Having secured MotoGP™ pole again at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France Marc Marquez will head the grid for Sunday’s fifth race of 2014, with the front row also featuring Pol Espargaro and Andrea Dovizioso.

After the first flying laps Marquez was immediately top with a 1’32.567, to set a new fastest ever lap of Le Mans, the World Champion then improving to a remarkable 1’32.042 time to maintain his 100% qualifying record in 2014.

Repsol Honda’s Marquez was 0.692s clear of rookie Espargaro with the latter securing his best MotoGP grid result to date. Espargaro’s performance at his team’s home round will fill him with confidence ahead of just his fifth premier class race.

Making good use of the extra soft tyre Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso qualified 0.713s behind Marquez to take the final spot on the front row.

The second row features Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP), who has recovered quickly from arm pump surgery since Jerez, with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) reaching his personal target of qualifying in the top five as he slots in behind the German.

Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was 0.857s off pole in sixth place but he will still be confident of a good race at a venue where he has a strong record.

Making up an all Spanish the third row are Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini), top Open rider Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team).

The fourth row meanwhile comprises Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech3), Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing) and Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team), with Iannone briefly flashing up in second place provisionally before his lap time was cancelled as he exceeded the track limits.

MotoGP™ Qualifying Practice Classification

  1. Marc Marquez 93 ESP Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1’32.042
  2. Pol Espargaro 44 ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 1’32.734
  3. Andrea Dovizioso 4 ITA Ducati Team DUCATI 1’32.755
  4. Stefan Bradl 6 GER LCR Honda MotoGP HONDA 1’32.846
  5. Valentino Rossi 46 ITA Yamaha Factory YAMAHA 1’32.873
  6. Jorge Lorenzo 99 ESP Yamaha Factory Racing YAMAHA 1’32.899
  7. Alvaro Bautista 19 ESP Go & Fun Honda Gresini HONDA 1’33.006
  8. Aleix Espargaro 41 ESP NGM Mobile Forward Racing YAMAHA 1’33.015
  9. Dani Pedrosa 26 ESP Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1’33.023
  10. Bradley Smith 38 GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 1’33.058
  11. Andrea Iannone 29 ITA Pramac Racing DUCATI 1’33.102
  12. Cal Crutchlow 35 GBR Ducati Team DUCATI 1’33.315
  13. Nicky Hayden 69 USA Drive M7 Aspar HONDA 1’33.859
  14. Yonny Hernandez 68 COL Pramac Racing DUCATI 1’33.999
  15. Colin Edwards 5 USA NGM Mobile Forward Racing YAMAHA 1’34.203
  16. Scott Redding 45 GBR Go & Fun Honda Gresini HONDA 1’34.233
  17. Hiroshi Aoyama 7 JPN Drive M7 Aspar HONDA 1’34.457
  18. Karel Abraham 17 CZE Cardion AB Motoracing HONDA 1’34.880
  19. Hector Barbera 8 ESP Avintia Racing MotoGP FTR-KAWASAKI 1’35.499
  20. Broc Parkes 23 AUS Paul Bird Motorsport PBM 1’35.795
  21. Michael Laverty 70 GBR Paul Bird Motorsport ART & PBM 1’35.932
  22. Mike Di Meglio 63 FRA Avintia Racing MotoGP FTR-KAWASAKI 1’36.163
The last time a rider took pole and race victory at the first five races was way back in 1971 when Giacomo Agostini – the most successful rider in history – dominated on the MV Agusta.
The last time a rider took pole and race victory at the first five races was way back in 1971 when Giacomo Agostini – the most successful rider in history – dominated on the MV Agusta.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: pole position – 1m 32.042s - “I’m very happy to be on pole and also with the gap between myself and second place on the timesheet. Tomorrow will be interesting as my main rivals – Dani, Jorge and Valentino – are not on the front row but on rows two and three. However, I know they will be there in the battle and we must be prepared. Starting from pole is an advantage and I will try to capitalise from it and give 100 per cent – as always – to fight for the win!”
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: pole position – 1m 32.042s – “I’m very happy to be on pole and also with the gap between myself and second place on the timesheet. Tomorrow will be interesting as my main rivals – Dani, Jorge and Valentino – are not on the front row but on rows two and three. However, I know they will be there in the battle and we must be prepared. Starting from pole is an advantage and I will try to capitalise from it and give 100 per cent – as always – to fight for the win!”
Pol Espargaro - 2nd / 1'32,734 / 9 Laps - “I am flying high right now, and am really happy and proud that I was able to produce this lap at the team’s home race. This is very important for me, as the team and I have done a lot of work during the preseason and for the first few rounds, so this qualifying result is like a small victory. The race will still be a challenge, as there are many laps and not just one however I am confident with my pace. For sure, the factory riders may seem faster and have more experience, but starting from the front will still be a big advantage for me compared to the other races so far. I intend to fight whilst trying to learn as much as possible, and I feel like I can clinch a great result for the team and it would be perfect to go home with plenty of championship points in my pocket. I will make the most of the start and see what I can do.”
