Incredibly tight fight for pole at Le Mans

2020 MotoGP Round Ten – Le Mans


MotoGP Qualifying Report

Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) took a stunning home turf pole position on Saturday at the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, the Frenchman denying Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) by two tenths after a late lunge for the top. Miller impressed in second to make it an Independent Team rider 1-2, with fellow Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) completing the front row as Borgo Panigale machinery shone in qualifying.

2020 Le Mans MotoGP front row
1 Fabio Quartararo – Petronas Yamaha SRT – Yamaha – 1:31.315
2 Jack Miller – Pramac Racing – Ducati – +0.222
3 Danilo Petrucci – Ducati Team – Ducati – +0.359

Before the final push to decide the top 12 positions on the grid got underway, however, Q1 made some headlines as both Team Suzuki Ecstar machines failed to move through. Joan Mir was left down in P14 on the grid and teammate Alex Rins two places further back, giving the Hamamatsu factory a mountain to climb on Sunday. Can Mir do the damage limitation with Quartararo starting from the front?

Moving through from Q1 instead were Petrucci, who set the fastest lap of the weekend up to that point, followed by Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) as the Italian pipped Mir to it. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) lost out too, with a few final laps chalked off after a late crash for Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) that brought out the Yellow Flags.

Q2 began with Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) leading fellow Yamaha riders Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Quartararo over the line, and it was the Italian who set the first benchmark time – a 1:32.393. Bagnaia then went up to P2 with Viñales slotting into P3, but the times were going to change immediately, with red sectors everywhere. All four Yamahas were inside the top four with Quartararo launching to P1 with a 1:31.679, but Bagnaia then improved again to slot into P2 behind the home hero; 0.073 the gap after two flying laps.

This is Yamaha’s seventh pole position since the opening race of the season in Spain, which is the first time there are seven Yamaha pole positions over the opening nine MotoGP races of a single season since 2009 when Yamaha riders also took seven pole positions in the nine opening races.

Quartararo then improved again to extend his advantage to 0.087, with Morbidelli holding P3 for the time being as the riders completed their first runs. Viñales was P4 and was seemingly – like he did at Misano – on a two-stop qualifying strategy as Petrucci and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) joined Viñales on the provisional second row. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was sitting P10 with six minutes to go, meanwhile Bagnaia hadn’t pitted and after venting his frustrations at Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3), although he was on another flyer before it went wrong at Turn 9…

Viñales was then pushing for a lap but it wasn’t happening for the Spaniard, with Dovizioso the man on the move instead as the Italian shot up to P2 to sit 0.082 off Quartararo. On the next lap, he was on it once more. Dovi was over a tenth under, but then lost some time in the last sector and didn’t improve…

It was all go in the final few seconds. Riding wounded Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) seemed to come out of nowhere to set an unbelievable 1:31.686 and take provisional P2, and just behind him on the road, Miller was also setting the world alight. The Aussie was 0.3 under at the third split and despite losing some time in the last sector, Miller demoted Quartararo to P2 and went to provisional pole position by 0.128. Alas for the Aussie, it wasn’t over yet…

There were red sector times across the board, the last push seemingly making it anyone’s game. Viñales improved but couldn’t find his way onto the front row and went to P4, and then Dovizioso was one of the riders who was going faster. Despite setting his personal best lap time, the Italian didn’t improve his position – but teammate Petrucci did. The latter shot up to P3 to beat Crutchlow’s time by just 0.012, and Miller was safe from another threat. But then a Frenchman caught everyone’s attention: Quartararo was determined to make it a home Grand Prix pole position and he was on course to absolutely smoke the competition; the number 20 two tenths under Miller’s time heading into the last sector. And the number 20 kept it pinned and tidy with no mistakes, taking the chequered flag to claim his ninth MotoGP pole position, ultimately by 0.222.

Jack Miller had a hefty tumble earlier in the day during FP3

Nevertheless, Miller was happy to claim a front row start given his FP3 crash, and Petrucci’s wonderful Saturday afternoon sees the charismatic Italian start from the front row for the first time since the 2019 Italian GP – and we know what happened there.

Jack Miller has qualified in second place equalling his best qualifying result so far this season from Austria and Emilia Romagna. He’s finished fourth in MotoGP over the last two years at Le Mans.

Crutchlow’s P4 was a true stunner given his physical condition, his right arm after surgery still giving him grief but the Brit taking his first top 10 qualifying result in 2020. He’s joined on the second row by Viñales in fifth; the Yamaha star ending Q2 0.4 seconds off Quartararo. He did, however, just edge out Dovizioso by 0.003. Still, P6 is Dovi’s best qualifying since his fourth in Austria.

