French MotoGP star Fabio Quartararo ignored the changeable weather conditions and blasted his way to pole position for the French Grand Prix.
Yamaha rider Quartararo, racing on home soil at Le Mans, found pace in the closing seconds of qualifying to snatch pole position for Sunday’s race after a dramatic finish to Saturday’s session.
With less than 60 seconds remaining in the session, the timing sheets showed a Honda 1-2-3, with six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez at the head of the field.
But, on a drying track, the Yamaha duo of Quartararo and Maverick Vinales pulled out all the stops to take the top two spots on the grid for Sunday’s race.
First it was Vinales who took pole as he crossed the line with a time of 1:32.681 to eclipse the Honda trio of Marquez, Takaaki Nakagami and Pol Espargaro.
Then, with the session clock ticking down to zero, Italian Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli leap-frogged the Hondas, before Quartararo clocked the fastest time of the session with a 1:32.600.
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Ducati’s Jack Miller also left it late to score a dramatic lap as he secured the third and final spot on the front row with a lap of 1:32.704.
The top nine riders on the grid were covered by less than eight tenths of a second.
But qualifying proved to be a nightmare for the Suzuki team, with defending MotoGP world champion Joan Mir languishing down in 14th and team-mate Alex Rins one place behind in 15th.
It was also a disappointing Saturday session for Miller’s Ducati team-mate and championship leader Francesco Bagnaia, who was even further back, in 16th.
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Speaking in parc ferme after securing pole position, Quartararo said, “It feels amazing, because I was so nervous before qualifying. It was the first time I was going to use the medium (compound) rear (tyre).
“On the out lap I saw that it was dry, so I came into the pit lane. We had a strategy coming into the pit lane that we needed to do.
“And on the last lap actually, I said, ‘OK. Either I crash, or I make the front row.’
“I’m so happy to make it two years in a row in my home GP.”
Vinales was equally elated, as he said he was looking forward to taking on the opposition in changeable conditions during Sunday’s race.
“I’m quite happy to be on the front row in these tricky conditions,” he said.
“Normally, the bike is quite difficult (at Le Mans), but somehow here we are on the front row, and also Fabio is on pole. So I’m very happy and very excited tomorrow.
“We will see the weather, but anyway, it will be fun. It will be very fun.”
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