Pol Espargaro – 2nd / 1’32,734 / 9 Laps – “I am flying high right now, and am really happy and proud that I was able to produce this lap at the team’s home race. This is very important for me, as the team and I have done a lot of work during the preseason and for the first few rounds, so this qualifying result is like a small victory. The race will still be a challenge, as there are many laps and not just one however I am confident with my pace. For sure, the factory riders may seem faster and have more experience, but starting from the front will still be a big advantage for me compared to the other races so far. I intend to fight whilst trying to learn as much as possible, and I feel like I can clinch a great result for the team and it would be perfect to go home with plenty of championship points in my pocket. I will make the most of the start and see what I can do.”
Aleix Espargaro - 8th / 1’33.015 “Considering the problems we had yesterday, I’m satisfied of todays’ result. On this track we are struggling with the set up of the bike. We need to analyse the data in order to find a solution for the race. In qualifying we were quiet fast, the gap form the front row is not bad so I’m confident for the race. It will be important to make a good start and remain close to the front group especially in the first part of the race.”
Aleix Espargaro – 8th / 1’33.015 “Considering the problems we had yesterday, I’m satisfied of todays’ result. On this track we are struggling with the set up of the bike. We need to analyse the data in order to find a solution for the race. In qualifying we were quiet fast, the gap form the front row is not bad so I’m confident for the race. It will be important to make a good start and remain close to the front group especially in the first part of the race.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 3rd (1’32.755) - “Starting on the front row here at Le Mans is fabulous! My first run in Q2 was useful to get a good idea of how to do all the sectors; I really felt I could do a good lap with a new tyre and I succeeded in doing so. It’s important to start on the front row tomorrow, because we are all pretty close together. We’ve worked very well this weekend, we started off quite quick on Friday and not far from the frontrunners, but above all we’ve succeeded in  improving the feeling with the bike in every session. Today we also had a race pace that was pretty close to those up front. I don’t think we’ll manage to fight for the podium, but anything can happen and for sure starting from the front row will give us a big hand!”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 3rd (1’32.755) – “Starting on the front row here at Le Mans is fabulous! My first run in Q2 was useful to get a good idea of how to do all the sectors; I really felt I could do a good lap with a new tyre and I succeeded in doing so. It’s important to start on the front row tomorrow, because we are all pretty close together. We’ve worked very well this weekend, we started off quite quick on Friday and not far from the frontrunners, but above all we’ve succeeded in improving the feeling with the bike in every session. Today we also had a race pace that was pretty close to those up front. I don’t think we’ll manage to fight for the podium, but anything can happen and for sure starting from the front row will give us a big hand!”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 9th – 1m 33.023s “Free practice wasn’t too bad for us, but in qualifying we weren’t so great. I’m riding a little smoother this weekend and not so aggressive, due to my injured forearm, and when I wanted to push to improve my times I wasn’t really able to. I think that in general we have done a good job in practice and I will try to get a good start tomorrow, because I am very far back. It will be important to bring the tyre temperature up on the warm-up lap and try to overtake some riders in the opening laps.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 9th – 1m 33.023s “Free practice wasn’t too bad for us, but in qualifying we weren’t so great. I’m riding a little smoother this weekend and not so aggressive, due to my injured forearm, and when I wanted to push to improve my times I wasn’t really able to. I think that in general we have done a good job in practice and I will try to get a good start tomorrow, because I am very far back. It will be important to bring the tyre temperature up on the warm-up lap and try to overtake some riders in the opening laps.”
Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team #35) – 12th (1’33.315) - “I’m quite satisfied today because we made a big improvement in lap time, even though my grid position is not great and for the moment we are not quite fast enough. However we are a lot faster than Ducati last year and I am faster than what I went last year when I qualified fourth with another bike, so it shows the competition in MotoGP is tough. I will discuss with the team tonight a plan for tomorrow’s race; hopefully we can get a good start and challenge with some of the other guys to get a good result. I think it’ll be a big battle tomorrow!”
Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team #35) – 12th (1’33.315) – “I’m quite satisfied today because we made a big improvement in lap time, even though my grid position is not great and for the moment we are not quite fast enough. However we are a lot faster than Ducati last year and I am faster than what I went last year when I qualified fourth with another bike, so it shows the competition in MotoGP is tough. I will discuss with the team tonight a plan for tomorrow’s race; hopefully we can get a good start and challenge with some of the other guys to get a good result. I think it’ll be a big battle tomorrow!”

