MotoGP: Maverick Vinales Steps Up To Lead Tight FP2 At Le Mans (Updated)

MotoGP: Maverick Vinales Steps Up To Lead Tight FP2 At Le Mans (Updated)

© 2019, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. by David Swarts

MotoGP Race Lap Record: Maverick Vinales, 1:32.309, 2017

MotoGP All Time Lap Record: Johann Zarco, 1:31.185, 2018

2019 FIM MotoGP World Championship

Bugatti Circuit

Le Mans, France

May 17, 2019

Free Practice Two Results (all on Michelin tires):

1. Maverick Vinales, Spain (Yamaha), 1:31.428

2. Marc Marquez, Spain (Honda), 1:31.618

3. Fabio Quartararo, France (Yamaha), 1:31.713

4. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain (Honda), 1:31.716

5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy (Ducati), 1:31.736

6. Danilo Petrucci, Italy (Ducati), 1:31.899, crash

7. Pol Espargaro, Spain (KTM), 1:31.923

8. Aleix Espargaro, Spain (Aprilia), 1:32.132

9. Takaaki Nakagami, Japan (Honda), 1:32.203

10. Franco Morbidelli, Italy (Yamaha), 1:32.239

11. Cal Crutchlow, UK (Honda), 1:32.270, crash

12. Francesco Bagnaia, Italy (Ducati), 1:32.285

13. Valentino Rossi, Italy (Yamaha), 1:32.320

14. Joan Mir, Spain (Suzuki), 1:32.322

15. Alex Rins, Spain (Suzuki), 1:32.385

16. Jack Miller, Australia (Ducati), 1:32.573, crash

17. Johann Zarco, France (KTM), 1:32.574

18. Karel Abraham, Czech Republic (Ducati), 1:32.999

19. Andrea Iannone, Italy (Aprilia), 1:33.141

20. Miguel Oliveira, Portugal (KTM), 1:33.401

21. Tito Rabat, Spain (Ducati), 1:33.431

22. Hafizh Syahrin, Malaysia (KTM), 1:33.903

More, from a press release issued by Red Bull KTM Tech3:

Red Bull KTM Tech3 experiences uphill opening to their home round

Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin initiated the French Grand Prix with some progress today, although their final positions didn’t reflect the hard work of riders and team.

Red Bull KTM Tech3’s MotoGP rookie Oliveira lowered his lap time around the crew’s home track from FP1 to FP2 by 0.828 seconds to conclude Friday 1.163 seconds off the top 10. On the other side, Syahrin made a huge step this afternoon as well to go 1.576 seconds faster than during the morning session. The Malaysian ended up 0.502 seconds behind his teammate.

Tomorrow’s action is set to start with FP3 at 9.55 local time followed by FP4 (13.30) and the all-important Qualifying session at 14.10.

Miguel Oliveira

Position: 20th

Time: 1:33.401

Laps: 39

“Actually, this hasn’t been the best start at this track, but we did some changes on the bike before the second Free Practice that I liked a lot. I was able to feel more comfortable and to go faster than this morning, which was the target. Obviously, everyone is quite close to each other, so it’s really hard for me to judge if today was good or not. Anyway, we look forward to improve a bit more tomorrow and definitively to be faster.”

Hafizh Syahrin

Position: 22nd

Time: 1:33.903

Laps: 38

“During the day we made a big improvement, although we know that we are still far behind. At least, we move forward step by step. In the beginning of the session like in FP1 we always have a quite huge gap to the rest of the riders, though I was trying to push and to understand, but I didn’t have confidence in the first Free Practice session. Later in FP2, we made a really good move forward as we tried some different settings than this morning, which helped me to stop the bike better and to enter the corners faster. I could have improved my lap time even more on the last lap, but I did a mistake in the last sector. I still believe, that we can get further towards the top, but we need to work hard, stay focused and keep the motivation high.”

More, from a press release issued by Aprilia Gresini Racing:

GOOD START FOR ALEIX WHO RIDES HIS APRILIA INTO THE TOP TEN ON THE FIRST DAY

ANDREA GRITS HIS TEETH AND IS BACK IN THE SADDLE AFTER THE JEREZ INJURY BUT HIS WORK ON DEVELOPMENT IS HINDERED BY HIS FOOT

It was a good day of practice in France for Aleix Espargaró who finished the first two practice sessions in eighth place. The time of 1’32.132 places him solidly in the top ten, despite a crash a few minutes from the end of FP2 that kept him from improving even further. In any case, there was a clear step forward compared to the morning that places him among the best while everyone waits to see if the weather, always cantankerous in North-eastern France, will let the riders improve on their times in the Saturday morning session.

