The question on everybody at Assen's lips, whether Valentino Rossi was fit enough for qualifying, has been answered, and the answer is: just. Rossi was only out for 2 sessions, and did 13 laps, but he qualified, with an almost respectable 1:40.298. Respectable for a man who complained that he couldn't brake or get on the gas, that is.
Rossi's time puts him at the back of the grid, nearly 4 seconds behind surprising pole sitter John Hopkins. The Suzukis have been reasonably fast all weekend, but not this fast. Suzuki will be pleased, as Assen is the home grand prix of their sponsor, Rizla, and an excellent place to get the second pole of the season. The pole time was just as the Ohlins engineers predicted, 1:36.411. Shinya Nakano is in second spot, making it a Bridgestone 1-2 in Qualifying. Colin Edwards was also fast, but was baulked by Nicky Hayden during his last fast lap, wrecking his shot at pole. Hayden himself is in fourth, beside team mate Dani Pedrosa, and the second Suzuki of Chris Vermeulen.
The third row has some pretty big surprises: Marco Melandri is in 7th position, not bad considering the terrible crash he suffered last week. But the real surprises are Carlos Checa in 8th, a long way up the grid from where the Dunlop riders usually are; and another Dunlop rider (though this time on Bridgestones) Alex Hofmann in 9th, riding Sete Gibernau's Ducati. Kenny Roberts Jr, who had been at the front during the Free Practice sessions, is way down in 10th.
A disappointing performance from Loris Capirossi in 15th and Casey Stoner in 12th. Capirossi has an excuse, as he is still suffering the after effects of his crash in Barcelona, but Stoner doesn't. Less than 1 second covers the top 9.
10. Roberts Jr
11. de Puniet