Rookie Pol Espargaro claimed a 'dream' debut MotoGP front row start, at only his fifth attempt, during qualifying for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team's home round at Le Mans.
Just eleventh on Friday, the reigning Moto2 champion delivered an impressive turnaround on day two, starting with third in morning practice.
The Spaniard then vaulted from eleventh to a shock second place, 0.692s behind Honda's world champion Marc Marquez, on his penultimate qualifying lap.
“I am flying high right now, and am really happy and proud that I was able to produce this lap at the team's home race,” smiled Espargaro. “It's a dream for me. You see the top three riders on TV and you think maybe one day I will be up there.
“We got more confident during the weekend and finally we got a good lap in. My race rhythm for sure is not the same as the top guys, but we have a little advantage from starting in front of them and I'll push to try and get a gap.”
Asked about his chances of a podium, Espargaro replied: “For sure I will fight for it but we have to be realistic. We have done a good weekend and one good lap but for sure Jorge [Lorenzo] has an amazing rhythm, also Valentino [Rossi] and Dani [Pedrosa]. It's really crazy to think about the podium here. Maybe in a few races. Right now it looks too far but for sure I will try.”
Espargaro, who broke his collarbone at the end of pre-season testing, has claimed a best result of sixth so far this year.
Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso will join Marquez and Espargaro on the front row. Espargaro's team-mate Bradley Smith qualified in tenth place.