Marquez “didn’t expect” French GP front row on MotoGP return

The Honda rider has been absent since fracturing his hand on the third lap of the Portuguese GP at the start of the season in March, but is back in action at Le Mans for the 1000th grand prix event.

After progressing directly into Q2 on Friday, having spent the day testing Honda’s new Kalex-designed chassis, Marquez had both of his bikes fitted with the new frame for Saturday’s action.

Setting the best lap of the Q2 session with a 1m30.763s on his final lap, Marquez was denied pole by Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia at the death with a 1m30.705s.

Marquez, who expects this afternoon’s sprint contest to be difficult because he is missing race pace and says “I still get a bit tired” on the bike, remarked that second on the grid was a surprise but is starting to feel better on the RC213V.

“Of course yesterday I was fast but I didn’t feel the bike,” he said in parc ferme after qualifying.

“Today I started to feel the bike, even this morning with the same bike we made a step.

“It looks like a different bike, but it’s more the [riding] position, my feeling with the tyres, and it’s true that for the race distance we will struggle a bit more because still I need that pace, still I get a bit tired on the bike.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“But the target of this weekend is try to do our 100%. We didn’t expect to be here, honestly speaking. But with my team, me, Honda, you never know what can happen.

“This afternoon I think will be a little bit harder and will be tougher because especially the Ducati riders have a constant pace.

“I’m struggling to have constant pace because our bike on the braking is not the best one and it’s difficult to be constant. But let’s see.”

What the rest of the French GP front row said

World champion Bagnaia had a bike problem in the FP3 session prior to qualifying, having battled “many problems” on his bike on Friday.

But, having taken his second pole of the season, he feels like he is now finally “competitive” at Le Mans.

“I take this pole pushing a lot, because it wasn’t easy,” Bagnaia said.

“Yesterday there were many problems, this morning problems. So, it wasn’t the easiest start to the weekend.

“I’ve been struggling a bit. But in any case I’m happy, also in the second exit of FP3 the pace was good, so finally we are ok, we are competitive.

“Taking pole position today was important, so I’m very happy.”

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Luca Marini completed the front row in third having topped the Q1 session, with his result down to him finding perfect track position behind Bagnaia and “risking everything” to make the lap time.

“It was a tough qualifying because passing through Q1 is never easy, because there are a lot of fast riders that can try,” Marini said.

“Then in Q2 with only one [new] rear tyre it is also difficult, but I had the opportunity to have the slipstream from Pecco.

“My position was really good, so I tried to risk everything because in this track the grid position is very important, it’s not so easy to overtake.

“The start will also be important because the first corner is very tricky with all of the devices for starting.

“So, I need a good start and also to work on the bike, my riding because I miss something on the pace.”

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