Franco Morbidelli got his French MotoGP race day off to an ideal start with the quickest time in cold conditions ahead of today’s ninth round of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship at Le Mans.

The Petronas SRT Yamaha rider comes into this afternoon’s race (12.00GMT) on the back foot after being shuffled towards the back of the Q2 order in qualifying, Morbidelli starting on the fourth row in 11th position despite being only half a second off pole and two tenths from the front row.

Nonetheless, he prepared himself for what is set to be an unusually cold race in MotoGP terms by edging out Yamaha counterpart Maverick Vinales, who recovered from a tumble early on to post the second best time.

Fresh from easily his best qualifying performance of the season on the LCR Honda, Cal Crutchlow was third quickest, while Danilo Petrucci maintained his upturn in form to post the fourth best time as he bids for a first podium of the season from the front row today.

Pol Espargaro flew the flag for KTM in fifth, from Alex Marquez, whose positive result on paper was overshadowed by his own fall in the closing stages of the session.

Local hope Johann Zarco was seventh from fellow countryman and pole sitter Fabio Quartararo, with Takaaki Nakagami and Andrea Dovizioso rounding out the top ten. Joan Mir, Quartararo’s closest title rival, was 14th - exactly where he’s due to start this afternoon.

Bradley Smith was another rider to come down on the Aprilia ahead of a race that is expected to prove more of a challenge than many riders will necessarily be used to. 

Indeed, with the French MotoGP rescheduled from May to October, the chilly Autumn temperatures are emphasising the Le Mans circuit’s front-end dependent characteristics, leading to a higher number of crashes than usual this weekend.