Edwards fast in France; Rossi way back

PARIS -- Former superbike world champion
Colin Edwards eclipsed the championship front-runners with
provisional pole in Friday's first qualifying for Sunday's
French MotoGP.

The American was a surprise name at the top of the
timesheets, lapping the 4.180 km Bugatti circuit in one minute
33.870 seconds, 0.096 quicker than compatriot and fellow Honda
rider Nicky Hayden.

"I'm tired of sitting here telling the guys that this was
going to happen so to come out here and do what we did feels
great," said Edwards.

"We had a test last week in Jerez and I think the best thing
that happened was that I crashed because I know where the limit
is now."

Spain's Carlos Checa, on a Yamaha, was third quickest to
complete the provisional front row on a bright afternoon when 13
MotoGP riders lapped inside Valentino Rossi's previous pole
record of 1:35.208.

World champion Rossi, who left Honda for Yamaha during the
close season, was seventh quickest with Italian rival Max Biaggi
eighth on a Honda.

In front of them were Italian Marco Melandri, fourth on a
Yamaha, ahead of Honda's world championship leader Sete Gibernau
of Spain. Japanese Makoto Tamada, also on a Honda, finished
sixth quickest.

For the first time since the Japanese Grand Prix in 2001,
Rossi does not lead the 500cc or motoGP standings.

Gibernau has 41 points, leading third-placed Rossi by three
points with Biaggi second on 40.

"It is a new situation for me and I have to say I had been
waiting a long time for this moment," said Gibernau of his
status as championship leader.

The Spanish rider won on home soil two weeks ago on a wet
Jerez track with Rossi, who won the season opener in South
Africa, finishing only fourth.

However, Rossi still felt confident ahead of the showdown.

"Le Mans is a track that suits Yamaha and I think I'll be
able to win there," he said.

In the 250cc race, Frenchman Randy De Puniet is seeking to
extend his lead with a home win: "I start this event like the
others. I just hope to leave Le Mans on Sunday in the same
position," he said.

De Puniet was provisionally on an all-Aprilia front row
after finishing second behind Argentine Sebastian Porto. San
Marino's Manuel Poggiali was third.