Moto2™: First intermediate class pole for rookie Folger

The Moto2™ race on Sunday at Le Mans will start with rookie Jonas Folger at the head of the grid, in front of Tito Rabat and Luis Salom on row one.

Folger (AGR Team) secured the fifth Grand Prix pole of his career and his first since graduating to the intermediate class with a late 1’37.619s lap, as he looks to build on his Jerez podium result.

Behind the German on the grid are Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team) and Salom (Pons HP 40), with Rabat on provisional pole for a long period of a session which also brought a crash for the standings leader.

There will be plenty of experience on row two with Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team), Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) and Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing) qualifying fourth to sixth respectively.

Moto3™ World Champion Maverick Viñales (Pons HP 40) surged to seventh late on, with fellow Spaniard Ricard Cardus (Tech 3) and former Moto3 title winner Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) slotting in behind rookie Viñales, despite a crash for Cortese mid-session. Sam Lowes (Speed Up) rounds out the top ten.

There were also crashes for Johann Zarco (AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing), Lorenzo Baldassarri (Gresini Moto2) and Franco Morbidelli (Italtrans Racing Team) in the session, though none of that trio were injured.

Moto2™ Qualifying Practice Classification

  1. Jonas Folger GER Kalex 1:37.619
  2. Tito Rabat SPA Kalex +0.004
  3. Luis Salom SPA Kalex +0.122
The Moto2™ race on Sunday at Le Mans will start with rookie Jonas Folger at the head of the grid, in front of Tito Rabat and Luis Salom on row one.
The Moto2™ race on Sunday at Le Mans will start with rookie Jonas Folger at the head of the grid, in front of Tito Rabat and Luis Salom on row one.

Moto3™: Pole man Vazquez ready for round five race

Moto3™ qualifying in France saw Efren Vazquez (SAXOPRINT RTG) outpace the rest of the field in Le Mans with a new pole record of 1’42.491, with Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) joining him on the front row.

Vazquez has taken a step up this season in terms of his competitiveness and he achieved his first Grand Prix pole by a 0.025s margin from standings leader Miller, whilst Rins missed out on top spot by 0.227s as he was hindered on a late fast lap.

Local hero Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold) heads the second row and might have done better had he not crashed immediately after setting his best time. He was not seriously hurt in the incident and is joined on row two by Niklas Ajo (Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo) and Isaac Viñales (Calvo Team).

The third row will feature Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0), John McPhee (SAXOPRINT RTG) and Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia).

The winner of the last two races Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) just sneaked into the top ten at the end and therefore will get away from the head of the fourth row.

In addition to Masbou there were crashes without significant consequences for Luca Grünwald (Kiefer Racing) at Museum Corner and Hafiq Azmi (SIC-Ajo KTM) who walked away from nasty late spill on the final corner.

