Le Mans (France) (AFP) - World champion Marc Marquez drew level with Valentino Rossi's record 55 MotoGP poles with the quickest time in Saturday's qualifying for the French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
The session was staged in changeable conditions which made tyre choice a complex affair, as underlined by Marquez posting the fastest lap only to then fall off his Honda.
The Spaniard quickly climbed back on board to continue unscathed having posted his pole-securing time of 1min 40.952sec early in the session when the circuit was still relatively dry.
He was joined on the front row by Ducati duo Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller for Sunday's fifth leg of the season.
"Today was one of those days when it wasn't funny to be a rider because in these conditions you don't know whether to stick on wet or dry tyres," said Marquez who holds a one-point advantage over Suzuki rival Alex Rins in the overall standings.
Rins trailed in only 19th on Saturday.
"With this light rain it's really hard. In qualifying we knew we had to push on the first lap when there was the least water on track. Then with more water on track it got more difficult," added Marquez after his third pole in five races this season.
"I'm happy with this pole because it was a day where you could easily start from the back if you weren't careful. Now we see what the weather does tomorrow!"
French fans eager to see home hope Fabio Quartararo replicate his fine performance in qualifying in Jerez a fortnight ago, when the 20-year-old became the youngest rider to take pole in a MotoGP, were left disappointed.
The Yamaha-SRT rookie will set off from 10th on the grid.
The second row of the grid features Italian trio Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), Rossi (Yamaha) and Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha-SRT).
Riders will be keeping a careful watch on the weather for the race which is due off at 1200 GMT.
In Moto 2, Spain's Jorge Navarro of Speed Up grabbed pole from Switzerland's Thomas Luthi on a Kalex with compatriot Alex Marquez, also on a Kalex, taking third spot.
World championship leader Lorenzo Baldassari of Italy starts in seventh.
Scotland's John McPhee claimed pole in Moto 3 from Tony Arbolino of Italy and Japan's Ai Ogura in a Honda front row lockout.
McPhee became the first rider to progress from Q1 to then go on to take pole position in the sport.