Fabio Quartararo stormed to a third successive MotoGP pole at home in France with a late flyer, while points leader Francesco Bagnaia will start 16th after going out in Q1.
The Frenchman-like the rest of the Yamaha fraternity- looked to be slightly off the pace in the damper conditions that adorned the start of Q2, all 12 riders quickly electing to switch to the slicks despite several initially heading out on wets.
Quartararo hovered around the top five for the bulk of the test as the Ducati and Honda riders looked to be more at ease with the drying conditions, Jack Miller and Marc Marquez in particular lighting up the timing screens throughout as the grip afforded to the competitors by the Le Mans circuit increased ever more.
Marc Marquez was the man left out in front as the musical chairs seemingly stopped with just a couple minutes of Q2 remaining, the Spaniard leading a Honda 1-2-3 ahead of Takaaki Nakagami and Pol Espargaro as the times started to tail off.
Just like that though the fight was back on, although not for the leading pair who had already taken the chequered flag, leaving the battle for pole down to the remaining Honda of Espargaro and the now flying Yamaha and Ducati pilots.
Maverick Vinales came from nowhere to shoot to the head of the timesheets to deny Marquez a fairytale return to pole, though the Qatar Grand Prix winner was swiftly eclipsed by team-mate Quartararo just moments later, the home hero’s 1:32.600s tour squeaking ahead of Vinales by just 0.081s.
Miller just came up short of pole position, though still could be content with completing the front row just over a tenth down on Quartararo.
Franco Morbidelli made it three Yamaha’s in the top four as he headed Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco who rounded out the top five, while Marquez and Nakagami slipped to sixth and seventh by sessions end.
Espargaro crashed out shortly after having posted a session-best opening split and had to make do with eighth ahead of Valentino Rossi in ninth-the Petronas SRT ace bagging a top ten for only the second time this season- while Miguel Oliviera completed the top ten.
Lorenzo Savadori was a surprise 11th having led the way in Q1, the Aprilia man defeating much more fancied team-mate Aleix Espargaro as well as points leader Bagnaia in the process.
The riders had to utilise the wet tyres in Q1 due to a short shower just prior to the session, Savadori having to leave his attempts until last after crashing his first RS-GP at the final bend in the early minutes.
Reigning MotoGP world champion Joan Mir looked to be the man to beat initially, but was relegated to second by Danilo Petrucci as the track dried towards the end.
Aprilia looked set for a shock 1-2 in the opening segment of qualifying as Aleix led Savadori, though the former rolled off a lap too early as improvements could still be found as the circuit continued to improve.
Savadori ended up going quickest by some margin with his own final effort, the Italian being joined by countryman Luca Marini-meaning several big names missed the cut.
With Bagnaia only 16th, both Suzuki men also start further back than anticipated with Mir and Rins starting 14th and 15th behind Aleix.
Brad Binder was another to struggle, the factory KTM racer able to manage only 21st ahead of Enea Bastianini.