Stefan Bradl's domination of qualifying in 2011 continued after the German took his fourth pole in four races at Le Mans.
The Viessman Kalex rider, who leads the championship by 13 points, got ahead of Aleix Espargaro with six minutes remaining and was never beaten, although it was far from a foregone conclusion.
The session was barely fifteen minutes old when Espargaro took provisional pole (1:38.560), usurping Marc Marquez, with Bradl just behind them in third. The front row remained unchanged until Bradl went out for his final run, going three hundredths quicker than the Pons HP 40 rider. With less than two minutes remaining, the German went even quicker, getting down to a 1:38.357.
It was fortunate that he had, as Thomas Luthi followed close behind with a lap that was just 0.045s slower, the Swiss rider continuing his record of having started on the front row at every race this season.
Yuki Takahashi will line up next to them after a last gasp flyer moved him up to third. The Japanese rider had been largely anonymous so far this weekend but delivered when it mattered most to put the Gresini Moriwaki on the front row.
Espargaro couldn't better his early effort and dropped back onto the second row, while Scott Redding produced his best qualifying performance so far this year in fifth. The Briton is yet to score a point this season but has a great chance to make up for lost time tomorrow.
The man who took him out two weeks ago at Estoril, Marc Marquez, will start alongside in sixth. The Spaniard will be ruing a mistake on his final qualifying lap when he went straight on at the turn nine/ten chicane, ruining a potential pole lap.
Stefan Bradl's two chief title rivals are back on the third row, with Simone Corsi eighth and Andrea Iannone ninth despite his best qualifying result of the year. Julian Simon pushed Bradl all the way in Portugal and will be hoping for another strong race from ninth.
Dominique Aegerter will start tenth, a position initially held by Bradley Smith but the Oxford rider was caught up in an unfortunate incident with Axel Pons. The 20-year-old Spaniard lost control of his Kalex machine under braking for the Dunlop chicane, and his body made contact with the Mistral 610 as he slid down the road.
As long as he isn't too badly injured, Pons will start tomorrow's race from 14th, while Smith will have work to do from 17th. Kev Coghlan will start from the twelfth row of the grid after finishing today's session in 35th place.
|1||Stefan Bradl||Viessman Kiefer Racing||Kalex||1:38.357|
|2||Thomas Luthi||Interwetten Paddock Moto2||Suter||1:38.402||+0.045|
|3||Yuki Takahashi||Gresini Racing Moto2||Moriwaki||1:38.540||+0.183|
|4||Aleix Espargaro||Pons HP 40||Pons Kalex||1:38.560||+0.203|
|5||Scott Redding||Marc VDS Racing Team||Suter||1:38.655||+0.298|
|6||Marc Marquez||Team Catalunya Caixa Repsol||Suter||1:38.679||+0.322|
|7||Simone Corsi||Ioda Racing Project||FTR||1:38.706||+0.349|
|8||Andrea Iannone||Speed Master||Suter||1:38.799||+0.442|
|9||Julian Simon||Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2||Suter||1:38.819||+0.462|
|11||Jules Cluzel||NGM Forward Racing||Suter||1:39.005||+0.648|
|12||Alex de Angelis||JIR Moto2||Motobi||1:39.031||+0.674|
|13||Michele Pirro||Gresini Racing Moto2||Moriwaki||1:39.064||+0.707|
|14||Axel Pons||Pons HP 40||Pons Kalex||1:39.122||+0.765|
|15||Mattia Pasini||Ioda Racing Project||FTR||1:39.138||+0.781|
|16||Randy Krummenacher||GP Team Switzerland Kiefer Racing||Kalex||1:39.221||+0.864|
|17||Bradley Smith||Tech 3 Racing||Tech 3||1:39.223||+0.866|
|18||Ratthapark Wilairot||Thai Honda Singha SAG||FTR||1:39.394||+1.037|
|19||Pol Espargaro||HP Tuenti Speed Up||FTR||1:39.481||+1.124|
|20||Max Neukirchner||MZ Racing Team||MZ-RE Honda||1:39.485||+1.128|
|21||Raffaele de Rosa||Desguaces La Torre G22||Moriwaki||1:39.491||+1.134|
|23||Mika Kallio||Marc VDS Racing Team||Suter||1:39.561||+1.204|
|24||Javier Fores||Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2||Suter||1:39.576||+1.219|
|26||Alex Baldolini||NGM Forward Racing||Suter||1:39.689||+1.332|
|27||Mike Di Meglio||Tech 3 Racing||Tech 3||1:39.809||+1.452|
|28||Claudio Corti||Italtrans Racing Team||Suter||1:39.849||+1.492|
|29||Ricard Cardus||QMMF Racing Team||Moriwaki||1:39.916||+1.559|
|31||Xavier Simeon||Tech 3 B||Tech 3||1:39.949||+1.592|
|32||Robertino Pietri||Italtrans Racing Team||Suter||1:39.987||+1.630|
|33||Anthony West||MZ Racing Team||MZ-RE Honda||1:40.016||+1.659|
|35||Kev Coghlan||Aeroport de Castello||FTR||1:40.639||+2.282|
|36||Santiago Hernandez||SAG Team||FTR||1:40.641||+2.284|
|37||Valentin Debise||Speed Up||FTR||1:40.774||+2.417|
|38||Alex Cudlin||QMMF Racing Team||Moriwaki||1:41.666||+3.309|
|39||Mashel Al Naimi||QMMF Racing Team||Moriwaki||1:41.875||+3.518|
|40||Steven Odendaal||MS Racing||Suter||1:41.897||+3.540|
|107% Time: 1:45.242|