Andrea Iannone tackled his first day of practice with the unpleasant company of pain in his left foot due to the accident which forced him to miss the last GP in Jerez. Andrea, also busy dialling in his RS-GP, improved his times by almost one second between the first and second session, finishing 19th at 1’33.141. It seems that he and his team are moving in the right direction, especially in the braking phase, and they will continue working in this direction tomorrow for the qualifiers.

ALEIX ESPARGARO’

“Despite a less-than-perfect feeling, I finished a good lap toward the end of FP2 that put us in the top ten. Our biggest difficulty right now is acceleration. We don’t have much rear grip and on a stop-and-go track like this one we are forced to make it all up in braking. Doing that is risky, because it is easy to make mistakes when braking late, which is what happened in the second session. We took a step forward after FP1, but we still need to improve further in this area.”

ANDREA IANNONE

“I’m still not at 100% with the ankle. I am suffering a bit in braking because of the pain, but that is not what is limiting us the most. We are working on trying to stop the bike better. Braking is where we struggle the most and that then compromises the other riding phases, like coming out of corners and acceleration. We made a good improvement compared to the morning and we’ll keep working in this direction. So, I’ll grit my teeth and continue giving it my all.”

More, from a press release issued by Pramac Racing:

#FrenchGP FP. Precious Top 10 for Jack, protagonist of a great FP1 while Pecco improves lap by lap

The free practices of the Grand Prix of Le Mans end with a good result for Jack Miller – 10th in the combined standing – who would be directly qualified to Q2 in case of rain tomorrow. Constant progress for Pecco (13th after Friday’s free practices) who is very close to the Top 10 and seems to be in great confidence.

FP1 (Practice Conditions: Dry – Air 15° – Ground 26°)

P7 Jack Miller (1’32.238, +0.252 from P1)

Extremely incisive start for Jack who stays in first position for a long time. The Australian finished seventh but is among the few not to have used the soft rubber at the rear.

P13 Francesco Bagnaia (1’32.982, +0.222 from Top 10, +0.996 from P1)

After a small technical issue in the first run, lap after lap Pecco becomes familiar with the circuit of Le Mans and finishes very close to the Top 10.

FP2 (Practice Conditions: Dry – Air 20° – Ground 31°)

P12 Francesco Bagnaia (1’32.285, +0.046 from Top 10, +0.875 from P1)

As in FP1, Pecco improves lap by lap managing to stay closer to the Top 10. In the time attack, however, he can not find the ideal conditions to get the top 10 and he will be hoping for good weather tomorrow to try to win the Q2.

P16 Jack Miller (1’32.573, +0.364 from Top 10, +1.145 from P1)

It was a difficult session for Jack, who crashed in the first lap and was forced to stay in the pits for 15 minutes. The team did a great job allowing him to return to the track with bike 1 but the feeling is not the same as in the morning. The lap time of the FP1 still allows him to finish in the Top 10.

P13 – Pecco Bagnaia

“I’m satisfied. The race pace is good and I feel that we are making important progress. It’s a shame about the time attack: I found some traffic on track and I couldn’t push as hard as I could. The feeling is very positive. We’ll try again tomorrow morning “.

P10 – Jack Miller

“It was a very strange crash. I honestly didn’t really understand what happened. After the crash the feeling with the bike was not the same as I started to feel some vibrations. We still managed to take the Top 10 and this could be important in view of qualifying”

More, from a press release issued by PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team:

Brilliant start by Fabio Quartararo at his home GP

The Frenchman leads FP1 and finishes 3rd on the combined timesheets, whilst Franco Morbidelli goes 11th fastest overall at Le Mans.

CLEAR SKY | AIR 20ºC | TRACK 31ºC | HUMIDITY 39%

3rd FABIO QUARTARARO +0.285

11th FRANCO MORBIDELLI +0.811

PETRONAS Yamaha SRT sensation Fabio Quartararo had a superb start to the weekend at the FrenchGP, ending Friday third fastest in the MotoGP class and topping the timesheets in FP1. Team-mate Franco Morbidelli ran for much of the day in the top ten but ended his day just outside with the 11th fastest time.

