Red Bull KTM factory rider Jack Miller led MotoGP Free Practice Two (FP2) Friday afternoon in Le Mans, France.
Riding his RC16 on Michelin control tires, the Australian lapped the 2.6-mile (4.2 km) circuit in 1:30.950, which was quicker than Francesco Bagnaia’s 2022 Race Lap Record of 1:31.778 it was faster than the 1:31.449 Miller did in FP1.
Aleix Espargaro was best of the rest with a time of 1:31.069 on his Aprilia RS-GP.
Marco Bezzecchi finished FP2 in third with a 1:31.150 on his Mooney VR46 Racing Team Ducati Desmosedici.
The top 15 riders in FP2 were covered by just over one second.
More, from a press release issued by Dorna:
Miller fastest, Marquez IN, Quartararo OUT: Friday in France sets the stage for another super Saturday
Miller, Aleix & Bezzecchi head the charge to Q2 as Marquez plays cat and mouse with Pecco, Zarco moves through on home turf and Quartararo faces Q1
Friday, 12 May 2023
Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took centre stage on Day 1 of the Shark Grand Prix de France, with the Australian topping both P1 and P2 to sail through to an automatic place in Q2. The day was full of headlines once again, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) and Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) making two to end the day in second and third, respectively, and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) already back in the limelight.
First, for getting through to Q2 as the number 93 was back on track and back on the pace. Second, for two crashes, one in P1 and one in P2, rider ok. Third, for a little on-track discussion with Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) as the eight-time World Champion followed the rider currently holding that throne. Both played it down but it made for some good spectating.
LAST DASH FOR Q2
As ever, the fight for a place in Q2 went to the wire, and it had to be all or nothing for Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), who was well aware of the importance of bagging a Q2 spot at his home Grand Prix. The Frenchman began to put on the afterburners in the final twenty minutes. Riding on the ragged edge, Quartararo’s first flyer ended early with a big moment onboard his Yamaha, seeing him make a dramatic save to regroup and put the hammer down once again.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the first to reshuffle the order as the South African hit the top of the timesheets to beat his teammates P1 time to make it a KTM one-two, however, until the final 10 minutes came and Miller retook the top spot. But then came Bezzecchi as he grabbed P1, with Miller nearly able to reply but not quite.
Meanwhile, Aleix Espargaro was on a flyer as the Spaniard set red sectors to slot himself into P2, and with two and half minutes remaining the timing screens really began to light up.
Espargaro, Bezzecchi, Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) was the order with just one minute left, and the fans were on their feet as their home hero Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) began to put down red sectors as he chased down the flying Miller. Miller wasn’t to be caught though, going top to set the first and only 1:30, but Zarco put himself into P5 to push Aleix Espargaro and Bezzecchi down a spot each… and push Bagnaia out of Q2 as it stood.
With Espargaro and Bezzecchi holding strong in 2nd and 3rd, Martin consolidated P4 just ahead of his teammate, as Aprilia Racing’s Maverick Viñales then bagged P6 ahead of Binder in P7. The South African crashed in the latter stages and couldn’t quite get his teeth into the shootout.
PECCO VS MARQUEZ
It was, in some ways, a familiar sight for Bagnaia as he looked behind with eleven minutes to go to see Marc Marquez right on his rear wheel. The Repsol Honda rider was looking to use the reigning World Champion to tow him into a Q2 position, but Bagnaia wasn’t giving into the mind games as the Italian rode back into pitlane to shake off the Spaniard.
That left Pecco with a final push and as Bagnaia headed back out onto the circuit, it was a last-chance saloon scenario for the Ducati man as he was sat outside of Q2 contention in P12. A swarm of riders followed him with just six minutes left on the clock, but this time Marquez slotted himself behind Martin, who in turn was shadowing Bagnaia. That did the trick.
Bagnaia just bagged a Q2 spot to put himself into P9, whilst Marc Marquez then has different dramas to worry about. He took a second tumble of the day, rider perfectly ok if looking encouragingly angry at the error, but makes it into Q2 on his return to competition. Need we remind what he achieved last time he competed in that session…
ALL EYES ON Q1
Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) just made it into the top ten, leaving some fellow fast faces in Q1. Quartararo is the headline act, certainly for the home fans, as the Frenchman looks to find a way through. After deciding to go back to the same chassis as raced in Jerez and those fast lap woes continuing, he’ll have to fight it out against the likes of Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), COTA winner Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) and Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team). Mir had a solid morning in France and then suffered an adventurous afternoon session with a crash and a run off.
Both KTMs are through. Bagnaia seems a little more on the back foot than some venues. Marc Marquez is through, although after two tip offs. Quartararo is looking to move forward… Friday set us up for another super Saturday of MotoGP™ action. The stage is dressed for Qualifying and the Tissot Sprint, and here’s when it all gets underway in GMT+2:
MotoGP™ FP: 10:10
MotoGP™ Q1: 10:50
MotoGP™ Q2: 11:15
Tissot Sprint: 15:00
Lowes edges out Acosta by 0.005, Lopez within a tenth
The podium finishers from Jerez kept their roll on Friday in France, with Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) back on top to end Day 1 fastest, followed by Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Alonso Lopez (Lightech SpeedUp). The three were covered by just 0.093 and Acosta was only 0.005 off the top.
Lowes crashed twice in P1 but gathered it together in the afternoon to take back to the top, and the double crasher moniker went the way of fellow frontrunner Aron Canet (Pons Wegow Los40). Riders ok. Canet, however, didn’t improve in P2 and ended Day 1 in 13th.
Behind the top three back up near the top, Filip Salač (QJMotor Gresini Moto2™) takes P4 overall after going fastest in the morning, with Celestino Vietti (Fantic Racing) next up after a solid day from the Italian as he looks to get back to winning ways. Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) takes P6, with Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team), who starts the weekend equal on points with Acosta at the top of the title table, in seventh.
Sokmiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Albert Arenas (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Manuel Gonzalez (Correos Prepago Yamaha VR46 MasterCamp) complete the top ten on Day 1, edging out Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) by just 0.005. P3 on Saturday morning is the next challenge as the field look to secure their spots in Q2, yhen it’s qualifying from 13:45 (GMT +2)!
Masia makes a late move to deny Sasaki on Friday
Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) ends Day 1 at the Shark Grand Prix de France on top, just over a tenth clear of fellow veteran Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) after the Japanese rider was also fastest in P1. Masia had been nine tenths off the Husqvarna rider before hitting back in the afternoon.
Xavier Artigas (CFMoto Racing PrüstelGP) was third overall, ahead of veteran Romano Fenati (Rivacold Snipers Team) and Championship leader Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3).
One rider having a tougher day of it was COTA and Jerez winner Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team). He crashed in both sessions, and had ended P1 in 18th, but moved up to seventh overall on a good recovery mission, just behind rookie Jose Antonio Rueda (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) was eighth after having been second in the morning, and was the only rider in the top 20 to not improve his time in P2, with Joel Kelso (CFMoto PrüstelGP) and Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) locking out the top 10.
For full results from P2 and overall, click below! Then come back for more with P3 underway at 8:40 (GMT +2) on Saturday, before qualifying from 12:50.