After coming through Q1, Bagnaia claims P7 as both he and eighth place Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) also sit around 0.4 off pole position, again showing how tightly contested MotoGP really is in 2020. Frenchman Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) joins Bagnaia and Espargaro on Row 3, with two Yamahas left disappointed in Q2: Rossi and Morbidelli have work to do on Sunday afternoon after qualifying P10 and P11, and Oliveira was forced to settle too, in his case for P12. The Portuguese rider encountered plenty of troubles in FP4 with a mechanical problem and a crash, but the Styrian GP winner was just 0.694 from pole despite his position.

Quartararo takes full advantage of his main title rival Mir suffering on Saturday. Is a dream home Grand Prix victory going to come his way on Sunday? If it does, he’ll be the first ever French premier class winner at Le Mans. Only time will tell, but judging from FP4, it looks likely that he’s going to take some stopping.


MotoGP Rider Quotes

Fabio Quartararo – P1

“It feels great to be back in pole position, and even more so to do it in France. I feel great on the bike and qualifying was great as well; the first run was really good. At that point I knew I really wanted pole position today. It’s my second pole position at Le Mans, so I am really happy. The focus now is on the first laps of the race, we want to stay ahead of the others and then see what the pace is like. If we do this, I think we can have a really good race. The team has done a really fantastic job with the bike and we will see what we can do tomorrow.”

This is the third pole position for a French rider at Le Mans in the premier class, along with Johann Zarco (2018) and Christian Sarron (1987) (since pole position began to be officially recorded in 1974).
Jack Miller – P2

“A really positive day, I am very happy, we have always worked well this weekend and the feeling with the bike and this track is really good. Starting from the first row tomorrow will help me a lot, I will try to make a good start and not risk too much. I’m not  too much worry about the weather conditions, fortunately I can adapt very easily.”

Jack Miller
Danilo Petrucci – P3

“I’m happy to be back on the front row after a long, difficult period. As of this morning, I felt I had the potential to do a good qualifying. Unfortunately, in FP3, I found different yellow flags on the track, and I missed the opportunity to put in a good lap to access directly in Q2. Nevertheless, we managed to make an excellent qualifying. Starting in front is certainly very important for tomorrow, as at least ten riders have the pace to fight for the podium. After the last race in Catalunya, I found a good feeling in braking and even the low temperatures will help me tomorrow, so I am very confident that I can get a good result”.

Danilo Petrucci
Cal Crutchlow – P4

“It was a much better day today. It’s nice to be able to put in some good laps of the track this weekend, and I have to give credit to the LCR Honda Castrol Team because they have worked very hard, as always. Before the qualifying session it seemed we had a slight problem with both of our bikes, but thanks to their hard work they were both ready for the qualifying session. In the end, we have shown good pace over the last two days so far, in all conditions, and now we can really look forward to the race tomorrow.”

Cal Crutchlow
Maverick Vinales – P5

“A second-row start is not bad, but I‘m not really happy about the feeling with the bike. In Montmeló I was already struggling and it continues here in Le Mans, which is strange because usually this is a track where we are quite competitive. Fifth place is the maximum we could do, because the bike is moving a lot and I‘m unable to create grip on banking. Tomorrow will be a tough day. We will try to do our best. We can still try to fight for the top, because in FP4 the rhythm with old tyres was very fast and consistent.”

Winner of the MotoGP race at Le Mans in 2017, Maverick Viñales, who is scheduled to make his 100th start in the premier class, has qualified fifth, which is the fourth time this year he has failed to start from the front row.
Andrea Dovizioso – P6

“I am delighted with today’s qualifying. My feeling with the bike was excellent, and although I could not close a perfect lap, we got the start from the first two rows, which is always our main goal in qualifying. Our pace ahead of tomorrow’s race is also positive. We still have to improve some aspects to make sure I can fight at the front for the duration of the race, but compared to other tracks my feeling is a lot better, and that’s why I am confident for tomorrow”.

Andrea Dovizioso
Pecco Bagnaia – P7

“Starting  from Q1 is never positive, it is always a risk. I was wrong, it took me too long to get used to the cold conditions of the track. I spend a lot of time warming the tires, but it’s not a justification and I have to improve because even today during the FP4 and qualifying I only thought about driving and I pushed a lot and it went much better immediately. Unfortunately when I was doing my best lap in Q2 I found Miguel  and this penalised me, but my reaction was exaggerated and I will apologise to him.”

