Allez les bleus: Zarco leads Quartararo on Friday in France

The home heroes sit P1 and P2 at the end of a dry MotoGP™ FP2 at Le Mans; Suzukis and the World Championship leader sit outside the top 10

Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) ensured it was a Friday to remember for the French faithful at the SHARK Grand Prix de France. The Ducati rider set a 1:31.747 in a dry FP2 to beat his Yamaha compatriot by a slim 0.095s right at the end of play, with Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) occupying P3.

After a damp FP1, the start of FP2 was all about getting out on track and going as fast as possible. Why? Well, Le Mans’s asphalt was dry but there were several dark clouds looking a little threatening, so it was absolutely critical for the riders to land a time good enough for the top 10. FP3 looks set to be wet according to the forecasts, so the premier class competitors knew these dry times could be the ones to sort who goes straight to Q2 – and who competes in Q1.

Home hero Quartararo was untouchable in the opening stages. Everyone was slamming in lap after lap on Michelin’s soft or medium rear tyres, and after 15 minutes, Quartararo’s 1:32.120 was 0.591s better than second place Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). The notorious Turn 3 caught out Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and World Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) in the first 15 minutes, thankfully both riders were ok, as Espargaro – on the spare bike – then slid into the gravel at Turn 3 again. Disaster for the Spaniard.

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), ninth in the early stages, then had an off-track excursion at Turn 8. It was clear the riders were pushing because Turn 3 then saw Quartararo slide into the gravel unhurt. Moments later, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – just after going P6 – tucked the front of his GP21 at Turn 7, as Le Mans caught out some of the very best in FP2.

Still though, with just over 10 minutes to go on Friday, Quartararo was leading the way by over half a second from Nakagami, with Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins in P3. Viñales made a move though, the Spaniard was up to P2 and cut his teammate’s advantage to 0.428s, with Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) slotting into P8 ahead of the final dash for top 10 glory on Friday afternoon.

Things were starting to bubble up nicely. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) shot to P3 before Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) grabbed P2 to slash Quartararo’s lead to 0.017s. Miller wasn’t fazed by his crash and climbed to P4 as Turn 3 claimed its latest victim: Rins – rider ok. Marc Marquez improved to P6 from outside the top 10, a time that shoved Bagnaia outside the provisional automatic Q2 places. Quartararo, meanwhile, set the first 1:31 of the weekend to lay down the gauntlet.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Lenovo Team, SHARK Grand Prix de France

Reigning World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) then crashed at Turn 8, and that was costly. Mir was P12 and having gone down with little time left, his FP2 efforts were over. Zarco made it a French 1-2 and then, on his next flying lap, the number 5 eclipsed Quartararo by just 0.095s to take P1.

And it’s a time that wouldn’t be beaten. A dream start to the weekend for the French fans as Zarco leads Quartararo, with Viñales bagging a healthy P3 on Day 1. Pol Espargaro had a great afternoon at the office to pick up a promising P4, the Spaniard places 0.142s ahead of fifth fastest Morbidelli. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is by far the quickest KTM on Day 1, P6 belongs to the Portuguese rider heading into Saturday’s action, with Miller salvaging an important P7 after his tumble. Marc Marquez will be happy enough with P8, the eight-time World Champion is 0.037s ahead of nine-time World Champion Rossi. The Italian seems to have found something on his YZR-M1 and looks set to head straight into Q2 alongside 10th place Nakagami.

So, that means Rins, Bagnaia and Mir are three names who are outside the top 10 heading into what looks set to be a wet FP3 session. There’s only two more places available in Q2, so there’s going to be a few prayers from that trio this evening in the hope that it doesn’t rain on Saturday morning.

Day 1 belongs to France, but what will Day 2 bring? The ever-important FP3 stint will come your way at 09:55 local time (GMT+2), you don’t want to miss a single second of it.

Top 10 combined:
1. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) – 1:31.747
2. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.095
3. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.389
4. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.390
5. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.532
6. Miguel Oliveria (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.549
7. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.614
8. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.885
9. Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.922
10. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.964


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