In the first practice session for his home round, Quartararo was the man to watch. He clocked a 1 min 31.986 secs time on his final lap, in which he used a soft front and rear tyre. The PETRONAS Yamaha SRT rider was the only man to go round in the 1 min 31 secs in the morning and headed a Free Practice session for the first time in his premier class career.

Morbidelli gave a maiden race weekend runout to the updated aerodynamic winglets that he tested at Jerez last week. The Italian finished in 12th place, with a time of 1 min 32.887 secs, after having been in the top five at the midway point of FP1.

In the afternoon, both PETRONAS Yamaha SRT riders followed the same plan as in the morning. Quartararo was the pacesetter for much of FP2 and remained fast when the times came tumbling down late on. His definitive lap time was a 1 min 31.713 secs, for third overall. Morbidelli also improved on his morning time, breaking into the top ten, but his 1 min 32.239 secs lap would put him 11th overall – just outside the provisional Q2 spots.

Quartararo and Morbidelli have an FP3 and FP4 session tomorrow, followed by Q1 at 2:10pm local time and Q2 at 2:35pm. Quartararo took pole position at the most recent round, the Spanish GP and he will try to make another great performance at his Home GP.

#21 Franco Morbidelli

“In general, today has been a positive day. We felt comfortable with the medium tyre and I had a good feeling overall. When we tried the soft tyre, the feeling wasn’t what I expected and I started to skid out slightly with the front. We will try to understand what happened and improve it for tomorrow. We need to continue working on making improvements, but in general our pace is good. I would like to send my condolences to the family and friends of the marshal who passed away today. Marshals always do a very important task during each Grand Prix and riders and teams must always thank them for their hard work.”

#20 Fabio Quartararo

“Today has been a very positive day. At first it was a bit difficult, because the braking reference in FP1 was somewhat tricky, but that was something that went a little better in FP2. I’m happy overall. We worked on our pace today, and while we still have to improve things, I feel good on the bike and I’m satisfied. Tomorrow we will continue working on what will be an important day, and we’ll see what the weather is like. I think this track is good for the Yamaha; we saw Viñales go really fast today. I’m enjoying my home GP; I don’t feel like I’m under pressure and I’m having fun with the fans. I also would like to send all my support to the friends and family of the marshal who passed away today at Le Mans. It has been very sad news for everybody.”

More, from a press release issued by Mission Winnow Ducati:

French GP: Dovizioso and Petrucci respectively fifth and sixth in Friday’s free-practice at Le Mans

The Ducati Team resumed track action today at Le Mans (France) for the fifth round of the 2019 MotoGP Championship. Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci took fifth and sixth position respectively in the combined time sheets at the end of Friday’s free-practice.

Second in the morning session, Dovizioso further improved his lap times by about four tenths of a second in FP2, posting a personal best of 1:31.736, 0.308 seconds behind the provisional leader. Petrucci, third in FP1, also showed progress in the afternoon despite an early crash without physical consequences, finishing just 0.163 behind his teammate with a personal best of 1:31.899.

Andrea Dovizioso (#04 Ducati Team) – 1:31.736 (5th)

“We’ve just started the weekend, but my sensations on the bike are quite good. Compared to last year, however, there are more competitive riders so there’s quite a pack fighting for top positions, but we’re part of that. We still need to improve some details to be able to keep the pace we have in mind. We tried different setups and evaluated several tyre options, making a step forward during FP2, but we still have room for improvement and we’ll need to be smart and put together all the data we gathered to be even more competitive tomorrow and prepare for the race in the best possible way.”

Danilo Petrucci (#9 Ducati Team) – 1:31.899 (6th)

“This morning we started off on the right foot, while the crash at the beginning of FP2 forced us to slightly modify our program. The feeling with my Desmosedici GP was slightly better during FP1, but I think this is due to the trickier conditions of the tarmac in the afternoon, as the multiple crashes seem to indicate. We’ve made a comparison between different setups and now we’ll look for the best possible compromise to make another step forward tomorrow. I want to try to be more competitive during qualifying and then play our cards right during the race.”

The Ducati Team will resume action tomorrow, May 18th, at 09:55 for a third free-practice session ahead of qualifying, which will start after FP4, at 14:10 local time (CET).

