of the United States and Frenchman Randy de Puniet alongside.

Spanish championship leader Tony Elias and teenage Briton Bradley Smith will lead off in the Moto2 and 125cc races respectively.

Eventful session

Qualification for the 2010 San Marino Grand Prix took place at the Misano circuit on Saturday and a eventful final session saw Frenchman Randy de Puniet continue his rehabilitation from a broken leg with a creditable fastest lap of one minute, 34.751 seconds over the 4.180-kilometre (2.597-mile) track, good enough for sixth place on the timesheets.

De Puniet will start Sunday's race on the second row of the grid, alongside Ben Spies of the United States, who managed to maintain the form that brought him his best finish of the season last time out in Indianapolis with fifth place.

Rossi sported a new crash helmet design, with a clockface highlighting the Italian's desire to step up his recovery from his own leg injury - Rossi's fourth - fastest time on the day keeps the six-time MotoGP world champion in with a chance of winning a third San Marino Grand Prix in a row.

Australia's Casey Stoner had led the timings with 20 minutes to go in the session, but then crashed his Ducati - the pit team worked frantically to repair some front end damage and Stoner recovered to post an improved one minute, 34.397 seconds, but it was still almost half-a-second off the eventual pole-setting pace.

Even championship leader Jorge Lorenzo, who holds a comfortable 69-point lead in the standings, couldn't coax his Yamaha through to the fastest time.

Lorenzo took the fastest lap time from Stoner after clocking one minute, 34.256 seconds - but then saw what would have been a sixth pole position of the season snatched away at the last.

Lorenzo's Spanish compatriot and closest championship challenger Dani Pedrosa will lead off on race day after the Honda rider became the only competitor to break the one minute, 34 barrier - by just 52 thousandths-of-a-second.

After winning at Indianapolis last time out, Pedrosa needs maximum points again at Misano to close the gap on Lorenzo and a fourth win of the season to convert a fourth pole position of the campaign, would be just what the team require.

However, Pedrosa knows full well that the race itself will present a very different set of problems.

"Well, I think in general the practice was quite good. We did have a lot of pace, but I was of course at the end of the session trying to get some good lap time because you know how tight are the first two corners, so you want to get involved in something, so it was important to be on the front row, that was good. we still have to work on the race set-up and I hope we can get some improvement for tomorrow."

Source: Agencies