Pecco Bagnaia
Pol Espargaro – P8

“It wasn’t the perfect lap. I had an issue with the traction control in Turn 6 and then out-braked myself in the last two corners. I lost a couple of tenths and a chance for the second row which is where I wanted to start tomorrow. The third row is not too bad though and we are fast in the first sector of the track, so we need to get through that without any mistakes and then see how the race goes. Our pace is good. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Pol Espargaro
Johann Zarco – P9

“Third row for tomorrow, I feel good after today as in FP3 we took a big step forward.  We have been improving as the weekend progressed and I hope to continue taking steps tomorrow in the race.  I am very confident with the front end, which I think will allow me to fight for the top 5 tomorrow, and hopefully for a podium in the home race.”

Johann Zarco
Valentino Rossi – P10

“I‘m not happy about my qualifying and my position. I have to do better, because I think that my potential is better, my pace is better than this. The qualifying was a bit difficult, a bit tricky. In the end on the last lap I was not so bad, but I made a mistake. If not, I could have started from a bit more towards the front. Starting from ten is difficult, for sure, but the feeling with the bike is not so bad. We have to fix something, but my pace is quite good, so we have to try tomorrow.”

Valentino Rossi
Franco Morbidelli – P11

“It was a strange qualifying today and I’m a little disappointed. I felt great all day, I was fast in Free Practice and I had a lot of confidence on the bike. In qualifying I felt good in the first time attack, I made a decent lap time and I was third. I was aiming for something good, but in the second time attack I didn’t have the same feeling with the new rear tyre. I couldn’t attack like I wanted to and also I didn’t improve my lap time. 11th is not what I was expecting, it’s not what I wanted, but we will try to have a good race tomorrow. Our pace is really strong, so we will try to move through the pack as much as we can, although overtaking will be difficult, and see where we are at the chequered flag.”

Franco Morbidelli
Miguel Oliveira – P12

“I’m a bit disappointed about the Qualifying. FP4 was going really well until I had an issue. I restarted with a new tire but crashed on my first lap and the damage was too big to continue. The team did a great job to repair the bike in time for Qualifying session. After this, I had to recover my feeling. Still I improved my lap time from this morning, which is a positive point. Tomorrow is going to be a hard one, we all need to be safe in the first laps and then do our race. I think my pace is really good, I just need to keep a strong attitude and stay optimistic for tomorrow.”

Miguel Oliveira
Takaaki Nakagami – P13

“I was trying to push to the maximum and get the most performance out of the bike during qualifying but we definitely saw an improvement in terms of race pace during Free Practice 4. The bike felt much more comfortable and stable then, which is good news for the race tomorrow. Qualifying was a bit tricky, and I missed out on Q2 by just over a tenth. 13th on the starting grid is not the best for us, and we certainly weren’t expecting it, but let’s see what happens tomorrow. The warm up will be cold, but our race pace is very much improved so I’m looking forward to it. I will be doing my best as always to make up some positions – especially at the beginning of the race – and then we will see.”

Joan Mir – P14

“I’m struggling quite a lot, and it’s tough to be really competitive here. The weather conditions are extreme and the cold affects my feeling with the tyres a lot, especially on the front end. I struggle to keep the front tyre at best working temperature, and this means that it’s tough for me to get a good split in sector 1, in the left-hand corner 2 after the straight. The other sectors were not bad, but we’re always paying for what we lose in sector 1. We need to check the data tonight and try to find some good solutions. It’s going to be tough to recover so many positions, but the first priority is to find the right feeling that would allow me to get the best position possible at the chequered flag.”

Joan Mir
Aleix Espargaro – P15

“Not a simple day. Unfortunately, the frame I had tested and liked in Barcelona didn’t work well here. It was hard to understand yesterday in the wet, but when I went back to my standard bike today, I was immediately able to go faster. I lost my best lap in qualifying due to a yellow flag, so we’ll have to start from the fifth row, but we have the potential to recover positions. The low temperature will certainly be a problem. It will be a tough race.”

Alex Rins – P16

“It’s not great to have two crashes before qualifying because it affects your confidence – but the positive thing is that we understood why they happened and it’s mainly a problem of keeping the temperature in the tyres. My pace isn’t that bad, I think it was good enough for Top 5, but the cold temperatures made it tough for us today. Tomorrow’s first lap will be key for the race; if I can be competitive at the beginning I believe we can still recover many positions and have a good race.”

Brad Binder – P17

“Qualifying didn’t go to plan even if FP4 went quite well and FP3 also, where I narrowly missed Q2. We went out in Q1 and I didn’t get a good lap, so we changed tires but then I crashed on my flying lap. We didn’t have the day we were hoping for…but I think our potential is a look higher than how it looks. We’ll get the job done tomorrow.”

