Andrea Iannone claimed his first front start of the season at Le Mans on Saturday, despite falling at the start of his final qualifying run.

The Ducati stars suspects water began leaking onto his rear tyre, sending him sliding into the gravel, but he was able to sprint back to the pits (pictured) and rejoin the action on his spare bike.

Although he didn't improve his lap time, Iannone had already done enough to secure third, 0.494s from pole sitter Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) but only 0.053s from Marc Marquez (Honda).

"For sure it was a very difficult qualifying for us. With the first tyre we get a good lap time and I was really happy. But I was sure it would be very important to improve on the second run because I expect Marc, Dovi and Vale and also Dani have a very good possibility to start from first row.

"Unfortunately I fall down. I don't know what happened because it's a very strange crash. Later I will have a meeting with the engineers. But I have a red light on the bike and a red light for me is a water problem, but I don't know.

"In any case, I ran back on the pit. When I go out to the second bike it's very difficult to improve my lap time. But also I put a good lap time, a '32.8."

Iannone had qualified just eleventh fastest for the previous Jerez round, when all the Ducati riders struggled with the amount of wheelspin at the Spanish circuit. Michelin responded with three new rear tyres at Le Mans, including a 'less stiff' soft compound rear.

"The tyres improve a lot, I think for everybody, because with the old tyres in Jerez it's very difficult to manage the situation because the spin on the straight is very, very high. With the tyre, in the middle, they change the compound and improve a lot the situation.

"For us it's better, but after 28 laps it's interesting to understand the performance and it will be very important to manage the tyres. Tomorrow, we have a good pace but apart from Jorge everybody has a similar pace. It's important for us to stay on the podium. As always it's not easy, but we will try."

Iannone is currently duelling with team-mate Andrea Dovizioso over the final 2017 factory Ducati seat alongside Lorenzo. Both Iannone and Dovizioso have taken one podium finish so far this season, with Dovizioso starting fifth at Le Mans.

Dovizioso was forced to retire from Jerez after a water leak.

By Peter McLaren


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