MotoGP rookie Cal Crutchlow broke new ground at Le Mans on Saturday when he claimed a second row start, with sixth on the grid, for only his fourth premier-class event.
As if that wasn't enough to boost Crutchlow's fast-growing reputation, it was only his second day of riding around the Le Mans circuit.
The 25-year-old spent most of the one-hour session assessing the performance of Bridgestone's hard compound rear tyre, before commencing a time attack in the final 15 minutes.
Crutchlow's best time of 1min 33.804sec was 0.651sec from Casey Stoner's pole position, just 0.2sec from a front row and only 0.098s behind reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo, riding a factory M1.
“I knew I had the raw speed to come into MotoGP and be fast, but to get a top six on the grid in just my fourth race is a brilliant achievement,” said Crutchlow. “Thanks again to my guys in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team because we've worked really well again and I wanted to do well with this being the Team's home race in France.
“At one point in the session I was only 15th and I was starting to get a bit worried because we spent a lot of time on the hard tyre. I couldn't get it to work and I did a faster lap on a softer tyre that had done 30- laps.
“!To be honest, the bike has been quite difficult to ride this weekend. We've had to change the wheelbase setting from the Estoril test but it still feels a little bit unstable.
“To qualify sixth on a circuit I've never seen before though is great, but my expectation will still be to finish in the top ten. And that's going to be difficult when you look at how close the times are. As always I'll be going all out tomorrow to get a good result,” added the former World Supersport champion and World Superbike race winner.
Experienced team-mate Colin Edwards qualified 0.259s and one place behind Crutchlow, at a circuit where the Texan has taken two podiums in the past.