Perfect conditions for the start at Le Mans on Saturday meant lap time improvements came early in the combined order, although there were no major climbers.
Pramac Ducati rider Jorge Martin was the first significant name to improve to 10th overall in the early stages of the 45-minute session, while Marc Marquez fell briefly to 12th for the sixth time on the Honda after a tough Friday. Place went world champion.
LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami made a big jump to fourth place with around 20 minutes to go but his 1m31.471s was canceled for exceeding track limits, dropping him to 15th.
A few minutes later, local hero Fabio Quartararo moved up to second on his Yamaha with a 1:31.214, while Marquez – shadowing the reigning world champion – jumped up to fourth.
On his next tour, Quartararo broke the lap record set by Enea Bastianini on Friday with a time of 1:30.847 minutes.
With a 0.198 lead on the field, with Ducati’s Jack Miller as his closest rival, Quartararo’s lap came under pressure from sister factory Ducati of Bagnaia with just over two minutes to go.
The Italian followed that lap to take the top spot at 1m30.568s as Marquez exited the pit lane behind Quartararo for her final runs.
Marquez, who felt that simply finishing in the top 10 in FP3 would be a good result, managed to improve to a 1m30.948s to finish third behind Quartararo – who didn’t better his previous time.
On his final lap, Quartararo looked to consolidate second place with a 1m30.682s, while fourth-place Marquez found a little more time with a 1m30.785s to get safely into Q2.
But it was France’s other hero, Zarco, who lit up the timing screens in his final attempt on his Pramac Ducati to take first place with a time of 1m30.537s.
This edged out Bangaia, who stayed second behind the checkered flag ahead of Quartararo and Marquez while Miller was fifth.
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro improved late to sixth and secured his place in Q2 while Nakagami finished eighth.
Alex Rins crept into the top 10 at the death with a 1m31.087s in eighth, although Suzuki teammate Mir was unable to follow him into direct Q2 places in 13th.
Pol Espargaro on his Honda maintained a ninth place in Q2 despite a crash at Turn 6 early in the session, while pacesetter Bastianini finished tenth on Friday on his performance in FP2 after his session was interrupted by a late mechanical issue on his Gresini Ducati had been.
Martin was denied a place in Q2 by 0.003s, with Rins’ late improvement also proving to be detrimental to Maverick Vinales’ hopes of a second Aprilia in 12th place.
KTM’s miserable Le Mans weekend continued on Saturday morning as Brad Binder emerged as the best RC16 in 15th, 0.816s back, while teammate Miguel Oliveira was only 18th.
Qualifying for the 2022 MotoGP French GP starts today at 2:10 p.m.