Brad Binder
Alex Marquez – P18

“Today we started very well in Qualifying but there was a little bit of misunderstanding about the strategy, so I wasn’t able to benefit from the slipstream like all the other riders who went faster. It was a bit of a shame but our pace is very close to everyone else so I think we can make something happen in the race. We have to be careful because the forecast is looking really cold and making a mistake will be really easy, Turn 2 will be especially important to pay attention to. The plan is to make a good start and then see what the race brings, we are close to Nakagami and this will be a good reference.”

Bradley Smith – P19

“We struggled this morning, but the guys worked hard between FP3 and FP4 and I gained a bit of feeling. In FP4, I followed Aleix for a few laps, also managing to identify where he is able to be faster and I got close to his performance overall. I am also satisfied with my qualifying time, especially because I did it on my own and the slipstream can really make a difference here. Obviously, if we look at the positions, our limitations are clear and they are certainly not mitigated by the characteristics of this track and the weather conditions. We’ll have to be very careful tomorrow. It looks like there will be low temperatures for both warm up and the race and, while the rear doesn’t pose a big problem, it will be hard to keep the front up to temp.”

Iker Lecuona –  P20

“It was really difficult to manage the situation today. I felt good, my lap time was also quite strong but everybody improved a lot and finally I’m quite far back in the grid. I think I have a strong pace to fight for the points tomorrow.”

Iker Lecuona
Stefan Bradl – P21

“Our position is a bit disappointing but to be honest I am quite pleased with how myself and the team have been working. We had a good FP4 where we were able to do a lot with the used tyre and our pace is looking OK. With everyone so close you can gain a lot of positions with just a tenth of a second, so I was a bit unlucky to be just behind those guys ahead. We’ve been managing everything well considering we are on day four of riding. Let’s hope for good weather!”

Tito Rabat – P22

“It has been a strange and difficult day, since in FP3 I found myself very comfortable, even reaching Q2 positions.  In the afternoon, both in FP4 and in qualifying, I didn’t feel comfortable with the bike and it was hard for me to get a good time.  Tomorrow we will give everything in the race and we will try to continue improving.”

Massimo Meregalli – Monster Yamaha Tean Director

“It was a very tricky day today. Though the riding conditions were completely dry, it was cold. To push on slicks right from the get-go, when the track temperature is this low, is risky and it‘s easy to go over the limit. Both Maverick and Valentino pushed hard in Q2, but the competition was very close, and as a result we got a P5 and P10 start. Maverick is struggling to find a good feeling at this track, but he salvaged a second-row start which could give him the opportunity to fight for a top position. Valentino would have liked to be more towards the front. Starting from the fourth row is never easy, but he showed during FP4 that his rhythm is good, just like Maverick. We will analyse all of today‘s dry session data tonight and work hard to prepare some further setting tweaks that we can try in Warm Up. The forecast predicts it will be mostly dry here tomorrow. The pace seems to be similar for many riders in these conditions, so we expect a hard but also exciting race.”

Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager

“It’s been a difficult day and we still haven’t managed to find the optimum feeling for the riders here. We have to think about how we can improve before the race. Alex had two crashes today, and Joan had one, so it was difficult for them to find their pace and get into a good rhythm. We’ll be working tonight and tomorrow in Warm-Up and we’ll enter the race as usual; trying our best and trying to pick up positions.”

Joan Mir

MotoGP Qualifying Results

Pos Rider Bike Q Time/Gap
1 Fabio QUARTARARO YAMAHA Q2 1m31.315
2 Jack MILLER DUCATI Q2 +0.222
3 Danilo PETRUCCI DUCATI Q2 +0.359
4 Cal CRUTCHLOW HONDA Q2 +0.371
5 Maverick VIÑALES YAMAHA Q2 +0.404
6 Andrea DOVIZIOSO DUCATI Q2 +0.407
7 Francesco BAGNAIA DUCATI Q2 +0.437
8 Pol ESPARGARO KTM Q2 +0.480
9 Johann ZARCO DUCATI Q2 +0.517
10 Valentino ROSSI YAMAHA Q2 +0.574
11 Franco MORBIDELLI YAMAHA Q2 +0.576
12 Miguel OLIVEIRA KTM Q2 +0.694
13 Takaaki NAKAGAMI HONDA Q1 (*) 0.227
14 Joan MIR SUZUKI Q1 (*) 0.235
15 Aleix ESPARGARO APRILIA Q1 (*) 0.587
16 Alex RINS SUZUKI Q1 (*) 0.805
17 Brad BINDER KTM Q1 (*) 0.814
18 Alex MARQUEZ HONDA Q1 (*) 0.822
19 Bradley SMITH APRILIA Q1 (*) 0.881
20 Iker LECUONA KTM Q1 (*) 0.907
21 Stefan BRADL HONDA Q1 (*) 0.909
22 Tito RABAT DUCATI Q1 (*) 1.658

Moto2 Qualifying Report

Not since 2005 has an American taken three poles in a single Grand Prix season, and back then it was the late, great Nicky Hayden doing the business in MotoGP. Now it’s Joe Roberts in Moto2, with the Tennor American Racing rider putting in a stunner at the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France to take his third pole of the year, ahead of Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team).

