The reigning Champion leads the returning Marquez by half a tenth, with Marini and Miller on the chase as Quartararo misses out on Q2.
What’s 0.058 between World Champions? At the Shark Grand Prix de France it’s the difference between pole and the middle of the front row, with Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) denying Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in the very final seconds of a blockbuster Q2. It looked like the number 93 was on to make it two from two before the late attack, but Bagnaia had other ideas and brought Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) to the front row party. The number 10 starts third, with the best seat in the house for the Bagnaia-Marquez duel alongside.
Quartararo takes on home turf Q1
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) seized early control of Q1 as he shot to the top with a 1:31.366, with Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) second before he was pipped by Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and the field started to turn the screw. They couldn’t get close to Quartararo though, with the Frenchman enjoying a gap of four tenths.
On the second runs, that changed. Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) put in a sublime effort to take over on top, piping Quartararo by hundredths, and then the red sectors started lighting up for Marini. The Italian kept it together and broke home hearts, crossing the line to depose Fernandez and, consequently, push Quartararo down to third in the session – and out of Q2. The 2021 Champion starts 13th.
A Q2 of two halves
The first runs were a drama free show of speed for Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) as the number 12 took provisional pole, but then the field filed back out for another shot at it… or they did except Viñales. Top Gun had an issue at pit exit and headed back to the box, able to get on track but rhythm then out of whack. It then went from bad to worse for Aprilia as Aleix Espargaro slid out in a fast crash, rider ok, and attention turned to the rest as the red sectors started to pile up.
Bagnaia was the first mover, deposing Marquez from second, but Viñales remained top until a duel attack from Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) and… Marquez. The number 93 had done a quick lap alone for provisional second behind Viñales, but now he was tucked in behind the number 89. Martin took to the top before the Honda right behind him stole it immediately, making it a fairly spicy 1-2.
It looked like it could be job done there, but there were three riders left on threatening laps. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the first but ‘Thriller’ could only split Marquez and Martin, before another duo shot across the the line. Marini just pushed the Aussie off the front row, and Bagnaia? The reigning Champion just had enough in the tank to deny Marquez by an infinitesimal 0.058, forcing the number 93 to settle for second and forfeit a 100% pole record in the events in which he’s competed in 2023. But what a lead duo to fight it out for the holeshot…
How the top 12 are set for the Tissot Sprint and GP race
Bagnaia heads Marquez and Marini, with Miller still in with a shout of a holeshot in fourth. Remember Jerez? Martin is forced to settle for fifth, with Viñales ultimately starting sixth after that late Q2 drama.
Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) launches from seventh after a fast Friday too, ahead of Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and home hero Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing).
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) had a tougher Q2 but slots into tenth, and has won a Tissot Sprint from 15th lest we remind, with Aleix Espargaro and Augusto Fernandez completing the fourth row ahead of Quartararo.
MotoGP Top 4 – Combined Qualifying – French GP
1. Francesco BAGNAIA – ITA – Ducati Lenovo – 1’30.705
2. Marc MARQUEZ – SPA – Repsol Honda Team – +0.058
3. Luca MARINI – ITA – Mooney VR46 Team – +0.137
4. Jack MILLER – AUS – Red Bull KTM Factory – +0.279
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