If Friday's Le Mans MotoGP practice results are replicated in qualifying, Andrea Iannone and Alvaro Bautista will form a surprise front row alongside world champion Marc Marquez.
Pramac Ducati's Iannone - best MotoGP finish of sixth - concluded day one in France with a lap time just 0.007s slower than undefeated-in-2014 Marquez.
"What can I say ... I'm very happy with how we ended the day,” said Iannone, who was running the extra soft rear tyre and following Dani Pedrosa when he set his best lap time. “I am pleased to be only seven hundredths of a second from Marquez, who is dominating this championship from the start of the season.
“We did a good job, I did the fastest lap time with the soft tyre but here I'm fast even with the harder compound, I noticed that my race pace isn't very different from the top riders and that is good for me. We will continue to work on the bike to improve some details and continue to aim for the top positions.”
While the Ducati and Open class riders have access to the extra-soft, Honda riders Bautista and Marquez set their best times on the soft compound rear tyre.
For Gresini's Bautista it was a further welcome boost after claiming his first world championship points of the season last time in Jerez.
“I'm very happy because we worked very well throughout the all day and this afternoon we managed to improve my feeling with the bike,” said Bautista, who improved from fifth in the morning session and lapped 0.216s from Marquez.
“In the first free practice session the bike was a little too nervous on corner entry, while in the second session we managed to make it smoother. I've completed 35 laps with a soft rear tyre and its performance was pretty consistent, so I think that the choice for the race is already quite defined. Now we just have to try to improve slightly our pace”.