LE MANS: Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia claimed pole position for the French Grand Prix after he finished on top in Saturday’s qualifying session, while world champion Fabio Quartararo of Yamaha could only manage fourth place on the grid in front of his home fans.
The Italian was fastest at Le Mans, posting a new lap record of 1 minute 30.450 seconds to shave a little more than a tenth of a second off the record Frenchman Johann Zarco set in morning practice.
Bagnaia set his fastest lap with team-mate Jack Miller riding in his slipstream. The Australian, who won at Le Mans last year, used the tow to finish 0.69sec behind and grab second on the grid as Ducati dominated the last qualifying session.
It was a second straight pole position for Bagnaia, who also earned the top spot in qualifying for the Spanish GP in Jerez before bagging his first victory of the season there.
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro will start third for Sunday’s race after finishing 0.159 seconds behind Miller.
Home favourite Quartararo got fans excited when he set the pace in FP4, but the Frenchman could not keep up with the drivers ahead of him in Q2 and had to settle for the second row on the grid.
Gresini Racing’s Enea Bastianini completed the top five, having made several pushes for pole, while the other local favourite Zarco finished sixth on his Pramac Ducati.
Three Spaniards, the two Suzuki riders, Joan Mir and Alex Rins,
and Jorge Martin on a Ducati make up the third row.
Six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez of Repsol Honda was left frustrated after he made a mistake on his final lap and could only finish 10th.
French pair Quartararo and Zarco are striving to end a long French drought in their home Grand Prix.The only previous French winner was Pierre Monneret at Reims in 1954 in the era of two-stroke 500cc.
While world champion Quartararo is aiming for his 10th victory in the class, Zarco, who made his debut in 2017, has never won.
On the eve of the French GP, former world champions Suzuki said they intend to leave MotoGP at the end of this year and are in talks with promoters Dorna about the possibility of doing so.
Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2022