Moto3™ Qualifying Practice Classification

  1. Efren Vazquez SPA Honda 1:42.491
  2. Jack Miller AUS KTM +0.025
  3. Alex Rins SPA Honda +0.227
Moto3™ qualifying in France saw Efren Vazquez (SAXOPRINT RTG) outpace the rest of the field in Le Mans with a new pole record of 1’42.491, with Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) joining him on the front row.
Moto3™ qualifying in France saw Efren Vazquez (SAXOPRINT RTG) outpace the rest of the field in Le Mans with a new pole record of 1’42.491, with Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) joining him on the front row.

HRC Report  

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda RC213V) kept his amazing momentum going at Le Mans this afternoon, riding to his fifth pole position from the first five races of the season. The 21-year-old reigning MotoGP World Champion goes into tomorrow’s French Grand Prix with a full house points score of 100 points from the first four rounds and looking to extend his advantage over team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) who holds second place in the points chase.

The last time a rider took pole and race victory at the first five races was way back in 1971 when Giacomo Agostini – the most successful rider in history – dominated on the MV Agusta.

Marquez started out yesterday with the same set-up he had used to win his home Grand Prix at Jerez two weeks ago and gradually honed the settings with his team to end the day fastest. This morning he was a close second fastest to Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and ready to up his pace for the crucial qualifying outing, thanks largely to improvements to corner-entry stability. As a result, he set a new qualifying lap record.

Fourth-fastest Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V) was less than one hundredth of a second away from taking his second front-row start of the year, just 0.091 seconds behind Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati). The young German – who had post-Jerez surgery to fix an arm-pump problem – will start the race alongside factory Yamaha pairing Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo who were fifth and sixth quickest.

Alvaro Bautista (Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini RC213V) will head the third row of the grid after qualifying seventh fastest, a mere 0.107 seconds behind Lorenzo. The Spaniard was third fastest at the end of day one but slipped down the order today, struggling more than his rivals as the circuit’s grip level improved.

Pedrosa showed good pace in free practice but was unable to up his speed for qualifying, largely due to the surgery he underwent on his right arm to reduce arm pump following the Spanish Grand Prix. Ninth fastest and on the third row, he knows he will have to focus on getting his tyres as hot as possible on the warm-up lap so he can attack and pass rivals in the first laps of the race.

Nicky Hayden (Drive 7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R) won the contest to be the quickest rider on Honda’s production MotoGP bike, the RCV1000R. Handicapped by an old right wrist injury – which requires painkilling injections – the former MotoGP World Champion improved his pace today and probably only missed out on a place in QP2 due to a small mistake on his best lap in QP1.

MotoGP rookie Scott Redding (Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini RCV1000R) was delighted to be the second fastest of the four RCV1000R riders. The Briton – who won last year’s Moto2 race at Le Mans – was 16th overall, just ahead of former 250 World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama (Drive 7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R) who was happy with his work today, only spoiled by a small error on his best lap in qualifying.

Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) was 18th quickest in qualifying after finding the ideal set-up a little too late to further improve his pace.

Jonas Folger (AGR Team, Kalex) continued his impressive adaption to the hard-fought Moto2 class, taking pole position for his fifth race in the category. Two weeks ago the former Moto3 race winner scored his first Moto2 podium at Jerez.

Folger’s late charge in this afternoon’s qualifying outing dislodged points leader Tito Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team, Kalex) from pole by four thousandths of a second. The Honda-powered Moto2 pack is as tightly packed as ever, with pole position and 20th-placed Johann Zarco (AirAsia Caterham, Caterham Suter) separated by just 1.067 seconds.

Rabat, who scored three poles and two wins from the first four races, had led much of the session until he slid off at the slow-speed Garage Vert double right. He returned to the pits where his crew undertook repairs, but when he returned to the track he was unable to improve his time and slipped to second. Another former Moto3 winner, Luis Salom (Pons HP 40, Kalex), who scored his first Moto2 podium at last month’s Argentine GP, was third fastest, just 0.112 seconds from pole.

Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team, Kalex), who scored a start-to-finish victory from pole at Jerez, missed out on another front-row start by just less than four hundredths of a second today. The Finn shares the second row with Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock, Suter) and Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing, Forward Kalex).

Grand Prix of the Americas victor Maverick Vinales (Pons HP 40, Kalex) heads row three in front of Ricard Cardus (Tech 3, Tech 3) and Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP, Kalex).

