Maverick Vinales claimed his first pole position in the new Moto3 class after dominating a rain-affected qualifying session at Le Mans. The Avintia Blusens rider was quickest in free practice on Friday in the dry and if anything, was even stronger in the wet as he took pole by almost a second.
Vinales didn't look like having it his own way early in the session when Miguel Oliveira led the way for Estrella Galicia 0,0. The Portuguese teenager was trading quick lap times with Vinales but continued to hold an advantage when they both crossed the line. 15 minutes in to the session, his lead was two tenths of a second.
The turning point came with just 20 minutes remaining when Oliveira lost control of his Suter Honda at Chemin Aux Boeufs, the chicane at the end of the back straight. The rider was unhurt but his motorcycle cartwheeled through the gravel trap, causing too much damage for him to continue in the session. He was therefore powerless to prevent Vinales from snatching provisional pole which the Spaniard did seconds later.
The esses were catching out several riders with the damp kerbs proving dangerously slippery. The two Mahindra riders, Danny Webb and Marcel Schrotter, crashed out either side of Oliveira's error while the recovered Jack Miller also came unstuck in his first qualifying session since breaking his collarbone at Jerez.
Having seen off the challenge of Oliveira, Vinales took control and gradually lowered the benchmark time, dropping into the 1:56s inside the final ten minutes before delivering a 1:55.865 on his penultimate lap, giving him pole position by the proverbial country mile.
It was a sign of how impressive the top two had been that Oliveira hung on to second until the very last run of the session when Efren Vazquez squeezed in front of him, to the delight of the Laglisse pit crew. Jakub Kornfeil heads the second row ahead of the quickest home rider Alexis Masbou while championship leader Sandro Cortese will start sixth after a turbulent session. The German crashed right at the start of qualifying and missed almost three quarters of the session, only getting his repaired KTM back on track late on.
The Aspar Kalex-KTMs will both start on row three with Alberto Moncayo ahead of Hector Faubel while Luis Salom and Zulfahmi Khairuddin round out the top ten. Jonas Folger produced one of the performances of the day to qualify eleventh on IodaRacing's home built machine but Danny Kent couldn't produce similar heroics in the wet, finishing down in seventeenth. Danny Webb didn't re-join the track after his crash and will be relying on the leniency of the stewards if he is to race after finishing outside of the 107% cut-off.