Despite a crash, the Championship leader mastered the damp conditions to lead Petrucci and Miller in Le Mans qualifying
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) has equalled Valentino Rossi’s (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) 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 tyres to go with were obvious ahead of the green light and as the riders appeared, only three riders gambled on slick tyres: Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), teammate Maverick Viñales 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.
Meanwhile, the riders who had gone for the wet tyres 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’ advantage nearly 0.4 seconds. 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.
Meanwhile, 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 tyres and ‘The Doctor’ 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 on the grab P8.
Other than that though, there were no late changes as Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Miller and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) all suffered late crashes – riders ok. So despite his crash, Marquez took his third pole position of the season and equalled 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 7th – 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 Viñales – 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.
A damp and tricky qualifying ends with Marquez on top as all eyes will be pointing to the skies tomorrow to see what the weather will bring. Whatever the conditions, it looks set to be a French phenomenon in Le Mans