More, from a press release issued by Repsol Honda:

Repsol Honda Team show fine form in France

Marc Marquez and teammate Jorge Lorenzo completed a positive opening day of practice in France, taking second and fourth respectively.

Building on the work done in Free Practice 1, Marc Marquez was immediately able to lap in the low 1’32s and quickly moved to top the time sheets during the second session. Although focusing on longer runs, Marquez remained quickest for much of the session and ended the day with a 1’31.618, the second fastest rider of the day.

A small fall at Turn 8 early in Free Practice 1 did little to upset Jorge Lorenzo’s Friday performance in France. A calm start to Free Practice 2 saw Lorenzo explode to the top of the time sheets in the closing minutes of the session. Ultimately setting a 1’31.716 to end the day in fourth overall.

Action resumes in France with Free Practice 3 at 09:55 local time on Saturday, May 18, and Q2 then starting at 14:35 local time. Mixed forecasts mean the Repsol Honda Team are ready for rain or shine tomorrow.

Marc Marquez

2ND 1’31.618

“The feeling is great today and I’m very happy because we were able to work in a good way, like always. The only change we made was a new tyre at the end of FP2 where normally we use the same tyres. With the weather looking unstable tomorrow it was best to do this. Also today I made a big save in FP1, it was my second run and I was able to save it but it took me by surprise a little bit because it’s so bumpy. Another nice video for the collection! There are many fast people and with the changing weather we will maintain our focus.”

Jorge Lorenzo

4TH 1’31.716

“Today didn’t start in the ideal way with the crash this morning. I was running with too much lean over the curbs and wasn’t able to save it. We came back stronger, in Free Practice 2 we made one change to the bike and I was able to feel much better on corner entry. It has helped a lot and we will keep trying different bits to become more and more confident. Conditions look like they could change tomorrow, but for today it was positive.”

More, from a press release issued by Monster Energy Yamaha:

VIÑALES SETS BENCHMARK TIME ON FIRST DAY OF FRENCH GP WEEKEND

GRAND PRIX OF FRANCE

FREE PRACTICE

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi have started their quest at the Le Mans Bugatti Grand Prix race circuit with mixed results. The first free practice sessions were dry, so the team-mates used all the available time to try various set-up options, ending the day in 1st and 14th place respectively in the combined FP timesheets.

1st MAVERICK VIÑALES 1’31.428 / 21 + 21 LAPS

14th VALENTINO ROSSI 1’32.320 / 18 + 20 LAPS

The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team had a full-on first day at the Grand Prix de France, preparing for Sunday’s race. Maverick Viñales likes the Le Mans circuit, and it showed today as his pace was unmatched in the dry FP2 session, earning him 1st place. Valentino Rossi left it late to finalise his set-up and ended the day in 14th place.

Viñales stuck to the plan he made in the run-up to the weekend in Le Mans. He wanted to make a strong start to the French GP, and he was quick to position himself in the mix for top billing in the morning session. He showed great confidence in his pace, opting to keep his attention on the setting of his YZR-M1 rather than putting in a fast lap with a soft rear tyre, and still remained inside the top-5. He set a best time of 1’32.203s for fourth place, 0.217s from first.

The Spaniard kept the good vibes going in the afternoon, despite threatening clouds invading the Bugatti circuit. He quickly moved up into the top-3 again and spent the remainder of the session getting ready to fire in hot laps during the final minutes. He wrapped up FP2 with a stunning final run, setting multiple fastest laps of the day, to finish in first place with a 1‘31.428s, 0.190s ahead of his closest rival.

Rossi started the FP1 session with the intention to follow up on the leads found in the Jerez test. However, after encountering a chain issue halfway through the session, he had to alter his planning. The Italian hurried back to the pit box and headed out on his second bike. He pushed in the latter stages to make the top-10, bettering his time to a 1‘32.760s in the process, and finished in tenth place, 0.774s from the front.

The Doctor had his work cut out for him during FP2, trying to make up for lost time. He continued to perfect the set-up of his YZR-M1 until the last four minutes of the session. He put in a soft rear tyre for a time attack, hoping to be able to move into the top-10 again, but as he only had enough time for one flying lap, he ended up in 13th place. His best lap of 1’32.320s puts him in 14th place overall for the day, 0.892s from the top.

