Dani Pedrosa made it three poles from four Le Mans MotoGP appearances after a thrilling end to Saturday's qualifying session, which went in the Repsol Honda rider's favour by just 0.005sec.
The Spaniard had been fourth as the chequered flag was waved, but saved his best for last to deprive arch-rival Jorge Lorenzo of the top spot. The result marked the first pole of the season for Pedrosa and Honda.
"Obviously I'm really happy with pole today and it was a very close battle for the front row. Right at the end we were able to set the fastest lap and I'm really pleased for the team as well as for myself,” said Dani, also on pole at Le Mans in 2006 and 2008.
“Being on the front row is important, and it's also lucky that we had good weather for this afternoon and for most of the morning session because it allowed us to test a few set-up options and learn more about the machine at this track.
“We still have work to do before the race though, so we're not going to relax at all,” he warned. “It's a long race tomorrow and there are some improvements I'd like to make to the machine settings to give us a good chance. And of course the weather can play a big part at this circuit as we've seen many times before. We have to prepare for many conditions, so we're staying focused."
Pedrosa will start the race joint third in the championship with Lorenzo and seeking Honda's first victory of the season.
Pedrosa's factory team-mate Andrea Dovizioso put in a last-gasp hot lap just 0.326sec from pole to take fifth on the grid.
"Starting from the second row is ok and I feel I could have gone quicker still if I'd managed to get the maximum from the soft tyre,” said the Italian, fastest in Friday free practice. “I'm happy though, because I had a good rhythm and was able to maintain a fast pace on both the soft and hard Bridgestone tyre options during the practice sessions.
“We'll have to take a lot of care with the tyre selection because, with the changeable weather situation and temperature here, the choice of tyres for the race will be crucial. It's likely that we won't know which ones to use until just before the race.”
“Right now the whole Repsol Honda Team is pulling together and doing an excellent job,” said team manager Kazuhiko Yamano. “We still know we have to improve the machine because it's not perfect though. Both sides of the garage will assess the data they gathered from today's practice sessions and trim the machine settings in the warm-up.”