With rain forecast for Saturday, Friday’s MotoGP practice sessions at the Le Mans circuit in France took on a sense of urgency as the new qualifying format now places increased emphasis on practice times, with only the ten quickest riders (plus the top two riders in the Q1 session) eligible for the Q2 qualifying session that determines the front four rows. When the dust had settled, it was the Repsol Honda pair of Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez occupying the top two spots, with the Factory Yamaha Racing duo of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo completing the top four. Rossi in particular seemed revitalized after some so-so finishes at Austin and Jerez, which he credited to some improvement in front-end feel after some changes during Friday’s practice.
Dani Pedrosa was quickest...
Dani Pedrosa was quickest on Friday at the Le Mans circuit.
“In today's practice sessions it was important to test the tires and make the most of the dry track time,” said Pedrosa, “because here you usually don't have that opportunity. So I tried to stay out on track for as long as possible and gather the best information, because maybe tomorrow it will rain—and you don't have that chance again. Luckily the weather held up and we were able to make some positive steps, which we hope to capitalize on for the race on Sunday."
Marc Marquez slipped past...
Marc Marquez slipped past Valentino Rossi by 0.004 seconds to go second quickest.
Marquez adapted well to his first time at Le Mans on the Honda RC213V, eventually qualifying just 0.134 seconds behind his teammate. “In the first session I got a bit overwhelmed, because I could tell that the track was not allowing much space for me between the corners with this bigger bike and faster pace,” said Marquez. “I didn't have much time to think. I was calmer in the afternoon and things went much better. This track is all about accelerating and then braking, although the final sector is more twisty and has some longer corners. It is only Friday, and we still have work to do. Tomorrow, if the track is dry, we will improve our times—but the forecast predicts rain. With a little luck, on Sunday we will have a dry track and be able to have a good race."
A revitalized Valentino Rossi...
A revitalized Valentino Rossi was third quickest at Le Mans, and happy to be competitive again.
“I could brake hard, which was the main problem in Austin and also in Jerez so it's a good day,” said a happy Rossi. “Today we were good in braking because we modified the settings and we tried two different settings to understand which way to follow to improve the braking, that was the main problem. This morning was not too bad and this afternoon especially I made the comparison one more time. I took the setting I preferred with some small modifications and the last run was very good. We try to modify also the rear for to not stress the rear tire so much; that helped me a lot; I did my best laps with a used tire that had more than 30 laps on. The practice this afternoon was good so I’m happy. We are already quite good with the setting of the bike so now we wait for the weather tomorrow. In case of rain we are more or less ready and if dry we can try something else, some small details to modify. We are very close to those in front so it's not so bad.”
Jorge Lorenzo clearly wasn't...
Jorge Lorenzo clearly wasn't as happy as Rossi, and said that "a lot of margin for improvement" is needed.
Lorenzo clearly wasn’t as happy as his teammate, despite being only 0.166 seconds off the top spot. “We are changing the bike to improve the feeling because at the moment we have a lot of margin for improvement,” lamented the Majorcan. “I think we can make a big step to improve the constant pace for the race. I think if it rains tomorrow things will change completely and it will be a different story. We will have to be as always more careful and have more concentration in the wet.”
MotoGP Le Mans Friday practice results:
1. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda 1:34.035
2. Marc Marquez (SPA) Honda 1:34.169
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA)Yamaha 1:34.173
4. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha 1:34.201
5. Stefan Bradl (GER) Honda 1:34.299
6. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha 1:34.512
7. Andrea Dovisioso (ITA) Ducati 1:34.578
8. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 1:34.590
9. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Honda 1:34.739
10. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) ART/Aprilia 1:35.045
11. Bradley Smith (GBR)Yamaha 1:35.362
12. Andrea Iannone (ITA) Ducati 1:35.433
13. Randy De Puniet (FRA) ART/Aprilia 1:35.447
14. Michele Pirro (ITA) Ducati 1:35.864
15. Hector Barbera (SPA) FTR/Kawasaki 1:35.940
16. Colin Edwards (USA) FTR/Kawasaki 1:36.449
17. Claudio Corti (ITA) FTR/Kawasaki 1:36.643
18. Karel Abraham (CZE) ART/Aprilia 1:36.759
19. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Ioda/BMW 1:36.764
20. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) FTR/Kawasaki 1:36.821
21. Yonny Hernandez (COL) ART/Aprilia 1:37.104
22. Bryan Staring (AUS) FTR/Honda 1:37.878
23. Michael Laverty (IRL) ART/Aprilia 1:38.023
24. Lukas Pesek (CZE) Ioda/BMW 1:38.818