MASSIMO MEREGALLI

TEAM DIRECTOR

“It‘s been a mixed first day for us in terms of results. On the one side we have Maverick, who is feeling really comfortable. He showed competitive speed in a race configuration and even more so on his flying lap with the soft rear tyre. Valentino, on the other hand, was unlucky to face some setbacks in FP1 that cost him track time. Because of this, they had to really work hard in FP2 trying different set-ups, and this meant there was only time left for one hot lap. Today he finished outside of the top-10 and, if the weather forecast is correct, FP3 will be wet, so this means he might have to take part in Q1 again. Anyway, we hope that it will remain dry, so we can continue working on the set-ups. Should it rain tomorrow, today‘s data could be vital if Sunday‘s race turns out to be dry.”

MAVERICK VIÑALES

“It’s been a very positive start to the weekend for me. I think we found our set-up very fast, so I was able to make many laps and I felt quite good with the bike. I have good feeling, also with the tyres, but anyway we need to keep working. There are still some places where I need to improve, also concerning my riding style, so tomorrow I have a lot of work to do. Let’s see what the weather will be like, because it seems to be uncertain. We will have to pay close attention in qualifying, because it will play an important role in being able to be in front during the race. For sure, we’ll have to make quick decisions. I haven’t ridden the bike in full wet yet, but in Austin I felt great on the wet tyres. So, I think tomorrow it will be important to understand in which direction to work and how to improve.”

VALENTINO ROSSI

“We had some problems during the day and, sincerely, I expected to be stronger, but unfortunately I wasn’t very fast, so we have to work this evening to try to find something better. In the end I did just one lap with the soft tyre and I’m outside the top-10, so now we have to hope that tomorrow morning I can ride in dry conditions to try to improve, and we have to try to work on the bike to have better pace.”

More, from a press release issued by Team Suzuki ECSTAR:

TRICKY AND TECHNICAL LE MANS TESTS RIDERS ON DAY 1

Joan Mir: 15th – 1:32.322 (+ 0.894)

Alex Rins: 16th – 1:32.385 (+ 0.957)

• Joan Mir hovers around Top 10 during Day 1

•Alex Rins working hard to improve lap times.

•Team keen to find strong set-up for race day.

Friday’s action at the historical circuit of Le Mans saw a few struggles for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, with Joan Mir and Alex Rins both sitting outside the Top 10 at the end of the day.

In the morning’s FP1 session, rookie Mir found some good pace and placed himself just 0.640 from the top, in 8th place. The youngster felt confident and was third fastest through sector 3. Meanwhile, Rins struggled to find his rhythm and ended the session in 17th place.

During FP2 both riders worked hard to try and ensure direct passage into Q2, with track temperatures predicted to be low in FP3 tomorrow morning, making it potentially tricky to improve. Despite bettering his lap time by over a second, Rins missed out on the Top 10 when other riders went for a final push, he was 16th at the line. Mir also found improved feeling during the afternoon, but he nevertheless ended the session in 14th place.

Davide Brivio – Team Manager

“I think the final results don’t represent what we feel we’re capable of. Both riders showed some good pace during the sessions, but we didn’t get to do an effective time attack. We’ll continue to work with the race in mind, and if the weather conditions are OK tomorrow, we hope to improve. Anyway, we collected a lot of useful information today.”

Joan Mir

“I’m quite happy about today, unfortunately I didn’t reach my goal of getting directly into Q2, but despite that I feel quite confident and I feel that my pace is not bad. I’m still missing that really fast lap, but I hope to get a good grid position tomorrow. If it’s wet it will be a new experience for me.”

Alex Rins

“We tried a lot of things today, some different tyre combinations and some adjustments with the set-up. But this track always produces tight lap times, with many riders running very close together. I’m not so far off but I’m down in 16th place, I’m just a tenth of a second from 10th position, so I still feel that things are going in a good way. I’m not too concerned about riding in Q1 if I have to.”

More, from a press release issued by LCR Honda Castrol:

WORK TO DO FOR CRUTCHLOW AT LE MANS

Cal Crutchlow looks to face an uphill task in qualifying for the French Grand Prix after a demanding opening day at Le Mans. The LCR Honda CASTROL rider struggled to find his rhythm as round five of the world championship got underway and finished down in 12th place overall on Friday.

