Qualifying for the 2018 French Moto2 Grand Prix was decided fairly early on. Well, pole was, at least. Pecco Bagnaia, the championship leader, set the eventual pole time early on in the session to take his first ever Moto2 pole position ahead of tomorrow’s race, in which he will hope to take his fourth podium of the season, and third win from the opening five races.
But it will not be easy, with Xavi Vierge and going with him off the front row. Vierge is looking for his first Grand Prix win, and is fresh from pushing Bagnaia all the way in Jerez for the final podium position. Whilst for Baldassarri, he is coming from a dominant win in Spain, where he waltzed away from the pack to take his and Pons HP40’s first win since 2016. Balda does not have the same pace advantage as he has in Le Mans, but he proved there that he can hang on to a tyre extremely well, and that could prove important in what could be the hottest temperatures of the weekend.
Joan Mir was third for much of the session, before Baldassarri displaced him at the end. His pace in Jerez was masked by a stomach bug. It is not a difficult conclusion to arrive at that Mir could have fought for the podium in Spain had it not been for his illness, and this weekend he is proving that. Remember, also, that Mir ran away with the 2017 Moto3 race in Le Mans, so a first Moto2 podium, maybe victory, is definitely on the cards for tomorrow. Such a result would only strengthen rumours of a move to MotoGP with Honda next season.
Marcel Schrotter and Alex Marquez will join Mir on the second row, and tomorrow’s race will be crucial for Marquez, whose championship hopes took a blow in Jerez when he crashed out of podium contention. He will be hoping to make up for that tomorrow.
Sam Lowes was the top KTM rider in qualifying, despite a crash, attained seventh place, ahead of the factory KTM of Brad Binder and the Kalex of Simone Corsi who join him on the third row. KTMs in seventh and eighth suggests that they have not found solutions to the issues they faced in Le Mans last year, and tomorrow looks like it could be a bit of a struggle for them.
Even more so, with Miguel Oliveira in tenth. The Portuguese will need another strong comeback ride tomorrow if he is not to concede too much ground in the championship. Mattia Pasini, another disappointing qualifier, will start with Oliveira alongside Romano Fenati on row four.
Hector Barbera had his best qualifying of the season in thirteenth place, ahead of Fabio Quartararo and Jorge Navarro in fourteenth and fifteenth places respectively.
Andrea Locatelli, Joe Roberts and Khairul Idham Pawi make up row six; Isaac Vinales, Iker Lecuona and Bo Bendsneyder row seven; Tetsuta Nagashima, Stefano Manzi and the inured Luca Marini were 22nd, 23rd and 24th, but Marini’s 6-place grid drop for tomorrow for his crash with Navarro in Spain means he will start 30th.
That means Lukas Tulovic will start from the back of row eight, and Steven Odendaal will head up row nine from Hector Garzo and Jules Danilo. Federico Fuligni and the replacement for Zulfahmi Khairrudin, Niki Tuuli, will start alongside Marini on row ten.
Danny Kent will start 31st, ahead of wildcards Corentin Perolari and Xavi Cardelus on row eleven, whilst the final two places of the 35-bike grid will be taken by Eric Granado and Cedric Tangre.