In Q1 there was plenty at stake with some big names looking to move through, and the man second in the Championship, Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), got the job done to top the session ahead of Tom Lüthi (Liqui Moly Intact GP) – despite a crash for the Swiss veteran – Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Termozeta Speed Up). Then it was time to decide the sharp end…

Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was the early pacesetter and went P1, but disaster struck for the Spaniard at Turn 3 as he crashed out, rider ok but then left to watch from the sidelines. Would anyone overhaul his lap? There was still half the session left and more drama came swiftly as Jorge Navarro (Termozeta Speed Up) followed his compatriot into the gravel at the same corner, out of contention.

Back at the top, Martin’s lap was a solid one and it took a few minutes for anyone to depose him. When they did, it was Sam Lowes. The Brit shaved a tenth and a half off it and it was all going down to the final push – but Roberts was lighting up the timing screens on his final lap…

Moto2 front row
1 Joe Roberts – Tennor American Racing – Kalex 1:36.256
2 Sam Lowes – EG 0,0 Marc VDS – Kalex +0.087
3 Remy Gardner – ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team – Kalex +0.193

Over the line it was less than a tenth but the number 16 did it by 0.087, making a little history and setting himself up well for a crack at the win on Sunday. If Roberts does take victory, he’ll be the first American winner in the intermediate class since 1990! Lowes is forced to settle for second but was consistently quick once again, with Gardner putting in a late lunge to complete the front row – the Australian delighted with that as he continues to recover from injury and had a more turbulent weekend at Barcelona.

Martin was shuffled down to fourth, with Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) in fifth and only half a tenth off his old Moto3 sparring partner. Incredibly, despite his monster highside on Friday, Championship leader Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) starts sixth as he races on, looking at least to not lose too much ground at Le Mans.

Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) just got the better of teammate Jake Dixon as they launch from seventh and eighth respectively, with Bastianini’s tougher weekend so far seeing him ultimately line up ninth. With Marini not so far ahead on the grid, however, we can guess the ‘Beast”s Sunday target…

Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) took his best grid position of the year as he completed the top ten, ahead of Di Giannantonio and Canet, with Simone Corsi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) in P13. Lüthi will start P14, ahead of Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS).

Moto2 Qualifying Results

Pos Rider Motorcycle Q Time/Gap
1 Joe ROBERTS KALEX Q2 1m36.256
2 Sam LOWES KALEX Q2 +0.087
3 Remy GARDNER KALEX Q2 +0.193
4 Jorge MARTIN KALEX Q2 +0.266
5 Marco BEZZECCHI KALEX Q2 +0.321
6 Luca MARINI KALEX Q2 +0.412
7 Xavi VIERGE KALEX Q2 +0.481
8 Jake DIXON KALEX Q2 +0.570
9 Enea BASTIANINI KALEX Q2 +0.584
10 Stefano MANZI MV AGUSTA Q2 +0.621
11 Fabio DI GIANNANTONI SPEED UP Q2 +0.623
12 Aron CANET SPEED UP Q2 +0.625
13 Simone CORSI MV AGUSTA Q2 +0.674
14 Thomas LUTHI KALEX Q2 +0.691
15 Augusto FERNANDEZ KALEX Q2 +0.758
16 Hector GARZO KALEX Q2 +1.021
17 Marcos RAMIREZ KALEX Q2 +1.079
18 Jorge NAVARRO SPEED UP Q2 +1.300
19 Marcel SCHROTTER KALEX Q1 (*) 0.680
20 Nicolò BULEGA KALEX Q1 (*) 0.684
21 Lorenzo DALLA PORTA KALEX Q1 (*) 0.701
22 Tetsuta NAGASHIMA KALEX Q1 (*) 0.781
23 Hafizh SYAHRIN SPEED UP Q1 (*) 0.848
24 Somkiat CHANTRA KALEX Q1 (*) 1.048
25 Edgar PONS KALEX Q1 (*) 1.099
26 Lorenzo BALDASSARRI   ITA KALEX Q1 (*) 1.176
27 Bo BENDSNEYDER NTS Q1 (*) 1.253
28 Andi Farid IZDIHAR KALEX Q1 (*) 1.802
29 Kasma DANIEL KALEX Q1 (*) 2.132
30 Piotr BIESIEKIRSKI NTS Q1 (*) 3.216

Moto3

Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) put in a stunner to snatch pole from Championship challenger Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) at the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, the number 5 judging it to perfection to edge just 0.020 clear at the top. The two riders were ultimately in a class of their own in the final few seconds of Q2, with John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) taking an important P3 and front row but the Scot left a few tenths in arrears on the timesheets. For Championship leader Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) it was a different story, the number 79 crashing without a lap on the board and left facing a big fight back on Sunday.