Battling with the front end of his Honda, Crutchlow posted the 11th fastest lap in the morning’s FP1 session. With bad weather forecast for Saturday, all riders had their eyes on a top-10 position to ensure direct entry into Q2. But the Briton saw his hopes dashed by a fall towards the end of FP2 and is now hoping that the rain holds off tomorrow morning.

Cal Crutchlow – 11th

(1’32.270 – lap 12 of 18)

“I crashed going into turn four. We still don’t have a great feeling with the front end and it seemed that with the new rear tyre, it pushed the front and I went down. I didn’t do anything I hadn’t done there before, but the situation is what it is. I felt quite good with the hard rear tyre in the session, I was able to do a lap time when I needed. Anyway, I’m outside the top 10 which is never good on a Friday at Le Mans as it’s probably going to rain at some point. We just have to bite the bullet tomorrow morning and hopefully it stays dry.”

More, from a press release issued by LCR Honda Idemitsu:

TAKA BACK IN THE TOP 10 AT LE MANS

Takaaki Nakagami made a solid start as free practice for the French Grand Prix got underway at Le Mans on Friday. The LCR Honda IDEMITSU rider once again cracked the top 10 to ensure he’s in good shape should the bad weather forecast for Saturday qualifying arrive as predicted.

Nakagami endured a rather low-key morning as he managed only the 15th fastest time in FP1. However, he improved by nearly a second in an FP2 session that saw multiple crashes, to finish the day in ninth position overall. That result will guarantee the Japanese star a place in Q2 should rain prevent the riders from improving their times in FP3 tomorrow.

Takaaki Nakagami – 9th

(1’32.203 – lap 17 of 20)

“We still had quite a struggle to find the grip, especially on the edge and we struggled in both the FP1 and FP2 sessions. But, luckily, I managed to get into the top 10 because the weather forecast tomorrow looks bad. Our first priority is to get into the top 10 and get into Q2; we used two soft tyres, that was our strategy and we did well, but we still need to improve on the edge grip.”

“It’s been a long time since I rode in wet conditions with this bike, it would be like starting from zero. But it will be the same for everybody (if it rains on Saturday), so we’ll prepare well for all conditions and, if it does stay dry, we can continue to try and improve. If it’s wet, we’ll try two different set-ups on the bike and see what works best.”

More, from a press release issued by Dorna:

Viñales fights off Marquez to go fastest in France

…and Quartararo and Lorenzo get in the mix at the top, with Dovizioso next up in fifth

Friday, 17 May 2019

It was a high-stakes Friday in the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, with the weather fine on Day 1 but rain and worsening conditions expected on Saturday – meaning the end of FP2 became a frantic dash to ensure a provisional place in Q2. As the dust settled it was Monster Energy Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales at the top of the pile, with the 2017 race winner fast all day and deposing reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) by 0.190 seconds. Home hero Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) completed the top three after topping FP1, with the Frenchman’s pace showing no sign of abating.

The day started sunny before the Le Mans clouds loomed at the start of FP2 to serve as a reminder of the weather warnings for Saturday…not that anyone needed one. After some drama that saw Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) take a tumble and then Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller, it was Honda at the top with Marquez, followed by Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), but the timing screens were about to be painted red. With just under ten minutes to go to get that fast lap in, Repsol Honda Team’s Jorge Lorenzo bolted first and went fastest overall. It was game on.

Then Crutchlow crashed, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro capitalised to push the British rider out the provisional top ten, and Viñales moved the goal posts again to go top. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) then seemed on to go faster still but lost time near the end of the lap, before there was more drama as Aleix Espargaro crashed, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) crashed for a second time and then Miller followed his lead.

Meanwhile, Viñales was busy at the top going quicker again and that was, then, how it would stay. Marquez jumped from fifth to second across the two sessions, with Quartararo slotting into third and remaining ominous.

Lorenzo remained fourth overall as the Spaniard found some impressive pace in the afternoon, recovering from an FP1 crash to find some top form in France – a venue where he has six wins across all classes, five of which are in MotoGP™. Dovizioso stayed safely inside the top ten and ended Friday in fifth, just ahead of teammate Petrucci after ‘Petrux’ bounced back from his crash. Pol Espargaro, despite his eventful day, is seventh overall in yet another impressive performance from the 2013 Moto2™ Champion to put KTM on course for an automatic place in Q2, likewise brother Aleix, who puts Aprilia in P8.

Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was another with something to smile about after FP2, with the Japanese rider improving vastly upon his FP1 to end the day in ninth – just ahead of Miller. The Australian didn’t improve in FP2 but had done enough to edge out Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) by just 0.001 – something that could prove crucial.

That’s a phrase that two men will likely be repeating and regretting after a tough first day in France, chiefly Crutchlow down in P12 and nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). The ‘Doctor’ is P14 overall heading into FP3 and couldn’t crack the top ten, although he was another suffering some drama on Friday as one run in FP1 was interrupted by his chain coming off. Finally, second in the Championship Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) also had a tougher day. He’s down in P16 and could well face another fight through the pack on Sunday although it’s not stopped the Spaniard hitting the front yet.

That’s it from Day 1 at Le Mans and, come rain or shine on Saturday, we look set for a thriller of a qualifying day. Will FP3 stay dry and let the field improve? Or could Q1 even prove an advantage for those who are forced to fight it out and let them check out the conditions ahead of Q2? And, if the fight for pole in France sees rain shuffle the pack, who can master the classic venue in the wet? Find out from 9:55 (GMT +2) local time for FP3, before qualifying from 14:10.

Binder blasts KTM back to the top

South African leads the way on Friday after a late lunge for the front in France

Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) shot to the top late on Friday at the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, taking over as fastest from Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) late in FP2 – but not by much. A mere 0.049 split the two men by the end of play, with Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40) in third only 0.117 off the top.

Augusto Fernandez, fresh from his first Grand Prix podium at Jerez, was just behind teammate Baldassarri by 0.019 and took P4 overall, with replacement rider Mattia Pasini (Petronas Sprinta Racing) completing the top five just 0.007 in further arrears. Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) ended Day 1 in sixth.

Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) had an impressive first day in France as he topped FP1 and ended the day seventh overall despite a crash, edging out compatriot Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2), whose good form at Le Mans continued in 2019. Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was ninth by the end of Day 1, with Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) locking out the top ten as top rookie on Friday. Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) was just behind him, however, and fellow rookie Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was close behind in P13. Bo Bendsneyder (NTS RW Racing GP) put the sophomore amongst the debutants in P12.

Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) will be the final man moving straight through to Q2 if the weather switches on Saturday and laptimes can’t be improved in FP3, with the Spaniard just ahead of Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2). Lowes suffered a crash in FP2 and was the only rider who failed to improve on his morning’s laptime, making him a surprise name outside the graduation zone on Friday. That’s also true of the two men who trail him: Jorge Navarro (Lightech Speed Up), who’s been on the podium in both the last two races, and Le Mans master Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP), who crashed on Friday.

FP3 starts at 10:55 (GMT +2) for the intermediate class on Saturday, before qualifying from 15:05.

Ogura on fire on Friday

Japanese rookie sets the timesheets alight on Day 1 at Le Mans

Rookie Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) flew to the top of the timesheets on Friday in the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, a tenth clear of Jerez winner Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) despite the Italian crashing on Day 1. The afternoon saw all but one improve their laptimes, with Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) completing the top three after another top showing of pace from the Japanese rider.

The gaps all the way down the timesheets were better measured in hundredths than tenths and Suzuki was only 0.005 ahead of last year’s podium finisher Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai) by the end of the day. It stayed close to complete the top five, too: 2018 winner Albert Arenas (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team) was just 0.017 further back, 0.011 ahead of Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) in P6. The Italian, in turn, bested COTA winner and Championship leader Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) by only 0.015. Canet suffered a crash on Day 1.

Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) ended the day eighth overall after topping FP1, ahead of an impressive day’s work from rookie Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team), who had to be passed fit to ride after a foot fracture in Jerez. Dennis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46) completed the top ten.

Kazuki Masaki (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) was pushed down to P11 by just 0.002, 0.003 ahead of Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) as the Jerez polesitter crashed twice on Day 1. Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) was 13th, with Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) down in P14 by the end of play and as it stands, the last rider provisionally on course for a place in Q2. Fenati had a highside on Friday and headed to the medical centre but was declared fit, as was Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) after the Spaniard crashed too. He ended the day in P16, just behind Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing).

Has Friday decided the riders heading through to Q2? Will the weather worsen on Saturday? Or is there time left yet for a last push to the top…find out in FP3 at 9:00 (GMT +2) on Saturday, before qualifying from 12:35.

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