Efren Vazquez (SaxoPrint-RTG Honda NSF250R) scorched to his first Grand Prix pole position this afternoon, giving Honda its second Moto3 pole position of the year. The Spaniard – currently third in the points standings – outpaced Jack Miller (KTM) in the final minutes, ending up 0.025 seconds ahead of the Australian. Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW) made it two Hondas on the front row, completing the outing 0.202 seconds behind Miller.

Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda NSF250R) is back to form at his hone race, following a difficult start to the season. He qualified fourth fastest, just 0.034 seconds off the front row, to make it three Hondas in the top four. The Frenchman and his crew adjusted the set-up of his NSF250R for this race, finding a new and promising direction that gives him the confidence to push the limits like he could last year. Masbou had moved into second place midway through the session, then lost the front and crashed at the Musee left-hander. Although he didn’t improve his lap time following the minor tumble, his earlier time was good enough to put him fourth.

Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW) was seventh fastest and will head the third row of the grid tomorrow, alongside fellow NSF250R riders John McPhee (SaxoPrint-RTG Honda NSF250R) and Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia Honda NSF250R).

Tomorrow’s racing is followed by the Italian GP at Mugello on June 1.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: pole position – 1m 32.042s – “I’m very happy to be on pole and also with the gap between myself and second place on the timesheet. Tomorrow will be interesting as my main rivals – Dani, Jorge and Valentino – are not on the front row but on rows two and three. However, I know they will be there in the battle and we must be prepared. Starting from pole is an advantage and I will try to capitalise from it and give 100 per cent – as always – to fight for the win!”

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: 4th – 1m 32.846s – “After yesterday’s sessions we went back to our standard geometry that we used in the past races because I have more front feeling. Our pace is pretty good and I am happy about fourth place today (also considering my recent surgery) but we must be realistic. The other riders are very fast too and I am starting from the second row with two big rivals like Rossi and Lorenzo. Even Pedrosa will push to catch the front group so our target is to finish in the top five. This would be a very good result for us. My arm is getting better and today it was not necessary to have a painkilling injection.”

Alvaro Bautista, Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini: 7th – 1m 33.006s  – “Yesterday we started the weekend very well and also today my feeling with the bike has improved further, but the other riders were able to progress more than we did. As usual, when the grip on the track improves, as happened today, we struggle a bit more than other riders. However, apart from Marquez who was really fast, we are not far from the second position: the gap is less than three tenths of a second and that means that we are all very close. Our situation is undoubtedly better compared to Jerez, so tomorrow we’ll try to get a good start, then we will do our race with the usual goal: cross the finish line collecting as many points as possible”.

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 9th – 1m 33.023s “Free practice wasn’t too bad for us, but in qualifying we weren’t so great. I’m riding a little smoother this weekend and not so aggressive, due to my injured forearm, and when I wanted to push to improve my times I wasn’t really able to. I think that in general we have done a good job in practice and I will try to get a good start tomorrow, because I am very far back. It will be important to bring the tyre temperature up on the warm-up lap and try to overtake some riders in the opening laps.”

Nicky Hayden, Drive 7 Aspar Honda: 13th – 1m 33.859s “To be honest my wrist is still very painful but I tried to give my best in qualifying. I want to thank all the staff at the Clinica Mobile for the work they are doing to limit the pain. We have improved the set-up of the bike today but unfortunately not as much as we had hoped. We lost some valuable time working on one of the bikes trying to fix something that we still need to get to the bottom of. Anyway, the lap time in qualifying was good. I made a little mistake in the chicane that possibly cost me a place in Q2, which is a shame because the extra track time would have been useful to test one more tyre option for the race. It will be a tough race tomorrow but we are ready to fight for the best possible result.”

Scott Redding, Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini: 16th – 1m 32.233s “Until today we have always been the third or fourth Open Class Honda, so it’s good to be again the second fastest Honda RCV1000R during FP4 and qualifying. I’m feeling a lot better, we changed a lot on the bike to give me back some feeling, and as a result I started to enjoy myself again. This morning I didn’t feel comfortable on the bike, but in the end we solved our problems. Now we have to see if we can make more improvements tomorrow morning, especially from my side, because now the bike is pretty good.”

