LE MANS, France: Defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo will start Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) French Grand Prix from pole position having set a new lap record to top qualifying times on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Yamaha rider Lorenzo, who turned 29 on Wednesday, was 0.441sec faster around the Bugatti circuit than fellow Spaniard Marc Marquez (Honda), the current series leader after victories in Argentina and the United States.
Italian Andrea Iannone, on a Ducati, will start in third having overcome an early crash in qualifying.
Lorenzo shattered the lap record at Le Mans, his fastest effort of 1min 31.975sec bettering Marquez’s 1:32.042 set in qualifying in 2014. The fastest racing lap record was set by Valentino Rossi in 2015 (1:32.879).
The Spaniard’s pole was his first in Le Mans and his 37th in MotoGP action.
“From the beginning, the first practice on Friday, everything went very well already with our first setting,” said Lorenzo, the winner at the French track in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015.
“Little by little and practice by practice together with the whole team we improved small details in all the corners to create a bike that allowed me to keep a constant pace.
“I didn’t expect to set such an unbelievable lap time, but sometimes the lap time surprises you and I’m very happy with the pole position and the lap record and especially with the work we did with the whole team on the bike.”
Behind the top three come Pol Espargaro, Andrea Dovizioso and Bradley Smith, while Rossi, Maverick Vinales and Cal Crutchlow complete the third row.
Two-time world champion Marquez, the winner at Le Mans in 2014, admitted the weather on Sunday could be key.
“I was able to set a good lap today, but it wasn’t perfect,” said the Honda rider.
“At first with the new tyre I found it hard to get the same feeling I had with used tyres and the bike moved about a lot when I tried to push more.
“I think the pace that I have isn’t bad, and in the last free practice I felt comfortable, although I’m still not quite as fast as Jorge.
“We’ll see what weather we have tomorrow and what the track temperature is for the race, and try to manage things as best we can.”
Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, the winner at the Spanish Grand Prix last time out, qualified in seventh on his Yamaha, 0.854sec behind Lorenzo.