Pecco Bagnaia produced a champion's performance to secure pole position for the French MotoGP Sprint and Feature Races, his last gasp effort at Le Mans dislodging a similarly impressive Marc Marquez
On weekend that has seen the 2023 MotoGP World Championship leader maintain a fairly low profile relative to his rivals, Bagnaia stepped up his pace when it mattered to turn in a 1m 30.705secs lap with his final effort.
It was enough to deny Marquez a satisfying pole position on his return to action from injury, the Repsol Honda rider nonetheless making a big impression en route to second position.
The Spaniard endured a shaky start to his first MotoGP race weekend in almost two months on Friday with two Practice crashes - including one which destroyed his Honda RC213V - threatening to check his confidence come qualifying.
However, in true Marquez-style, he doubled down in Q2, using Jorge Martin as a reference from a respectable distance behind to leapfrog to the head of the timesheets in the closing stages.
Looking on course to make it two-from-two having begun his 2023 MotoGP campaign with a pole in Portimao, in the end Marquez's joy was dashed by a scintillating lap from Bagnaia.
Anchored by a rapid final sector split, Bagnaia nudged ahead of Marquez by 0.058s to secure his second pole position of the season.
Capitalising from having shadowed Bagnaia for his final time attack, VR46 Ducati's Luca Marini lifted himself onto the front row, the Italian impressing when it mattered having also come through a competitive Q1 session prior to Q2.
The late advance of Bagnaia and Marini meant Practice pace setter Jack Miller was pushed back onto the second row, the Australian unable to find the killer late form that had him pinned as the pre-qualifying favourite for pole.
Jorge Martin completed the top five on the best of the Pramac Ducatis, ahead of a frustrated Maverick Vinales in sixth place. Quickest in the preceding FP3 session, Vinales led proceedings after the first wave of Q2 laps but missed out on the chance to improve after his Aprilia RS-GP came to a stop with technical gremlins as he was leaving the pit-lane.
He wasn't the only Aprilia rider in trouble either with team-mate Aleix Espargaro suffering a fast fall on the way into the flat Turn 1 right-hander to put him out of action in the final minutes.
Behind Vinales, Marco Bezzecchi, Alex Marquez and Johann Zarco make up row three, with Brad Binder completing the top ten on the second of the factory KTMs.
He is joined on row four by the sidelined Espargaro and Augusto Fernandez, the rookie scoring a career-best 12th on the grid after causing an upset by breaking out of Q1 for the first time.
A welcome boost for the embattled GasGas squad on Tech3 Racing's home soil, Fernandez efforts came at the expense of home hero Fabio Quartararo, whose struggles over a single lap continued at Le Mans as he fell short with the third best lap in Q1, thus leaving him 13th on the grid.
French MotoGP | Qualifying Results
Q1 & Q2 Results | Le Mans | Conditions - Dry, Overcast, Cool
|2023 French MotoGP | Le Mans, France | Qualifying Results | Round 5 of 20|
|1||Pecco Bagnaia||ITA||Ducati Leonovo Team||Ducati GP23||1m 30.705|
|2||Marc Marquez||ESP||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||1m 30.763|
|3||Luca Marini||ITA||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||1m 30.842|
|4||Jack Miller||AUS||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||1m 30.984|
|5||Jorge Martin||ESP||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||1m 31.023|
|6||Maverick Vinales||ESP||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 31.120|
|7||Marco Bezzecchi||ITA||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||1m 31.173|
|8||Alex Marquez||ESP||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||1m 31.275|
|9||Johann Zarco||FRA||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||1m 31.298|
|10||Brad Binder||RSA||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||1m 31.445|
|11||Aleix Espargaro||ESP||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 31.523|
|12||Augusto Fernandez||ESP||GasGas Factory Tech 3||KTM RC16||1m 31.596|
|13||Fabio Quartararo||FRA||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||1m 31.366|
|14||Takaaki Nakagami||JPN||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||1m 31.545|
|15||Fabio di Giannantonio||ITA||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||1m 31.718|
|16||Joan Mir||ESP||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||1m 31.810|
|17||Franco Morbidelli||ITA||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||1m 31.886|
|18||Alex Rins||ESP||LCR Honda Castrol||Honda RC213V||1m 31.959|
|19||Danilo Petrucci||ITA||Ducati Leonovo Team||Ducati GP23||1m 32.092|
|20||Lorenzo Savadori||ITA||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 32.410|
|21||Jonas Folger||GER||GasGas Factory Tech 3||KTM RC16||1m 33.804|
|W||Raul Fernandez||ESP||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP|