Wacky Le Mans weather made for exciting qualifying … but with no surprise about the name at the top. Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez took a third pole in five races.
It was achieved in some style, on a track too damp for slicks but not really wet enough for predictable performance from wet tyres. Marquez set the time early in the session, fell off on his next lap, but picked the bike up and carried on for the full 15 minutes without pitting. And, more importantly, without having to defend his time, as the spots of rain got slightly but steadily heavier.
“Today was one of the most difficult days,” he said. “I knew my first time was good, then I had a small crash, but I continued riding to try to understand the track.”
Danilo Petrucci claimed his first front row since joining the factory Ducati team, less than four tenths slower, and five hundredths ahead of Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller, who had also set an early time, then crashed unhurt at the end. “Conditions were best at the start, and I crashed when I tried to improve,” he said.
He still managed to keep Andrea Dovizioso’s factory Ducati in fourth, to lead row two from Valentino Rossi, after the veteran Monster Yamaha rider came through from Q1 with trademark race-craft. While his Q1 rivals went out on wet tyres on a gradually deteriorating track, Rossi risked slicks, and set a time that proved unbeatable.
Rossi, team-mate Maverick Vinales and Petronas Yamaha rider Fabio Quartararo risked slicks for the start of Q2, but were straight into the pits to change to wets.
It was second Petronas rider Franco Morbidelli, also through from Q1, who placed sixth to complete the second row.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) heads the third from Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia). Rookie Quartararo, fastest on Friday morning, was tenth, ahead of factory Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales, fastest on Friday afternoon, but whose switch to wet tyres yielded no reward in Q2.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM) crashed before setting a lap time, and will start from 12th.
Pecco Bagnaia (Pramac Ducati) was best of the rest to head row five from Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), both narrowly failing to escape from Q1.
Another victim of the conditions was Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki), whose hopes of a third successive podium were dealt a blow when he qualified 19th, one place down on rookie team-mate Joan Mir.
Coming through from Q1 proved an advantage in Moto2, giving familiarity with the track and the conditions to top two qualifiers Jorge Navarro (Speed Up) and Thomas Luthi (Dynavolt Kalex). This helped their speed, but didn’t save both of them from crashing, so they had to make their way to parc ferme on foot.
It was Navarro’s second pole in a row, and like all he spoke of how difficult the conditions were. “I made some improvement from Q1 to Q2, but when I crashed I was on the limit, so it is always possible,” he said.
They were joined on the front row by Alex Marquez (EG VDS Kalex), who had managed, if only narrowly, to stay upright. Not so Mattia Pasini, heading row two in this third substitute rider in a third team in three races. Here he is back on a Kalex, in place of injured Petronas rider Khairul Idham Pawi.
Xavi Vierge (EG VDS Kalex) was alongside; Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Kalex) completed row two.
Points leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40 Kalex) came through at the end, in spite of worsening conditions, to head the third row, from Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM), who had a similar late run. Alongside was rookie Lukas Tulovic (Kiefer KTM), also through from Q1.
The last Q1 graduate was returned injury victim Jake Dixon (Sama Angel Nieto KTM), the rookie placed 11th between Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Kalex) and Remy Gardner (ONEXOX Kalex) on the fourth row.
Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Kalex) lost out, the first loser not to escape from Q1, and will start from 19th. American ride Joe Roberts (American Racing Kalex) placed 29th.
Drying conditions saw times dropping through Moto3 Q1 and Q2, with the same name at the top for both sessions … John McPhee (Petronas Honda). It was the Scotsman’s first pole of the season and the third in his career, secured by almost two tenths ahead of Tony Arbolino (Snipers Honda) and rookie Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia).
Hondas secured the top seven positions, with Jerez runner-up Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Honda) heading row two from Gabriel Rodrigo (Kommerling Gresini Honda) and Leopard Racing’s Marcos Ramirez, also through from Q1.
Jerez winner Niccolo Antonelli (SIC 58 Honda) leads row three from Raul Fernandez (Sama KTM) and Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia); with a third Q1 veteran, Sergio Garcia (EG Honda) completing the top ten.
1 – Marc Marquez (SPA – Honda) 1’40.952
2 – Danilo Petrucci (ITA – Ducati) +0.360
3 – Jack Miller* (AUS – Ducati) +0.414
By Michael Scott