When we previewed Le Mans MotoGP last week, our focus was centered on Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Johann Zarco, the Frenchman having much energy heading into his home round.Last year, the then-Rookie Zarco scored his first-ever premier-class podium with a third-place finish. The YZR-M1 Independent Team Rider also finished second two weeks ago at Jerez MotoGP, placing him second in the points after five rounds – just 12 behind leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda). He then topped the one-day test at Jerez that Monday.
He couldn’t do better than fourth throughout Le Mans free practice, but he was untouchable during qualifying. Zarco set a new pole record at the Bugatti Circuit, and is the first Frenchman to qualify on pole on home soil since Christian Sarron in 1988.Zarco claimed the pole with a 1:31.185, which was nearly 0.8 of a second quicker than the previous Pole Record set by Jorge Lorenzo in 2016 (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP).Joining Zarco on the front row for Sunday’s 27-lap race are Marquez (-0.108 of a second) and Alma Pramac Racing Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci (-0.196).“It feels great and it’s very emotional for me,” Johann Zarco says. “I didn’t expect to have these emotions already during Qualifying here. For sure, I wanted to be fast, but when I saw the 31.185 on the dashboard I was surprised myself.“The first run was already quite good, but I felt that the new tyre can deliver even more on the first lap, so I tried it for the second exit and it worked well. The job we did, working with different tires, is amazing. A huge thank you to the crowd here, because they gave me a lot of positive energy. Let’s see, if this energy is enough to win tomorrow.”Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo, who has a record of five wins in Le Mans, briefly led the 15-minute second qualifying, but had to settle for a sixth-place start behind teammate and Friday leader, Andrea Dovizioso (fifth) and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Andrea Iannone, the Italian who finished third in the past two races.Qualifying on the top of row three was Alma Pramac Racing Ducati’s Jack Miller, who is joined by the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo of Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi.Lass season, Zarco led into the turn-one chicane after starting from third, and finished behind eventual winner Vinales. Can he do one better this year, and make history before a home crowd? Lights go green at 8 a.m. ET Sunday.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.