Hiroshi Aoyama, Drive 7 Aspar Honda: 17th – 1m 34.457s “We improved the handling of the bike in the slow corners today. We worked hard and the outcome was very productive, which we can see in the lap times. In qualifying when we put the soft tyre in to push for a fast time I made a little mistake in the chicane on what was my best lap. It is a shame but we have to be satisfied that our performance has improved and we are quite well prepared for the race. I think we have a consistent rhythm, even on the hard tyre and I hope we can have a good race tomorrow.”

Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing: 18th – 1m 34.880s “The good news is that the bike worked quite well in qualifying. This set-up is certainly the best we’ve tried during the weekend and I’m pretty sure that if we had it earlier, we would be faster now. I’m little bit angry that I missed the chance to do one more fast lap. Unfortunately I saw the flag only some seconds before I passed the start line. The important thing is that tomorrow I’ll stay close to the other Open Honda riders and fight for some points.”

Yamaha Report

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo will start tomorrow’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France from the second row with Rossi in fifth and Lorenzo in sixth position.

An intense 15-minute qualifying session saw both riders hold provisional positions on the front row as the lap times tumbled, only to be denied in the last moments. Their final times on the second row were just a tenth of a second from second place.

Rossi was one of the first riders on track, briefly slotting into second position on his first flying effort behind teammate Lorenzo with a 1’33.313. He immediately improved with a 1’33.217 before a flurry of hot laps dropped him to sixth as he returned to the pits with 7 minutes remaining. Less than two minutes later and armed with a fresh soft rear he was back on track, picking up the pace to drop into the 1’32s with a 1’32.974 before delivering his best lap of qualifying with a 1’32.873. The time was good enough for a brief visit to the front row before dropping to the second and securing fifth for tomorrow’s race.

Teammate Lorenzo started strongly in the Le Mans sunshine, first man out on track he immediately took the top spot with his first flying lap, a 1’33.188 to lead a Movistar Yamaha one/two on the timesheets. Rival Marc Marquez then moved in, taking the top spot and relegating Lorenzo to second as the qualifying session began to heat up. The Spaniard was able to drop under the 1’33s with a 1’32.964 before returning to the pits for a new soft rear. The last few minutes saw a second attack however Lorenzo was unable to reclaim pole, delivering a session best of 1’32.899 to take sixth on the grid next to his teammate for tomorrow’s race.

Rookie Pol Espargaro delivered a heroic qualifying performance today to superbly clinch 2nd and his first ever MotoGP front row start, for tomorrow’s 28-lap dash at the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team’s home grand prix in Le Mans.

The reigning Moto2 World Champion wasted no time in setting a blazing pace at the gloriously sunny circuit, having ridden to a superbly executed 3rd place in FP3 which allowed him to progress through to Q2 for the fourth race in succession. His final lap time during the second 15-minute dash was an exceptional 1.32,734, which was quicker than last year’s pole by 0.445 of a second, in only his fifth race event for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 MotoGP team. With the 22 year old Catalan feeling self assured with his race pace and ability, he is poised to deliver a positive performance in his first outing at the Le Mans circuit on the Yamaha YZR-M1 as he proceeds to make leaps forward in terms of his performance and confidence.

Bradley Smith continued his positive form for the team’s special home Grand Prix, sponsored by Tech3’s title backers Monster Energy, by qualifying in 10th. His lap time of 1.33,058 today illustrated his large level of progression from last year, as he beat his previous time by well over one second. Having progressed straight through to Q2 with a lap of 1.33,510 equalling 9th place, Smith pushed determinedly, but was hampered slightly by grip issues yet still produced a lap time of 1.33,058, only one tenth from the fifth position. He fully intends to begin tomorrow’s 28-lap race strongly, where he will aim for a top five result at the legendary Le Mans circuit.

Aleix Espargaro continues the momentum with a very positive qualifying session at Le Mans. The NGM Forward Racing rider was the fastest open also on the French track recording a remarkable 1’33.015 and tomorrow he will take the start from the third row on the 8th spot of the grid. Aleix is confident for the race and he aims at making a good start and finish as close as possible to the Top5 riders.