At a slightly warmer and certainly sunnier Le Mans, it was Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) topped Q1, heading through to contest the top 18 grid positions alongside Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing), Ryusei Yamanaka (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3). Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was the man who just lost out, the Italian crashing right at the end and unable to improve. Rodrigo also went down, but the Argentinean had already done enough to move through.

With that, the stage was set and as Q2 got underway, it was Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) who held the reins after the first runs, the Spaniard ahead of winner last time out, Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power). Toba crashed early on, the Japanese rider able to make it back to the garage at least, but soon enough the grid headed into the calm before the storm – the classic mid-session lull. Sky Racing Team VR46 riders Celestino Vietti and Andrea Migno were hard at work doing some formation running, however, and they improved, as did Foggia as the Leopard man also stayed out.

With just under five minutes to go, only 11 laptimes were on the board, with many choosing to wait it out. But then some started disappearing, laps cancelled for a few riders and that upping the ante even more. Fernandez remained top as the field filtered out for a final push though – and then some big drama happened.

After only just automatically making it through to Q2, disaster then struck for Championship leader Ogura. Without a lap even set for the Japanese rider, he crashed out and watched his hopes of a solid start position for the French GP evaporate. Rider ok, but in worse news, forced to watch the remainder of the session from the sidelines, unable to get back out.

Meanwhile at the top, Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) was first to depose Fernandez, but the Spaniard remained on his roll and soon hit back. Masia was on an absolute charge late on, however, the Leopard Racing rider with a full house of red sectors on the timing screens and out the final corner and over the line, the lap was more than enough to take over on provisional pole – with a few seconds left on the clock and therefore chance for one more lap to boot…

Fenati couldn’t hit back as he completed his final effort, and neither could Fernandez as the two early duellers were forced to concede defeat. But Arenas was on a flier, and as he crossed the line red sectors became provisional pole as the Spaniard tried to put himself in the strongest possible position to try and take back the Championship lead on Sunday. Masia still wasn’t done though, and those few seconds he’d had left to start another lap would prove crucial as the number 5 put in another stunner, back on top and taking his first pole position of the season in some style – by just 0.020.

Moto3 front row L-R: Arenas, Masia and McPhee

Arenas will be satisfied with a front row – and some serious speed – as he looks to take the lead back from Ogura on Sunday, although the Spaniard has got a different key rival right next to him: McPhee. The Scot left it late but pulled a fast one out the bad to complete the front row, just over four tenths off Masia but one who, like Arenas, has already enjoyed a trip to the top step at Le Mans.

Raul Fernandez heads the second row, ahead of Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) as his solid form of late continues in France, with Rodrigo ultimately bouncing back from a trip to Q1 and a crash to line up in a solid sixth. Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) had a slightly under the radar Saturday afternoon but heads Row 3, just 0.015 off Rodrigo, as he aims to continue his march upwards in the standings. Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) was eighth quickest and with another tiny deficit as the Japanese rider missed out by only 0.020, with Romano Fenati next up but a larger 0.208 off the number 71. Vietti ended up relegated to tenth, 0.173 off compatriot Fenati.

Foggia, Binder, Migno, Stefano Nepa (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3), Carlos Tatay (Reale Avintia Moto3) and Toba complete the top 16 as the last riders who set valid laps. Yamanaka crashed, with Migno collected in that incident, and he’ll start P18.

Ogura will start 17th and after his disastrous session the Championship leader is faced with an almighty fight back if he’s to keep Arenas – and McPhee – at bay.

