AFP/ Le Mans, France
Home favourite Fabio Quartararo made light of the tricky changeable conditions and his recent surgery to claim pole for the French MotoGP in Saturday qualifying at Le Mans.
With intermittent rain making life difficult at the Bugatti circuit Quartararo topped the time sheets from his Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales with Ducati’s Jack Miller completing the front row.
Quartararo’s pole grab comes just 11 days after undergoing ‘arm pump’ surgery following problems with his right forearm, which saw him slip to a 13th place finish last time out at Jerez.
“It’s fantastic,” beamed the 22-year-old who has won two of the four races so far this season.
“I’m pleased to be on pole for the second successive time here.”
The Frenchman had started the Spanish MotoGP last time out at the top of the standings. He surged into an early lead and seemed set for his third win in four races this season.
But muscle problems left him with no strength in his right forearm to finish down the pack and in tears.
He is placed two points off the top of the standings which are led by Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati).
Both Bagnaia and the reigning world champion Joan Mir failed to make it out of Q1 and into Q2 and the battle for pole, leaving the pair well down the grid for Sunday’s race.
Franco Morbidelli on Yamaha’s satellite SRT bike is on the second row after posting the fourth quickest time in Q2 alongside the other home chance Johann Zarco and six-time world champion Marc Marquez.
Marquez, back this season after multiple operations on the arm he broke in the opening race of last year, led for much of qualifying before his time was bettered in the closing flying lap.
“In the rain, I feel better because it is physically less demanding,” said the Spanish Honda star.
Vinales, who won the season-opener in Qatar, had one lap time deleted for exceeding track limits, and rued an inconsistent afternoon. “I made many mistakes during the lap, and this cost us the pole position,” he admitted.
Miller, the winner last time out in Spain, was hoping for a wet race Sunday.
“If it’s wet tomorrow, starting in the front row is an advantage,” said the Australian who currently sits in sixth place in the championship.
Seven-time elite class champion Valentino Rossi, who has endured a difficult start to the season, starts from ninth on the grid today.
French MotoGP race grid (top 12)
1. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha), 2. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha), 3. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati)
4. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha-SRT), 5. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Pramac), 6. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda)
7. Takaaki Nakagami (JPN/Honda-LCR), 8. Pol Espargaro (ESP/Honda), 9. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha-SRT)
10. Miguel Oliveira (POR/KTM), 11. Lorenzo Savadori (ITA/Aprilia), 12. Luca Marini (ITA/Ducati-Avintia)
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