Team mate Colin Edwards finished in 15th position with a lap time of 1’34.203. Colin worked hard during the day on the electronics set up and he was able to improve his feeling on the bike. The Texan rider looks forward to get a good result in the race.

Valentino Rossi – 5th / 1’32.873 / 9 laps – “I’m quite happy, especially after yesterday which was a big disaster. I wasn’t able to ride the bike in a good way then, but today with my team we improved the setting a lot and I’m satisfied. I’m always fast; I have a good pace and a good setting so I like the bike. In the qualifying I had the potential to be on the front row but at the end it’s ok like this. I’m in fifth ahead of Lorenzo and Pedrosa and I think tomorrow they will be great rivals. Marquez is also very fast, but I can fight with them!”

Jorge Lorenzo – 6th / 1’32.899 / 9 laps – “It’s been the opposite of Jerez, here we have good pace but we couldn’t make a very fast lap time. I didn’t make a perfect lap and just for one tenth I couldn’t be in second place. For the race we have more options than the last races so I’m going to try and finish on the podium. We have to pay attention in the first laps because everyone wants to overtake but I think we can keep our place and move up.”

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director – “Fifth and sixth isn’t a reflection of our speed, the pace we have shown during the practices for both riders is actually more positive than it looks from the qualifying results. Our bike is well set up for the track and the race so we have some confidence for tomorrow. For sure we will be there and competitive at the front, both Jorge and Vale are very capable of fighting for the podium. We will look to make another step before warm up tomorrow to have the best possible set up for the race. It’s going to be long and tough over 28 laps. It’s a very technical circuit with no time to rest so it should be an exciting one to watch.”

Pol Espargaro – 2nd / 1’32,734 / 9 Laps – “I am flying high right now, and am really happy and proud that I was able to produce this lap at the team’s home race. This is very important for me, as the team and I have done a lot of work during the preseason and for the first few rounds, so this qualifying result is like a small victory. The race will still be a challenge, as there are many laps and not just one however I am confident with my pace. For sure, the factory riders may seem faster and have more experience, but starting from the front will still be a big advantage for me compared to the other races so far. I intend to fight whilst trying to learn as much as possible, and I feel like I can clinch a great result for the team and it would be perfect to go home with plenty of championship points in my pocket. I will make the most of the start and see what I can do.”

Bradley Smith – 10th / 1’33,058 / 8 Laps – “Obviously, it is not ideal qualifying in 10th, especially with the nature of this circuit as it is a narrow track, and therefore it might be tricky to overtake on. Fortunately, I am confident with my starts, so I am not too worried as there is a long distance to turn one, and I’ll aim to retake some positions straight away there. I have made it a little harder for myself, and I believe I had the pace to challenge for the front row. With the team and myself we weren’t able to find a solution to some rear grip issues and especially in acceleration, which is so important here. I am pleased with the braking stability, which is a positive as it is also significant for this track due to its stop and go character. With this, I am confident that we can fight and make some ground in tomorrow’s race. There is still some work to be done in warm-up, and I aim to do my very best for tomorrow’s race to give the French fans something to cheer about.”

Aleix Espargaro – 8th / 1’33.015 “Considering the problems we had yesterday, I’m satisfied of todays’ result. On this track we are struggling with the set up of the bike. We need to analyse the data in order to find a solution for the race. In qualifying we were quiet fast, the gap form the front row is not bad so I’m confident for the race. It will be important to make a good start and remain close to the front group especially in the first part of the race.”

Colin Edwards – 15th / 1’34.203 – “Yesterday we struggled a lot but the work on the electronics set up has paid and I could improve my feeling with the bike. I still have some issues with the traction control, but we have some ideas for tomorrow. We don’t have so much time but I’m confident that we can make a step forward to be more competitive.”

Ducati Report

Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso put in an excellent run in qualifying for the French Grand Prix, round 5 of the MotoGP World Championship, which will take place tomorrow at the Le Mans circuit. The Italian rider starts from the front row after setting the third quickest time of 1’32.755 towards the end of the decisive qualifying session.

This will be the third time Dovizioso starts from the front row with a Ducati, the Italian repeating his 2013 performance in qualifying on the French track. He also set a top speed record at the Le Mans track this weekend, hitting the 311.1 km/h mark during this morning’s third free practice session.