Moto3 Qualifying Results

Pos Rider Bike Q Time/Gap
1 Jaume MASIA HONDA Q2 1m41.399
2 Albert ARENAS KTM Q2 +0.020
3 John MCPHEE HONDA Q2 +0.447
4 Raul FERNANDEZ KTM Q2 +0.457
5 Sergio GARCIA HONDA Q2 +0.521
6 Gabriel RODRIGO HONDA Q2 +0.548
7 Tony ARBOLINO HONDA Q2 +0.563
8 Ayumu SASAKI KTM Q2 +0.583
9 Romano FENATI HUSQVARNA Q2 +0.791
10 Celestino VIETTI KTM Q2 +0.964
11 Dennis FOGGIA HONDA Q2 +0.984
12 Darryn BINDER KTM Q2 +1.140
13 Andrea MIGNO KTM Q2 +1.145
14 Stefano NEPA KTM Q2 +1.198
15 Carlos TATAY KTM Q2 +1.713
16 Kaito TOBA KTM Q2 +1.906
17 Ai OGURA HONDA FP3 +0.857
18 Ryusei YAMANAKA HONDA Q1 (*) 0.127
19 Niccolò ANTONELLI HONDA Q1 (*) 0.310
20 Tatsuki SUZUKI HONDA Q1 (*) 0.319
21 Filip SALAC HONDA Q1 (*) 0.479
22 Davide PIZZOLI KTM Q1 (*) 0.706
23 Alonso LOPEZ HUSQVARNA Q1 (*) 0.800
24 Yuki KUNII HONDA Q1 (*) 0.801
25 Jeremy ALCOBA HONDA Q1 (*) 0.909
26 Riccardo ROSSI KTM Q1 (*) 1.021
27 Deniz ÖNCÜ KTM Q1 (*) 1.306
28 Khairul Idham PAWI HONDA Q1 (*) 1.323
29 Jason DUPASQUIER KTM Q1 (*) 1.343
30 Maximilian KOFLER KTM Q1 (*) 1.569
31 Barry BALTUS KTM Q1 (*) 1.844

MotoE

Jordi Torres (Pons Racing 40) is now not only an FIM Enel MotoE World Cup race winner, he’s also now the Cup leader by some margin after huge drama in Race 1 at Le Mans. The Spaniard escaped the chaos to lead the majority of the race and defend from home hero Mike Di Meglio (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), who took an impressive second, with Niki Tuuli (Avant Ajo MotoE) completing the podium and back on the box after a tougher season for the first ever MotoE race winner. But the drama…

It began from the off as the first start was Red Flagged due to a crash for Mattia Casadei (Ongetta SIC58 Squadra Corse), the Italian losing his chance to fight for the Cup early on. He was up and ok, but the bike was left stricken on track and the race was stopped. After the re-start, it would be a five-lap super sprint to the finish with everything on the line.

It was the man ahead going in who got the holeshot, Matteo Ferrari (Trentino Gresini MotoE), with everything briefly going to plan until disaster struck and the Italian suddenly crashed out – leaving Torres, Di Meglio and more to avoid. And behind that, even more drama was changing the landscape of the standings as a huge, domino-effect incident saw Xavier Simeon (LCR E-Team) and teammate Niccolo Canepa going down, and second overall Dominique Aegerter (Dynavolt Intact GP) caught up in it. The field scattered, the riders scrambled to get back on and Torres kept it pinned at the front. Aegerter was the only one who managed to get going but far off the rest of the field – and Torres was in the driving seat.

The Spaniard, by then, was well in the clear but Di Meglio was on a march, the Frenchman making his way through to second and then able to reel Torres in, chunk by chunk. Tuuli was up to third too, having navigated his way to the front through the chaos, and the Finnish rider kept pace with the Frenchman as the two managed to home in on Torres and drop Josh Hook (Octo Pramac MotoE) from the podium fight.

Onto the final lap, Di Meglio was right on Torres, the gap gone and the Frenchman looking menacing. Would he go for a lunge to taste home turf glory? And Tuuli, in third, remained within striking range. The three thundered round Le Mans for the final time but ultimately, the answer was no. Torres defended to the line and was able to take his first ever MotoE win in some style, the 25 points also putting him well clear in the standings… and the result meaning he starts from pole in Race 2.

Di Meglio said it was better to finish second than crash and that he did, back on the box on home turf, and Tuuli seemed somewhat surprised by third and a podium result. The Finn was a huge chunk faster than in Free Practice to set the fastest MotoE lap of Le Mans and earn the rostrum, however, getting some pay back after a tough year affected by injury. Di Meglio and Tuuli now start second and third on Sunday, too.

Hook took his best ever MotoE result at a track he knows well – having shared the top step with Di Meglio as teammates in the 24h endurance race at the track earlier this year – and the Aussie had some solid time in hand ahead of Tommaso Marcon (Tech 3 E-Racing) as the Italian bounced back from a dramatic Misano Race 2 and grid penalty. Eric Granado (Avintia Esponsorama Racing) was sixth and not far off Marcon, the Brazilian banking some good points.

Maria Herrera is classified seventh after a track limits penalty for teammate Alejandro Medina switched the order of the two Openbank Aspar Team riders, Medina is forced to settle for eighth. Alessandro Zaccone (Trentino Gresini MotoE) was ninth, with Lukas Tulovic (Tech 3 E-Racing) completing the top ten despite his recent surgery, the German putting in a superhuman effort to end the race only six tenths off Zaccone.

