A final minute crash cost British rider Bradley Smith his chance to secure a first front row start of the 2010 125GP world championship in Le Mans today.
Boosted by a third place finish in this morning’s final practice session, the Oxfordshire rider looked on course for a top four qualifying place when he lost the front of his Aspar Aprilia at the Musee left-hander.
The 19-year-old was able to walk unhurt from the crash, but it prevented him from holding onto a front row berth for tomorrow’s 24-lap race.
Smith, who is chasing a third podium finish at the French GP, missed the front row by just 0.031s and will start at the head of the second row in fifth position.
Smith clocked a best time of 1.44.172 that left him just 0.453s away from pole position.
Pole position went to Aspar Aprilia team-mate and world championship leader Nicolas Terol.
The Spaniard first made his attack with 15 minutes remaining when a lap of 1.44.094 moved him clear of the field.
He briefly surrendered top spot to Pol Espargaro before he secured his first pole of 2010 with a best lap of 1.43.719 in the final four minutes.
Espargaro, who trails Terol by seven-points going into the third round of the season, had to settle for second place with a best time of 1.43.864.
German Sandro Cortese was the man who bumped Smith off the front row with an impressive late surge. He steered his Aprilia to a best lap of 1.44.118 to claim his best qualifying result of the season so far.
Completing the front row will be Marc Marquez, who had set the pole time in Qatar and Jerez.
Kent rider Danny Webb will start from the back of the second row after he ended with the eighth best time.
The Andalucia Cajasol Aprilia rider logged a best time of 1.44.807 to finish just 1.088s off pole position. Webb had been as high as seventh in the final ten minutes but today’s performance equalled his season best.
1 Nicolas TEROL SPA Bancaja Aspar Team Aprilia 1'43.719
2 Pol ESPARGARO SPA Tuenti Racing Derbi 1'43.864
3 Sandro CORTESE GER Avant Mitsubishi Ajo Derbi 1'44.118
4 Marc MARQUEZ SPA Red Bull Ajo Motorsport Derbi 1'44.141
5 Bradley SMITH GBR Bancaja Aspar Team Aprilia 1'44.172
6 Tomoyoshi KOYAMA JPN Racing Team Germany Aprilia 1'44.358
7 Randy KRUMMENACHER SWI Stipa-Molenaar Racing GP Aprilia 1'44.580
8 Danny WEBB GBR Andalucia Cajasol Aprilia 1'44.807
9 Johann ZARCO FRA WTR San Marino Team Aprilia 1'44.909
10 Esteve RABAT SPA Blusens-STX Aprilia 1'44.920
11 Luis SALOM SPA Stipa-Molenaar Racing GP Aprilia 1'45.021
12 Efren VAZQUEZ SPA Tuenti Racing Derbi 1'45.306
13 Jonas FOLGER GER Ongetta Team Aprilia 1'45.618
14 Riccardo MORETTI ITA Fontana Racing Aprilia 1'45.657
15 Jasper IWEMA NED CBC Corse Aprilia 1'45.754
16 Adrian MARTIN SPA Aeroport de Castello - Ajo Aprilia 1'45.851
17 Alberto MONCAYO SPA Andalucia Cajasol Aprilia 1'45.955
18 Alexis MASBOU FRA Ongetta Team Aprilia 1'46.035
19 Lorenzo SAVADORI ITA Matteoni CP Racing Aprilia 1'46.372
20 Marcel SCHROTTER GER Interwetten Honda 125 Honda 1'46.772
21 Sturla FAGERHAUG NOR AirAsia - Sepang Int. Circuit Aprilia 1'46.777
22 Louis ROSSI FRA CBC Corse Aprilia 1'46.782
23 Jakub KORNFEIL CZE Racing Team Germany Aprilia 1'46.867
24 Zulfahmi KHAIRUDDIN MAL AirAsia - Sepang Int. Circuit Aprilia 1'47.643
25 Michael VAN DER MARK NED Lambretta Reparto Corse Lambretta 1'48.271
26 Morgan BERCHET FRA Xtreme Racing Team Honda 1'48.812
27 Gregory DI CARLO FRA Equipe de France Vitesse Espoir Honda 1'48.868
28 Kevin SZALAI FRA Equipe de France Vitesse Espoir Honda 1'48.924
29 Marco RAVAIOLI ITA Lambretta Reparto Corse Lambretta 1'49.023