Team-mate Cal Crutchlow was in the end quite satisfied with his performance. Even though Cal was unable to find the right feeling with his Desmosedici GP14 yesterday, the British rider improved considerably today. Crutchlow moved into second qualifying with a second place in Q1, and then his best time of 1’33.315 in Q2 earned him twelfth place on the grid.

Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 3rd (1’32.755) – “Starting on the front row here at Le Mans is fabulous! My first run in Q2 was useful to get a good idea of how to do all the sectors; I really felt I could do a good lap with a new tyre and I succeeded in doing so. It’s important to start on the front row tomorrow, because we are all pretty close together. We’ve worked very well this weekend, we started off quite quick on Friday and not far from the frontrunners, but above all we’ve succeeded in  improving the feeling with the bike in every session. Today we also had a race pace that was pretty close to those up front. I don’t think we’ll manage to fight for the podium, but anything can happen and for sure starting from the front row will give us a big hand!”

Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team #35) – 12th (1’33.315) – “I’m quite satisfied today because we made a big improvement in lap time, even though my grid position is not great and for the moment we are not quite fast enough. However we are a lot faster than Ducati last year and I am faster than what I went last year when I qualified fourth with another bike, so it shows the competition in MotoGP is tough. I will discuss with the team tonight a plan for tomorrow’s race; hopefully we can get a good start and challenge with some of the other guys to get a good result. I think it’ll be a big battle tomorrow!”

Bridgestone Report
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Extra-Soft, Soft & Medium; Rear: Extra-soft, Soft & Medium (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main) & Hard (Alternative)
Weather:  FP3 – Dry. Ambient 15-16°C; Track 25-26°C (Bridgestone measurement)
FP4/QP – Dry. Ambient 22-24°C; Track 41-45°C (Bridgestone measurement)

There is no stopping Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez at the moment, as the Spanish star smashed the existing Le Mans outright circuit lap record by 0.605 seconds for his fifth pole position from the first five races of the season.

While Marquez continued his stranglehold on the top qualifying position this year, starting second on the grid for tomorrow’s French Grand Prix will be Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro, with the MotoGP™ rookie claiming his first ever front-row start with a personal best lap time of 1’32.734. Andrea Dovizioso’s successful record at the Le Mans circuit continued today, as the Ducati rider was third in Qualifying Practice 2 with a time of 1’32.755.

In the time attack during Qualifying Practice 2, Marquez and Espargaro set their best time on the soft compound slicks front and rear, while Dovizioso used the soft compound front matched with the extra-soft rear slick.

As was the case yesterday, weather conditions today were warm and dry, with the peak track temperature of 45°C recorded during QP2. In the earlier Free Practice sessions, riders assessed a wide range of tyres to see which options were more suitable in the warmer than usual temperatures at Le Mans. During race simulations in FP4, almost every rider preferred the soft compound front slick, matched with their softer rear slick option; extra-soft for the Ducati and Open-class riders, soft for the Factory Honda and Yamaha riders. Coincidentally, as well as being more consistent over longer runs, this same tyre combination yielded the best performance over a single lap, hence it was used by most riders during their qualifying runs.

The twenty-eight lap French Grand Prix starts at 1400 local time tomorrow (GMT +1), with the next MotoGP™ session, the twenty-minute morning Warm Up commencing at 0940 local time.

Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department – “Another day with perfect conditions gave the riders ample opportunity to try out all the slick tyre options and decide on their race tyre combinations. Although temperatures are warmer than we usually experience at Le Mans, this circuit isn’t demanding on tyres so most riders will opt for their softer rear slick option for the race. For the front tyre, the soft compound option seems to offer the best combination of cornering and braking performance, so I expect this to be widely used tomorrow. This year at Le Mans we’ve brought a new rear tyre allocation with a focus on improved warm-up and safety for the riders. However, it is plain to see that is also provided quite an improvement in performance which the riders, in particular Marc exploited to maximum effect. To beat the existing outright lap record by over half a second is an incredible achievement. Over longer runs, many riders are on a similar race pace so it should be a close contest tomorrow.”