Maverick Viñales was on course for his first MotoGP pole of 2021 at Le Mans this afternoon, before his Yamaha teammate denied him in the closing seconds.
Losing out by a mere 0.081s to home-hero Fabio Quartararo, the Spaniard will start Sunday’s 27-lap FrenchGP from the middle of the front row after a rollercoaster day saw him as far down as 16th in the morning’s FP3.
The first rider on track at the start of the 15-minute Q2 shoot-out, Viñales quickly settled in to a rhythm on his wet tyres, posting a 1’42.763 lap, before the drying surface forced him to pit for slicks.
Circulating strongly around the Bugatti layout, his seventh lap was scratched due to exceeding track limits, and as the clock counted down he had failed to improve his time by his penultimate lap. His last shot, however, secured him the provisional pole with a 1’32.681 effort before his teammate dropped him to second in the final moments, with the pair happy to celebrate Yamaha’s first 1-2 of the year.
“It went quite well today” Vinales said from the Le Mans paddock.
“We've secured a good starting position, and this is important but I made many mistakes during the lap and this cost us the pole position.
“It was very hard because one lap to go to the end of the session it was spotting in some places of the track, so it was very difficult but anyway we finished P2 - our main objective is to be in the front row.
“Anyway, I have a good rhythm, which is good for tomorrow, and in FP4 I just kept running with used tyres to see how that would work for us, and it actually went quite well.
"We have a good speed. Honestly, in FP2 I had a good rhythm with used tyres, we can see how they have a good potential, and then on wet I felt good all the way. Today I struggle a little bit more but I think we know why, and yesterday I felt really good.
“So I'm very happy, let's see if we can improve to be faster for the race. We will try to keep the concentration and we will try to start very fast.”