Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) equaled Valentino Rossi’s premier class pole position tally after mastering the damp qualifying conditions at the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and fellow GP19 rider Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) join the championship leader on the front row for Sunday’s race.
Question marks over which tires to go with were obvious ahead of the green light and as the riders appeared, only three riders gambled on slicks: Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), teammate Maverick Vinales and fellow Yamaha man Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). But it didn’t pay off as the rain started to fall ever so slightly heavier at Le Mans, so the M1 trio came straight back into pitlane to switch bikes.
The riders who had gone for the wet tires were busy getting their first lap times on the board, and it was Marquez who went to the top of the standings after Petrucci and Miller had taken turns to go P1, with Marquez’s advantage nearly 0.4s. He then set about going for another hot lap but at Turn 6, the Repsol Honda rider slid down the road. Marquez tried his best to save it but it wasn’t to be this time around, however, he was able to continue on his way.
Conditions were getting ever so slightly worse as the rain continued to fall at a slow rate. Q1 graduate Rossi was now out on wet tires and was chipping away, gradually climbing his way up the timing screens as the field struggled to improve on their personal best laps. Marquez stayed out after his crash but the championship leader wasn’t able to find any more time, with Rossi one of the only riders to find some — the 40-year-old jumping up to fifth on his final flying lap, with Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) also improving late to grab P8.
Other than that, there were no late changes as Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Miller and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) all suffered late crashes. So despite his crash, Marquez took his third pole position of the season and equaled Rossi’s premier class tally in the process – 55 apiece. Petrucci lines up second for his best qualifying of the season, with Miller also grabbing his first front row of the year in third.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) heads up an all-Italian second row of the grid with Q1 graduates Rossi and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) doing the business in Q2. Nakagami’s late fall didn’t make too much of a difference as he’ll start seventh – his best MotoGP qualifying performance. Lorenzo will start eighth for his best Honda Q2 result, he’ll line up just ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) – his and Aprilia’s best Saturday afternoon result since Valencia 2018.
Home hero Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) looked disappointed with P10, a solid result for the rookie nevertheless as he continues to get accustomed to a MotoGP machine in the wet. The Frenchman will start ahead of Vinales – a disaster for the Spaniard who had looked immensely strong in all conditions throughout the weekend. Espargaro’s crash means he’ll start 12th on the KTM after failing to set a time.
A major talking point is Alex Rins’ (Team Suzuki Ecstar) P19 result. The man second in the championship has a mountain to climb on Sunday if he’s to limit the damage in the overall standings.
1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) – 1:40.952
2. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) + 0.360
3. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 0.414
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 0.600
5. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.703
6. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.729
7. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 1.107
8. Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) + 1.115
9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 1.498
10. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 1.557
11. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 1.603
12. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – no time set