Just 14th on the dry Friday timesheets, rain at Le Mans on Saturday morning washed away any chance of Valentino Rossi gaining direct access to Qualifying 2.

And with the likes of Alex Rins and Cal Crutchlow also on the Qualifying 1 list, it was far from guaranteed that Rossi would even advance to the pole position shootout.

But an inspired tyre gamble, with Rossi first on slicks during the drying session, meant he sailed through Q1 with ease.

Inspired by that outcome Rossi, Monster Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales and Petronas rider Franco Morbidelli then tried to repeat the Italian's slick-tyre gamble at the start of Q2.

But the weather changed for the worse, forcing them straight back in for wets. Nevertheless, Rossi went on to post the fifth best lap, as the top M1 and has a 'good pace' should rain return on Sunday.

“I'm very happy, because this morning I was out of the Q2 and we needed to find something to improve our starting position," Rossi said. "We took a gamble in Q1 when we put the slicks, and that was the right choice.

"It was a risk, but it paid off, because there wasn't too much water on track and I was able to get through to Q2, which was very important.

"Also in Q2, with the wet tyres in the wet, I was quite competitive. I'm fifth, but I also have a good pace in case we have a wet race tomorrow.

"In the dry I wasn't very strong yesterday. We have to try some setting modifications, but today we didn‘t have time for that, so we have to wait to see what the conditions will be like tomorrow."

Team-mate Maverick Vinales qualified in 11th place.

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