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The glum, grey clouds above Le Mans could have reflected the mood of the 2020 season within Ducati ahead of Qualifying at the SHARK Helmets French Grand Prix.
However, the rays of light that broke through the coverage in the afternoon now appear a more apt trope for the Italian constructor after they saw five of their riders place inside the Top 9.
They have had more than their fair share of misfortune this season. Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) took out Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in the Catalan GP costing him his Championship lead, Jack Miller’s (Pramac Racing) forced early retirement after a freak incident involving Fabio Quartararo’s tear-off, as well as Pecco Bagnaia’s (Pramac Racing) heartbreaking crash as he was on course for a first premier class win, both at the Emilia Romagna GP are just some examples that spring to mind.
The Factory team have been guilty of inconsistency also, with neither Dovi nor Danilo Petrucci making it on to the front row of the grid from Qualifying prior to the French GP, as both have had trouble adapting to Michelin’s new rear tyre.
Though those inconsistencies could soon be a distant memory as the Italian pair secured strong grid positions on a circuit they both earned podium finishes in 2019, with Petrux earning his first front-row start of the season.
“I am happy to return to the front row after a difficult period. From this morning I felt that I had the potential to be able to make a good qualifying. Unfortunately, in FP3 I ran into several yellow flags and I lost the opportunity to set a good time and go straight to Q2,” said the man sitting in P3.
“However, we managed to make a great qualifier. Starting in front is very important for tomorrow, given that at least ten riders have the pace to be able to fight for the podium. After the last race in Catalunya, I have good braking sensations again and the low temperatures can also help me, so I am optimistic about achieving a good result.”
It’s a welcome return to the front row for Petrucci, and he will line up to the right of Pramac counterpart Miller, who once again looked rapid through Qualifying to take P2.
As for Dovizioso, he looked more like his old self during Saturday’s runs, as he could consider himself somewhat unfortunate to only be in P6.
“I am satisfied with today's qualifier. My feeling with the bike was good and although I didn't do a perfect lap, we managed to start from the first two rows, which is always our goal. Also, our pace is good for the race. We have some aspects to improve to be sure of being able to fight with the first during the whole race, but compared to other tracks my feelings here are better and that is why I am confident for tomorrow.”
Pecco Bagnaia and Johann Zarco both earned themselves a place in the Top 10, ensuring that there are five Ducati’s launching off the front three rows on Sunday and continuing a strong season for the satellite sides.
In a season that has seen the Yamaha outfits dominate, is the French Grand Prix going to see more of the same or will it finally be Ducati’s time to shine?
Join the action as the premier class will see lights out at 13:00 local time on Sunday.
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