A clear but cool morning awaited the premier class for their first venture on French grounds and it was going to be a first indication of the pecking order, especially for Yamaha. The only real conclusion was that the situation is as close as ever, the lead exchanging hands between four factories about every five minutes. Cal Crutchlow was the early leader, with Valentino Rossi and Andrea Iannone also putting their names at the top but it wasn’t to be for any of the three in the end.
While the main contenders were hanging back in the garage preparing for their final runs, Maverick Viñales stayed out and put in an impressive long run on used tyres. The Spaniard found the speed he seemed to be missing and shot into the lead of the session in the final ten minutes by a whooping half a second. He did go on to improve his time but the gap wasn’t to survive the session, Marc Marquez waiting until the final crossing of the line to go top on used tyres and with new aero appendices.
Andrea Dovizioso snuck a Ducati in between Marquez and Viñales, the three riders covered by only six hundredths of a second. Two seconds down the road was Crutchlow in fourth, with Johann Zarco going up and down the timesheets to finish fifth. Rossi dropped back to sixth, three tenths down on his teammate and ahead of compatriot Iannone as the first Suzuki. After announcing his contract extension, teammate Alex Rins had a tougher morning down in 17th.
The top ten was filled in by another Ducati and two KTMs, Jorge Lorenzo closely followed by Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. While coping with the consequences of two separate injuries this time around, Dani Pedrosa finished 15th and was the last rider within a second of the leader.