Le Mans (France), May (IANS): A magnificent performance from Francesco Bagnaia saw him secure consecutive MotoGP pole positions for the first time this season at the Grand Prix de France.
The Italian set a new All-Time Lap Record in the process, with his 1:30.450 the fastest two-wheeled lap seen around Le Mans. It was a double delight for the Ducati Lenovo Team, as Jack Miller joined his teammate on the front row, with Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro's remarkable run of form continuing. The number 41 takes a third consecutive front row.
French favourites Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) will start from the second row at their home GP.
Having missed the top 10 cut in Free Practice, Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) navigated through a perilous session to take their places in the battle for pole, but neither could make their mark in the early exchanges. Instead, the first runs witnessed the first Bagnaia and Quartararo showdown of the weekend.
Both riders were keen to get a banker lap in early, and it was the Italian who struck first with an impressive 1:30.6 to sit on top. However, it didn't take long for Quartararo to get the French fans on their feet as he responded by going 0.011s quicker on his next attempt. As the riders returned to their boxes, Round 1 had fallen the way of the reigning World Champion.
As riders returned to the tarmac, they began to close the gap to the top. Zarco was the first to improve and put himself on the front row provisionally, while Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP) had gone und'r Bagnaia's pace-setting time in the first three sectors. Unfortunately for the two-time premier class race winner, his effort fell just short as he replaced Zarco in P3.
As the session clock ticked down, Bagnaia upped his game once more, posting a rapid lap to break the All-Time Lap Record in Le Mans as well as towing teammate Miller into the top two. Moments later, Aleix Espargaro joined them on the front row after a blistering effort from the RS-GP, and all eyes were now on Quartararo.
The pressure was on the Yamaha rider, and despite a clean two first sectors on his final time attack, he lost time in the third before losing it completely in the fourth, leaving him with a P4 start come lights out. He'll be joined on the second row by compatriot Zarco, with Bastianini splitting the two in P5.
It proved a commendable salvage job for Joan Mir as he takes P7, and in a familiar sight, he has teammate Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) for the company on the third row. Lining up beside the GSX-RRs is the other Q1 graduate, Jorge Martin.
It was frustrating for the Hondas as Marc Marquez rolled out of his time attack while Pol Espargaro saw his interrupted by Zarco in a near-miss incident. They will line up in P10 and P11 respectively, with satellite counterpart Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) completing the top 12.