Marc Marquez collected his second MotoGP™ pole position for this weekend’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France at Le Mans as the championship leader beat current title holder Jorge Lorenzo by just three hundredths of a second and Andrea Dovizioso celebrated his first front row for Ducati Team.
The majority of those in the paddock expected rainfall for qualifying, but this was not to be the case as a steady breeze graced the historic Le Mans venue. Delivering an impressive lap time of 1’33.187, Marquez looked to have convincingly sealed his second pole after Texas but was challenged hard by Lorenzo. With Dovizioso taking his first front row since Malaysia 2012, today’s result marks the first time that the Honda, Yamaha and Ducati factory teams have shared Row 1 since Spain 2012.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow came back from a heavy crash at La Chapelle in final practice to achieve the fourth best grid spot. Having already suffered two accidents in Jerez a fortnight ago, he later went to the Medical Centre for treatment and it was confirmed that he had suffered a fracture to the tibial plateau, which affects the overall stability and motion of the knee. He will undergo a further medical examination on Sunday morning to decide whether or not he is able to race at Le Mans.
Crutchlow would share the second row with LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl and Dani Pedrosa, who was forced to rush back to the pits with less than ten minutes to go after repeating an error made by Repsol Honda Team partner Marquez (but in final practice for the latter) and falling at Turn 3. Pedrosa later commented that a bump in the track had caused him to loose the front.
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Valentino Rossi hopes to become the fourth winner from four races this weekend, but could muster only eighth in qualifying and will be flanked on Row 3 by GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and Tech 3’s Bradley Smith, who with ninth place equals his best grid position of the season so far. Rossi commented he struggles to get the most out of the tyres for one hot-lap, yet that he was content with his race-pace.
Nicky Hayden completed the top ten for Ducati as Power Electronics Aspar successfully saw two CRT riders into the Q2 for the first time; although he was quicker than his teammate in Q1, local hero Randy de Puniet could not out-qualify teammate Aleix Espargaro when it came to the all-important final shootout.
Elsewhere, Michele Pirro qualified 14th, and one place behind Pramac Racing teammate Andrea Iannone, as he stands in for the recovering Ben Spies, while Colin Edwards was highly optimistic with the latest evolution of his FTR frame and went on to qualify 17th for NGM Mobile Forward Racing. On his return, Karel Abraham – with seven screws and a plate in his right shoulder following a collision in Austin – managed to achieve a sixth row placing.