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MotoGP Le Mans: ‘Front row or crash’ for Quartararo at home race

Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo timed his last-minute bid for pole to perfection in Saturday’s Le Mans qualifying, dominating the MotoGP grid for the third race in a row.

The Monster Energy rider was joined by teammate Maverick Viñales for the team’s first 1-2 of the season despite the rain-plagued session, with the M1’s seeming to flounder until the dying moments before the pair arrived in quick succession to top the times with their final efforts.

Quartararo had initially headed out for an exploratory lap on wets as Q2 began but soon realised that it would be worth the gamble to swap to slicks. Despite returning to action with over eleven minutes left on the clock the Frenchman waited until his final lap to showcase his strength at home, setting a 1’32.600 lap to better both his teammate, fellow Yamaha Franky Morbidelli and the hotly pursuing Jack Miller to earn his third consecutive pole position of 2021.


“I think this was the qualifying I was the most nervous for” Quartararo admitted after the Parc Ferme celebrations subsided.

“Not because it’s in France, but I was supposed to go out with a soft front and medium rear wet tyre combination, and I’d never tried the medium.

“In mixed conditions we are bad, but I saw it was dry and said, ’it’s time for slicks’ and then on the last lap I was like, ’Okay, now is my time to send it and do my best. Either I get front row or I crash’. There were some wet patches in the last sector. I was sideways everywhere, but we made it. The goal was front row, but pole position is even better!”

Discussing the rapidly fluctuating weather conditions on show across Saturdays four sessions, the Frenchman explained Yamaha’s similarly rollercoaster performance.

“It was a tough day” Quartararo said. “In the first run of FP3 it was pretty good - because with more water on the track, it’s much easier for us. As soon as the track was drying up, everyone improved a lot, we improved but by almost nothing, so in a mixed condition with the wet tyres, is so tough for us. It was good that the track was dry for the qualifying. The last sector was a bit tricky at the beginning but on the last lap I pushed myself to the limit - in turn 11 I was quite close. I didn’t even know that I had pole because I saw the three bikes in Parc Ferme!”

“It looks like with the wet/mixed condition, when we are able to go with the slicks, is not bad,” he continued “but when we need to go with the wet tyres on mixed conditions, for us the bike has no acceleration and we are struggling so much. I feel good, honestly, on the braking corner speed but when it’s drying up it’s really tough. It’s impossible to really lean the bike and as soon as we pick it up, the bike is staying on the same place and just spinning a lot.

“I have a lot of things to learn in the wet condition. I have only had one race here in the wet, it was difficult, so I want to learn everything and take experience for the future.

“Starting from pole position, if it’s a wet race, we need to be clear. We will not stay really long in first position, unfortunately, but as soon as a rider overtakes I want to learn and see what he does different. We have Jack [Miller] in the front row, so I think that he’s one of the best in that condition and I want to see what he’s doing different but we will try to find something in the warm up if it’s wet, or try something anyway.

“It was quite difficult to prepare [this weekend] because we were not really able to make many laps. We came from wet conditions, then it dries but then you have yellow flag, then it starts to rain, then the tyre is cooling, turn three. So for the race I think nobody really prepared well. It’s difficult normally for the tyre choice but here I think is quite clear because it’s impossible to warm up the front tyre, rear a little bit easier but it’s so cold so I think everyone is going with soft/soft, if it’s dry conditions.”

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