until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Martin on pole as he and Bagnaia crash in Le Mans qualifying

by Jack Cozens
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Jorge Martin secured pole position for the French Grand Prix despite a crash in the final stages of qualifying at Le Mans, with chief MotoGP title rival Pecco Bagnaia failing to take advantage thanks to a fall of his own a minute later.

Their crashes, two of four in the final three minutes of Q2, marked an anticlimactic conclusion to what had been a dramatic qualifying session in which Marc Marquez failed to escape Q1.

Pramac Ducati rider Martin - fastest of all on Friday - immediately set out his stall in Q2 by setting a new lap record of the Le Mans Bugatti circuit, with his 1m30.141s a full three tenths up on Bagnaia's initial effort.

Martin subsequently went faster, becoming the first rider to lap under the 1m30s marker with a best effort of 1m29.919s on his second lap that two-time defending champion Bagnaia could only get within two tenths of.

But any expectation that either might lower that benchmark further was short-lived as both fell on their final runs.

Points leader Martin dropped his Ducati GP24 in the Dunlop chicane on the mid-corner change of direction, which appeared to hand the initiative to Bagnaia - who at that stage was lapping faster.

Bug Bagnaia hit the deck less than a minute later, finding the gravel trap at Turn 7 and bringing out the yellow flags - which remained in place while he tried to deploy a fire extinguisher.

Martin therefore sealed his second pole of the season, and first since the Qatar season opener, while behind Bagnaia Aprilia's Maverick Vinales - fastest in the FP2 session that preceded qualifying - sealed the final front-row starting position.

Vinales had been 'best of the rest' on the initial runs and though he was unable to challenge either Ducati's time, he did improve late on in the session to secure third.

Fabio Di Giannantonio secures fourth late on, with he and VR46 Ducati team-mate Marco Bezzecchi - who improved after the chequered flag - sandwiching Aleix Espargaro on the second works Aprilia.

Espargaro forfeited his chance to improve with a crash of his own in the final minutes of Q2.

Rookie Pedro Acosta was again the fastest KTM in seventh as Fabio Quartararo - who ran out of fuel - kept up his strong Le Mans form by hauling his Yamaha onto the third row with the eighth-fastest time.

The top 10 was completed by Franco Morbidelli (Pramac Ducati) and Enea Bastianini, who had advanced from Q1 with the fastest time.

Factory Ducati rider Bastianini would have been third had he replicated his Q1 time in the second part of qualifying, but his first Q2 effort was half a second shy of that time and he then had his second run - which looked like it would be an improvement - wrecked by the yellow flags for team-mate Bagnaia's fall.

Bastianini's progress to Q2 was never under threat once he'd posted his first representative lap in Q1, but he went faster still with his final effort setting a 1m30.233s.

But the identity of the rider joining him in progressing was a surprise, as Miguel Oliveira improved at the chequered flag to knock Marquez out.

Marquez held top spot for the majority of that session but once again looked ill at ease on his Gresini Ducati, as he had on Friday, and saved a violent shake on the approach to the Dunlop chicane that forced him to bail out of his first lap on his second run.

Yellow flags rendered his second lap a non-starter, which opened the door for Trackhouse Aprilia rider Oliveira - who'd passed the scene of a Johann Zarco crash - to sneak into Q2 for the first time in 2024, where he went on to place 12th behind Jack Miller (the KTM rider another to fall late on).

Marquez therefore followed up his first Q1 appearance as a Ducati rider with his first exit, which in turn marked his worst qualifying session of the season.

Zarco's fall at La Chapelle might have prevented him from a late improvement but he extended his streak of being the fastest Honda in qualifying to five races at the start of his time on the RC213V.

He was the only Honda rider to dip below the 1m31s mark and his fifth-fastest Q1 time was three tenths up on the next-best rider in that contingent, Joan Mir, who will start 18th.

Brad Binder's nightmare weekend got worse still as he qualified slowest of all.

The KTM rider, who fell three times on Friday, was four tenths off Marquez's initial Q1 benchmark in the first sector alone on his first timed run and barely improved on his second, ending the session almost four tenths adrift of the second works Honda of Luca Marini.

Qualifying result

1Jorge MartinDucati1m29.919s
2Francesco BagnaiaDucati1m30.111s
3Maverick ViñalesAprilia1m30.313s
4Fabio Di GiannantonioDucati1m30.436s
5Marco BezzecchiDucati1m30.553s
6Aleix EspargaróAprilia1m30.572s
7Pedro AcostaKTM1m30.650s
8Fabio QuartararoYamaha1m30.686s
9Franco MorbidelliDucati1m30.782s
10Enea BastianiniDucati1m30.233s1m30.786s
11Jack MillerKTM1m31.007s
12Miguel OliveiraAprilia1m30.478s1m31.075s
13Marc MarquezDucati1m30.586s
14Raul FernandezAprilia1m30.676s
15Johann ZarcoHonda1m30.891s
16Alex RinsYamaha1m31.067s
17Alex MarquezDucati1m31.148s
18Joan MirHonda1m31.186s
19Takaaki NakagamiHonda1m31.274s
20Augusto FernandezKTM1m31.473s
21Luca MariniHonda1m31.837s
22Brad BinderKTM1m32.228s
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