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Magnifique! Quartararo can’t be stopped on home turf
Oct 11. 2020
The Frenchman beats Miller to pole at Le Mans, with Petrucci completing the front row and Mir left down in P14
|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.|
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.
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.
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. 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! Tune in for the French GP on Sunday to see and remember, MotoGP™ kicks off at the earlier time of 13:00 local time (GMT+2).
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
*Independent Team riders
Fabio Quartararo: “It feels special because the conditions were really tricky and cold, time to warm up the front tyre but it’s been quite a long time since I was on pole, so I’m so happy because we worked in a real good way. Yesterday I was so confident, I was a bit far yesterday but I knew where we needed to improve, I took no risks and we took the risk when we needed to: today. So happy to exit from the front row we have two Ducatis on the front row so we might struggle a bit off the line, but I’m feeling confident and we have the pace to fight for the win tomorrow!”
MotoGP™ front row L-R: Miller, Quartararo and Petrucci
Roberts becomes first American to take three poles in a season since 2005
The number 16 hits a milestone, with Lowes second and Gardner third on the grid in France
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…
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).
It’s set to be an intriguing French GP on Sunday – so don’t miss it. The lights go out for Moto2™ at the later time of 14:30 (GMT +2).
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
Joe Roberts: “We had a plan, because of the new rule with the yellow flag, let’s just go right away but I thought we jumped the gun, but then everyone was there, it was a little bit messy and there was a change I didn’t like, so… I do better alone, so I just came in and changed the tyre and went back out. Honestly I didn’t know if I could do that. That session I was struggling a lot with the bike and that last lap I just, put it down, I did the best I could, something feels different this weekend, something could change tomorrow, and we could go for the win.”
Moto2™ front row L-R: Lowes, Roberts and Gardner
Masia edges out Arenas for masterful French GP pole
The Leopard rider just pips Arenas to the top, with McPhee third and drama for Ogura as the points leader crashes out without setting a lap
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.
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. Can he do it? We’ll find out at the slightly later time of 11:20 (GMT +2) on Sunday in what is sure to be another stunning Moto3™ race.
Moto3™ front row
1 Jaume Masia – Leopard Racing – Honda 1:41.399
2 Albert Arenas – Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3 – KTM – +0.020
3 John McPhee – Petronas Sprinta Racing – Honda +0.447
Jaume Masia: “I’m really happy with this pole position. Qualifying was a little bit difficult because I was coming with three laps to go with a really good lap and I saw one crash. Lots of yellow flags and I was scared of not finishing the lap because of the yellow flags but, yeah, the feeling was good, we worked really hard this weekend, always on top and it’s good to start from the front row.”
Moto3™ front row L-R: Arenas, Masia and McPhee
Miller was fastest on Friday and just missed out on pole
Petrucci had his best Saturday for some time as he put it in P3