Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) stormed to an outstanding pole position at the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France, smashing the circuit lap record to become the first Frenchman to secure pole on home soil since Christian Sarron at Paul Ricard in 1988. Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez threatened to spoil the party on his final lap, but it wasn’t enough, the World Championship leader starts P2. Q1 graduate Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) will start tomorrow’s race third on the grid, a great session for the Italian.
It was an incredibly tense Q2 session in Le Mans, with all eyes on the No. 5 to see if he could get his M1 Yamaha on pole. The Frenchman, straight out the blocks, didn’t disappoint: he topped the timesheets after his first flying lap. However Marquez as ever was quick to reply. The reigning world champion wasn’t at the summit for long though, as Petrucci put in his fastest lap of the weekend go provisional P1. Zarco though had other ideas, and on the final lap of his first run, the Frenchman sent a warning sign, going 0.330 seconds quicker than anyone else.
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) briefly led the session when the riders came back out for their second runs, but Marquez then reset the benchmark, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) leaping up to second. The home hero though wasn’t done, again going quickest, this time by 0.130. Marquez’s efforts on his final lap sent French nerves into overdrive, but Zarco held on.
Iannone starts from P4 on his Suzuki, his time of 1m31.454s was less than a tenth off the front row. The Italian heads the two factory Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso, who’ll start fifth, and Lorenzo in sixth – both of whom look to have very strong race pace.
Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) was impressive once again in P7, he was in the mix throughout the session, making it four Ducatis in the top seven on a track the manufacturer has never won at. A team who have enjoyed winning at Le Mans recently are Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, however, Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi will have work to do from P8 and P9 on the grid respectively. The two will be disappointed to be over half a second behind fellow Yamaha rider Zarco.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), who came through Q1, will start from tenth on Sunday. He is joined by Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing), who was a slender 0.025 behind his compatriot, and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro. The No. 41 crashed at Turn 1 on his opening run – he was OK and ran back to the pits.
Zarco led into the chicane here in 2017 after starting third, can he hold off the ever-fast Marquez and Petrucci when he launches from pole? Watch out too for the fast-starting Lorenzo on the second row – will he reproduce the lighting start he produced in Jerez?