But the prize up for grabs wasn’t a race victory, or even a place on the podium.
Instead the trio were battling over what might turn out to be valuable points for ninth place, which ultimately went in Quartararo’s favour by 0.2s over Vinales, with Mir just 0.085s further back at the end of a wet and wild Le Mans race.
“That fight for ninth position was like a fight for victory!” smiled Quartararo. “It was fun and everyone gave 100%.
“Some people said nobody wants to win this championship, but we showed everybody wants to win it!”
Quartararo began the race on pole, but it soon became clear that the Yamahas were nowhere near as competitive in the wet as they had been in the dry.
Struggling to get heat into the rear tyre, Quartararo dropped to eleventh before halting his decline and, aided by mistakes by some of those in front, was at the head of a four-way fight with Stefan Bradl, Mir and Vinales as the last lap began.
Bradl was able to escape, but when Quartararo’s nearest title rival Mir made a pass the Petronas rider had to respond.
“I think it’s the first time in a race that I’m thinking about the championship,” Quartararo said. “When Joan overtook me I said ‘no way’. I will not finish without trying something.
“I braked so hard in Turn 9 and overtook him, pushed him a little bit wide but I was also wide because I was over the limit. It was quite fun, I would prefer to finish at the front but this was quite a great overtake.”
Vinales followed Quartararo through and the Frenchman was therefore able to gain two points on Mir, building his title advantage to 10 points with five races remaining.
‘I thought Dovi won today… Then I looked again’
More good news was to follow for the world championship leader when he looked up at the TV screens on the slow down lap.
“Honestly, when I crossed the finish line I was happy to finish in front of Joan and Maverick, but then I looked at the screen and I saw a red guy had won. I said ‘Dovi won today so he’s getting way closer’.
“But then I looked again and it was Petrucci and I said ‘oh, this is good!’ Then I looked at second place, it was Alex, third place was Pol.
“Alex has been extremely fast today and he deserved a lot the podium. I’m really happy for him, for Petrucci and for Pol because they finished in front of Dovi! I think that’s great news for us!
“For our first race in the wet it could have been worse. It’s really a strange year and I’m happy to still be leading the championship.”
Mir, ten points behind Quartararo but eight ahead of Dovizioso, gave a similar ‘could be worse’ verdict.
“I think both of us [Quartararo and I] had a bad race,” said the Suzuki rider. “Both of us were not in the position that people expected us to be. It was OK, because in dry conditions, [Quartararo] had something more than everyone else, so he had the chance of victory today.
“I was not one of the fastest in dry conditions. Probably we would be fighting for the top five. But at the end, top five for me and Quartararo taking victory would be a bigger points difference. So it’s OK like this.
“To make one bad race is allowed, but what we cannot do is to repeat this performance in Aragon. We have to get back our feelings, and to be back on the podium.”
While more than happy with his dry pace, Quartararo is also wary that they will need to be more competitive in future wet events.
“I’m not worried about the cold because we managed quite well. It’s the wet,” Quartararo said.
“Our main problem in these kinds of conditions is that we are struggling a lot to warm-up the tyres on the rear on the edge and on the exit. So that’s why the beginning of the race was terrible for us.
“We risked a lot by making a big change on the bike because in [the wet] FP1 I felt really bad. Actually, it was a better feeling, still struggling a lot to warm-up the tyres, but I was a bit worried before the race because I never tried the setting I would be racing!
“My first race in the wet, first time with the setting, in pole position, so I was a bit nervous. But in the end, it was not so bad.
“I think this is a track that favours the more powerful bikes in the wet because you can’t really make fast corner speed in the wet. But we also saw that Alex Rins was really fast [on an inline 4], unfortunately he crashed, but he was there and fighting for victory.”
Vinales completes a title top four covered by 19 points, with fifth place Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) 34 points adrift.