All-Yamaha Front Row For 2017 French Grand Prix At Le Mans

Local hero Johann Zarco will join pole-winner Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi for sprint to Turn 1.

Zarco in P3 at Le Mans
“The crash this morning made me angry and a little bit worried,” he said. “In FP4, I did a reset in my mind. I took it easy and, by doing it this way, I was fast and constant," said Johann Zarco on earning his P3 grid position.Photo: Yamaha Tech 3

2017 French GP Qualifying Results 1. Maverick VIÑALES (25) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA 2. Valentino ROSSI (46) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA 3. Johann ZARCO (5) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 4. Cal CRUTCHLOW (35) LCR Honda HONDA 5. Marc MARQUEZ (93), Repsol Honda Team HONDA 6. Andrea DOVIZIOSO (4) Ducati Team DUCATI 7. Scott REDDING (45) Octo Pramac Racing DUCATI 8. Pol ESPARGARO (44) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 9. Karel ABRAHAM (17) Pull&Bear Aspar Team DUCATI 10. Bradley SMITH (38) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 11. Jack MILLER (43) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA 12. Loris BAZ (76) Reale Avintia Racing DUCATI 13. Dani PEDROSA (26) Repsol Honda Team HONDA 14. Alvaro BAUTISTA (19) Pull&Bear Aspar Team DUCATI 15. Jonas FOLGER (94) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 16. Jorge LORENZO (99) Ducati Team DUCATI 17. Andrea IANNONE (29) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI 18. Aleix ESPARGARO (41) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA 19. Danilo PETRUCCI (9) OCTO Pramac Racing DUCATI 20. Hector BARBERA (8) Reale Avintia Racing DUCATI 21. Sam LOWES (22) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA 22. Tito RABAT (53) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA 23. Silvain GUINTOLI (50) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI

Local hero Johann Zarco made the most of two qualifying sessions on Saturday at Le Mans to earn the first front-row start of his MotoGP rookie season. With dark clouds hovering over a cool, dry track, the 26-year-old Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider stormed non-stop through Q1, lowering his best lap several times before securing the second of two Q2 transfer spots, just 0.069 seconds behind the factory Ducati of Andrea Dovizoso.

Maverick Vinales, Movistar YamahaPhoto: Movistar Yamaha
Valentino Rossi, Movistar YamahaPhoto: Movistar Yamaha

Maverick Vinales edged Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi in Q2 to win his second career pole—following the season opener in Qatar—and head an all-Yamaha front row. In a spectacular performance that had French fans on their feet, Zarco improved from fifth to second and, ultimately, third. The six riders who will fill the first two rows of the grid for Sunday's 28-lap race were separated by less than three-quarters of a second.

An early mistake didn’t deter Vinales. “I said, ‘If you concentrate, you can do it.’ The bike was really good, and we made a good choice of tires.” With time running out, Rossi reeled in Jack Miller, who crashed for a second time, albeit without the jaw-dropping gymnastics of FP4. “I had distance from Jack but arrived too fast,” Rossi said. “I lost a bit of time, but I had another lap. Unfortunately, it was not enough for pole.”

CC35 at Le Mans
Cal Crutchlow, LCR HondaPhoto: LCR Honda
MM93 at Le Mans 2017
Marc Marquez, Repsol HondaPhoto: Repsol Honda

Zarco has been near the top of the order most of the weekend but he crashed in FP3 and was forced to go through Q1 after posting the 15th best lap of the session, which determines the 10 riders who automatically transfer to Q2. FP4 was the first completely rain-free session of the weekend for the premier class, but as Zarco later noted that the recently resurfaced 14-turn, 2.6-mile Bugatti circuit is slow to dry.

“The crash this morning made me angry and a little bit worried,” he said. “In FP4, I did a reset in my mind. I took it easy and, by doing it this way, I was fast and constant. First qualifying was almost like the best qualifying because Dovizioso and [Dani] Pedrosa are not bad guys. One tire was not the strategy, but with the crash, we had no more tires. First row is fantastic, and the fans are incredible.”

Desmo Dovi at Le Mans 2017
Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati TeamPhoto: Ducati Team
SR45 at Le Mans 2017
Scott Redding, Octo Pramac RacingPhoto: Octo Pramac
PE44 at Le Mans 2017
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory RacingPhoto: KTM Racing
KA17 at Le Mans 2017
Karel Abraham, Pull&Bear Aspar TeamPhoto: Aspar Team

Third in Qatar, first in Argentina and Texas, and second in Spain, Marc Marquez failed to qualify on the front row of the grid for the first time this season. The Repsol Honda rider tipped over twice in different sessions. Teammate Dani Pedrosa, who struggled in earlier cool temperatures to build heat in his tires, rose from 22nd in FP3 to second in FP4. The lap that the Spaniard produced in Q1 would have put him fifth on the grid, ahead of Marquez.

“We’ve had just one completely dry session so far this weekend, so FP4 was like a normal FP1,” Marquez said. “With the new tarmac, we needed more laps to set up the bike and adapt the riding style. As for the crashes, I had both of them in the same corner. Regarding the one in FP4, I was trying to find the limit. As for the one in qualifying, we had changed the setup a little bit and I probably should have done that corner a little bit differently.”

BS38 at Le Mans 2017
Bradley Smith, Red Bull KTM Factory RacingPhoto: KTM Racing

KTM riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith will start on the third and fourth rows of the grid, respectively. “I was quite surprised,” Vinales said. “This is not an easy track for a new bike.” Rossi added, “KTM is another important factory. The level of the bikes in MotoGP is very high. I think they can improve in the future.” Zarco was likewise guarded. “Let’s see tomorrow,” he said. “A position in the top 10 will be proof of the work they did.”

Injured Nicky Hayden remains on the minds of everyone in the paddock. "The best we can do is to do a really good race and dedicate it to him," Vinales said. "It is something that you have always in your head, but, unfortunately, we cannot do anything," Rossi added. "Like Maverick said, the only thing we can do is try to concentrate and make a good race with the best result possible."