Niccolo Antonelli left it late before claiming his first pole position of the season at Le Mans, denying Brad Binder in the dying seconds. The championship leader topped the session midway through and looked set to hang onto top spot until Antonelli found a gap in the traffic to outpace him on his last lap of the afternoon.
After the free practice leaderboard took on an unfamiliar look, there didn’t appear to be a clear favourite for pole position and Jakub Kornfeil was the surprise pacesetter early on, clocking a 1:43.214. The Czech rider was usurped by Romano Fenati at the ten minute mark and his session soon took another turn for the worse with a heavy crash at turn twelve effectively ending his session.
Fenati later improved to a 1:42.888 but he was immediately demoted to second by his Sky VR46 teammate Nicolo Bulega, the rookie chasing back-to-back poles. Like Kornfeil, his hopes would be ended by a crash with the Italian highsiding at the Dunlop chicane but despite initially favouring his wrist, Nicolo was declared ok afterwards.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, the session looked to have taken its decisive turn with Binder, who had early been stripped of a provisional pole time for exceeding track limits, going fastest on a 1:42.823. Antonelli had other ideas though, and with the chequered flag waving, the Ongetta rider shaved six hundredths of a second off the South African’s time to claim his fourth career pole.
Aron Canet, winner of the CEV Moto3 race here last year, took a fine third for Estrella Galicia, edging out his teammate Jorge Navarro, while the Sky VR46 KTMs of Fenati and Bulega complete the second row. Juanfran Guevara will start a superb seventh ahead of leading Frenchman Fabio Quartararo while rookie duo Khairul Idham Pawi and Fabio Di Giannantonio completed the top ten.
Moto3 Monster Energy Grand Prix de France (Qualifying Classification)
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