Xavi Cardelus (Avintia Esponsorama Racing) was next up ahead of another superhuman performance in the form of Alex de Angelis (Octo Pramac MotoE). The Sammarinese rider had a huge crash in E-Pole on Saturday morning but made it through the race to score points, with now only one race left of his career before he retires. Jakub Kornfeil (WithU Motorsport) took P13, also taking a penalty but his a time addition.

Finally, after the 13 men ahead of him, Dominique Aegerter crossed the line. The second huge bout of bad luck for the Swiss rider cut his chances at the Cup, but the effort was a valiant one as he nevertheless salvaged two points and kept going. Now, it all goes down to Sunday.

Torres sits on 104 points heading into the last race of the year, and the Cup would appear his to lose as he also starts from pole. Ferrari is 18 points adrift and Aegerter 20, but both start further back after the drama on Saturday, with Race 1 deciding the grid for Race 2.

MotoE Race One

Pos Rider Team Time/Gap
1 Jordi TORRES Pons Racing 40 8m43.391
2 Mike DI MEGLIO EG 0,0 Marc VDS +0.116
3 Niki TUULI Avant Ajo MotoE +0.557
4 Josh HOOK OCTO Pramac MotoE +1.925
5 Tommaso MARCON Tech 3 E-Racing +4.296
6 Eric GRANADO Avintia Esponsorama Racing +4.590
7 Maria HERRERA Openbank Aspar Team +6.514
8 Alejandro MEDINA Openbank Aspar Team +6.201
9 Alessandro ZACCONE TRENTINO Gresini MotoE +11.875
10 Lukas TULOVIC Tech 3 E-Racing +12.419
11 Xavi CARDELUS Avintia Esponsorama Racing +13.262
12 Alex DE ANGELIS OCTO Pramac MotoE +14.087
13 Jakub KORNFEIL WithU Motorsport +23.207
14 Dominique AEGERTER Dynavolt Intact GP +59.643

MotoE EPole

Pos Rider Team Time/Gap
1 Jordi TORRES Pons Racing 40 1m43.843
2 Matteo FERRARI TRENTINO Gresini MotoE +0.329
3 Mike DI MEGLIO EG 0,0 Marc VDS +0.637
4 Josh HOOK OCTO Pramac MotoE +0.644
5 Dominique AEGERTER Dynavolt Intact GP +0.66
6 Niccolo CANEPA LCR E-Team +0.732
7 Alejandro MEDINA Openbank Aspar Team +0.813
8 Xavier SIMEON LCR E-Team +0.878
9 Eric GRANADO Avintia Esponsorama Racing +1.045
10 66 Niki TUULI Avant Ajo MotoE +1.21
11 Tommaso MARCON Tech 3 E-Racing +1.393
12 Maria HERRERA Openbank Aspar Team +1.715
13 Xavi CARDELUS Avintia Esponsorama Racing +2.208
14 Alessandro ZACCONE TRENTINO Gresini MotoE +2.614
15 Lukas TULOVIC Tech 3 E-Racing +2.654
16 Jakub KORNFEIL WithU Motorsport +3.513

MotoE Championship Standings

Pos

Rider Points
1 Jordi TORRES 104
2 Matteo FERRARI 86
3 Dominique AEGERTER 84
4 Mattia CASADEI 71
5 Mike DI MEGLIO 55
6 Eric GRANADO 53
7 Niccolo CANEPA 42
8 Xavier SIMEON 37
9 Josh HOOK 36
10 Alejandro MEDINA 36
11 Lukas TULOVIC 34
12 Alex DE ANGELIS 33
13 Tommaso MARCON 33
14 Alessandro ZACCONE 33
15 Niki TUULI 28
16 Xavi CARDELUS 28
17 Maria HERRERA 26
18 Jakub KORNFEIL 14

2020 MotoGP Calendar

Rnd Date Circuit
1 08 March (Moto2/Moto3) Losail International Circuit
2 19 July Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto
3 26 July Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto
4 09 August Automotodrom Brno
5 16 August Red Bull Ring-Spielberg
6 23 August Red Bull Ring-Spielberg
7 13 September Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
8 20 September Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
9 27 September Barcelona – Catalunya
10 11 October Le Mans
11 18 October MotorLand Aragón
12 25 October MotorLand Aragón
13 08 November Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo
14 15 November Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo
15 22 November Autodromo Internacional do Algarve

SHARK Helmets Grand Prix de France Schedule (AEST)

Time Class Session
1800 Moto3 WUP
1830 MotoGP WUP
1900 Moto2 WUP
2020 Moto3 Race
2200 MotoGP Race
2320 Moto2 Race
0040 (Mon) MotoE Race 2

Source: MCNews.com.au

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