Pedrosa battles to season-first pole at tricky Le Mans
The Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans provided spectators with three gripping qualifying session where riders once again battled each other, as well as the elements. In the MotoGP™ class, it was Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa who took his first pole position of the season ahead of teammate Casey Stoner.
Having started in the wet, the session dried out with 30 minutes to go, leaving Pedrosa to post a time of 1.33’638 to snatch pole, and record his fourth ever MotoGP Le Mans pole position. Stoner, who had been the pace setter until the final session had his first crash of the season in the day’s morning practice, yet walked away unscathed.
Completing the front row is Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso, who also achieved his best grid position of the season so far in third. Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo heads the second row in fourth after being held up in traffic on his final hot lap. Behind him in fifth is Dovizioso’s teammate Cal Crutchlow, who had been the early pace setter in the session, yet couldn’t quite match the Italian’s speed. Sixth place is occupied by Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies, who will be looking to take this form into tomorrow’s race and fight for a podium.
The third row is headed by Valentino Rossi in seventh, his best grid position so far this year, who qualified as top Ducati after lapping consistently quick ahead of San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista. Bautista, who had been in the top five for most of the practice sessions, crashed out in the last minute of qualifying on his final attempt. Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá sits in ninth, ahead of other satellite Ducati rider Karel Abraham on-board his Cardion AB Racing machine.
Power Electronics Aspar’s French rider Randy de Puniet finished top CRT in 12th, much to the delight of the home fans.
LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl crashed half way through the session, after being one of the first riders to head out on slicks on the drying track. Iván Silva saved a near low-side early on, before taking an excursion into the gravel towards the end, while De Puniet’s teammate Aleix Espargaró’s misery continued this weekend as he had to return to the pits with bike issues.
1 Dani Pedrosa 1’33.638 SPA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
2 Casey Stoner 1’33.941 AUS HONDA Repsol Honda Team
3 Andrea Dovizioso 1’33.976 ITA YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
4 Jorge Lorenzo 1’34.104 SPA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing Team
5 Cal Crutchlow 1’34.178 GBR YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
6 Ben Spies 1’34.669 USA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing Team
7 Valentino Rossi 1’34.907 ITA DUCATI Ducati Team
8 Alvaro Bautista 1’34.922 SPA HONDA San Carlo Honda Gresini
9 Hector Barbera 1’34.950 SPA DUCATI Pramac Racing
10 Karel Abraham 1’35.250 CZE DUCATI Cardion AB Motoracing
11 Nicky Hayden 1’35.291 USA DUCATI Ducati Team
12 Randy De Puniet 1’35.694 FRA ART Aspar Team MotoGP
13 Stefan Bradl 1’35.862 GER HONDA LCR Honda MotoGP
14 Michelle Pirro 1’36.646 ITA HONDA San Carlo Honda Gresini
15 Yonny Hernandez 1’37.202 COL BQR-FTR BQR
16 James Ellison 1’37.666 GBR ART Paul Bird Racing
17 Aleix Espargaro 1’37.760 ESP ART Aspar Team MotoGP
18 Danilo Petrucci 1’37.767 ITA IODA Ioda Racing Project
19 Ivan Silva 1’38.198 SPA BQR-FTR BQR
20 Mattia Pasini 1’38.511 ITA ART Speed Master
21 Chris Vermeulen 1’38.658 AUS SUTER NGM Mobile Forward Racing
Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s championship leader Marc Márquez claimed pole position at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France despite a crash early in the session.
The Spaniard recorded his third consecutive pole position with a best lap of 1.37’710, overcoming an early scare, as he lost the front end with 25 minutes to go. He was able to return to the pits and head back out on track shortly after.
The Moto2 grid was lucky with the weather and riders were able to run in dry conditions almost right up to the chequered flag, where Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi managed to sneak into second place ahead of Pons 40 HP Tuenti’s Pol Espargaró.
Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding heads the second row, after failing to improve on his time due to a crash on the final quick lap. He starts ahead of Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone, who was pushing hard until the very end, despite some spots of rain appearing on his last run. Sixth place went to Redding’s teammate Mika Kallio, who was just over two-tenths off the Brit.
NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Alex de Angelis starts from seventh, ahead of JiR Moto2’s local favourite Johann Zarco, who put in a strong performance in front of his home crowd. Italtrans Racing Team’s Claudio Corti continued his good form from this morning as he finished ninth, with Mapfre Aspar Team’s Toni Elías rounding out the top ten.
Apart from Márquez and Redding, there were further crashes for S/Master Speed Up’s Mike Di Meglio and Tech 3 Racing’s Xavier Simeon. Simeon sustained multiple fractures in his left hand, a fracture in his left foot, and has been taken to hospital to check on potential pelvis trauma.
In wet conditions at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans it was Blusens Avintia’s Maverick Viñales who held his nerve to take pole position ahead of Efrén Vázquez.
After having had nothing but dry time at the French circuit, the Moto3™ contingent struggled with the changed conditions, as many riders fell chasing grid positions.
It was however Viñales who put in a rain master-class as he took his first pole position of the season with a time of 1.55’865, ahead of Efrén Vázquez, who also achieved his first front row start of the year, even though he was almost a second behind his compatriot. The front row is completed by Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Miguel Oliveira, who set his time half way through the session, before crashing, and being unable to challenge at the end.
It was a great outing for Redox-Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Jakub Kornfeil, who heads up the front row, just in front of Caretta Technology’s local favourite Alexis Masbou. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Sandro Cortese rounds out the second row on the grid, after the current championship leader crashed early on, and only had the last 10 minutes to post a competitive time.
Seventh and eighth spot are occupied by Bankia Aspar Team pair Alberto Moncayo and Héctor Faubel, with RW Racing GP’s Luis Salom in ninth. AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin rounds out the top ten.
Riders that fell throughout the session included JHK T-Shirt Laglisse’s Adrian Martín, who fell on two occasions, Mahindra Racing’s Danny Webb, Andalucia JHK Laglisse’s Ivan Moreno, RW Racing GP’s Brad Binder, Oliveira’s teammate Alex Rins, Thomas Sabo GP Team’s Kevin Hanus, Caretta Technology’s Jack Miller, Cresto Guide MZ Racing’s Toni Finsterbusch, Mahindra’s Marcel Schrotter, and San Carlo Gresini Moto3’s Niccolo Antonelli.
Rins sustained a fractured finger in his right hand, while Finsterbusch has fractured his right collarbone. Rins’ ability to race tomorrow is being assessed, while the German has been declared unfit.
— HRC Report
Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) and Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V) scored a brilliant one-two in this afternoon’s qualifying session for tomorrow’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
The session started on a slightly damp track, with most riders making a cautious start to proceedings on rain tyres. As the circuit dried the pace quickened and pole position changed hands time and again as rider after rider pushed the pace higher and higher.
Two days after announcing that he will retire at the end of this season Stoner led the way for much of the outing, twice heading the rest of the pack by more than two seconds. But with just two minutes to go Pedrosa moved ahead to claim his first pole of the year, by 0.303s. With the track fully dry during the final stages the Spaniard came within 0.021s of matching his 2011 French GP pole time, but afterwards he admitted that it had been a difficult qualifying because it had been tricky to judge whether the track was dry or damp. Stoner’s plans to regain pole from his team-mate went awry when he was baulked on several occasions by slower riders.
Despite this afternoon’s inconsistent conditions both Repsol Honda men are confident that they are well prepared for tomorrow’s race, round four in this year’s 18-round MotoGP World Championship. Both Pedrosa and Stoner have qualified on the front row at all four races so far. Earlier today Stoner had topped free practice, despite sliding off this morning when he rode over a damp section of kerbing.
Honda’s other two RC213V riders had a more challenging time at Le Mans this afternoon, with Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V) and Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V) falling victim to the treacherous track. Bradl suffered a nasty highside at the Musee left-hander, while Bautista’s tumble prevented him from repeating his fine performance during free practice, which he ended in fourth place. Despite their crashes both men were able to continue on their spare machines, ending the session eighth and 13th quickest.
Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR-Honda) was second best CRT rider in 14th position, just behind Bradl.
Marc Marquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol-Suter) took the Moto2 pole position despite sliding off midway through the 45-minute session. His tumble required some repair work in the pits, but the Spanish teenager never relinquished first place. It was his third consecutive pole, following on from similar performances at Jerez and Estoril.
Towards the end of the 45-minute outing rain began to fall over some parts of the track, making it impossible for Marquez’s rivals to put in a last-gasp bid for pole. The damp conditions claimed Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team-Kalex) who tumbled without injury at Musee while trying to improve on his second-row start.
Marquez – who won his first Moto2 race here last year – will be joined on the front row by Thomas Luthi (Interwetten-Paddock-Suter) and Pol Espargaro (Pons 40 HP Tuenti-Kalex). Luthi was just 0.029s seconds slower than Marquez, while Espargaro was a further 0.451s down.
Other top performers in the Honda-powered series were Andrea Iannone (Speed Master – Speed Up) who was fifth quickest, just behind Redding, and Redding’s team-mate Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex) who took the last second-row position in sixth. Honda dominated Moto3 qualifying, filling the first five positions with Maverick Vinales (Blusens Avintia – FTR Honda) taking pole at the end of a tricky, rain-affected qualifying session. It was the Spanish teenager’s first pole of the season.
A rain shower soaked the track at the start of the session and the slippery surface caught out many riders, including Estoril winner Sandro Cortese (KTM). Vinales reigned supreme on the damp track, upping his pace as the tarmac began to dry out. He ended the session almost a full second ahead of Efren Vazquez (JHK T-Shirt Laglisse – FTR Honda). Last spot on the front row went to Miguel Oliveira (Estrella Galicia 0.0 – Suter Honda). Vinales’ best lap was a full ten seconds slower than he had managed in dry free practice.
The second row of the Moto3 grid is led by another two Honda riders – Jakub Kornfeil (Thomas Sabo GP Team – Honda) and local star Alexis Masbou (Caretta Technology – Honda).
Following today’s wet and dry weather, more rain is forecast for tomorrow.
MotoGP rider quotes
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: pole position – 1m 33.638s “I’m not a pole man, so I’m happy to be here for the first time this season. The front row is always good and the team has done a great job with the bike. It’s been a difficult session, quite similar to Jerez, the track was drying, but we had some more drops of rain in the last five minutes. So it was key to choose the right moment to push and to not to go off-line. Let’s see what the weather does tomorrow, but we have to be ready to go fast in any conditions. The race is very long here, 28 laps, and everything can change during the race, so I hope to make a good start and to be able to keep a good pace until the end.”
Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: 2nd – 1m 33.941s “We’re really happy to be on the front row, but qualifying definitely didn’t go to plan. The track was drying out and we knew we had the pace – you just had to be a little cautious in some areas that were still holding water. We felt we were fast enough to be on pole position, but every time I was on a good lap or building up to one, I got held up. I tried to drop back and give myself some space, but I still managed to catch up to a CRT bike in front of me which ruined that lap. Then the next lap we were doing pretty well, but I saw yellow flags and rain so I backed off. Unfortunately the rain wasn’t heavy enough to upset my lap and I could have continued it, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I think we’re looking good for the race, we’re pretty comfortable in dry conditions, but we still have warm-up and a chance for the others to find something extra, so we’re going to have to improve our bike a little and wait for the race as the weather conditions are still unpredictable.”
Alvaro Bautista, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 8th – 1m 34.922s “It was a shame about the crash because we worked well again this morning and my pace was good. Unfortunately the session this afternoon was affected by the weather. At the start the track was wet and then when we were able to go out on slicks I was trying to get comfortable but the conditions were less than perfect. Eventually I crashed in turn nine and it ruined qualifying for us because we had another couple of laps in us and the potential to go half a second quicker. These things happen in racing, but tomorrow we will aim to make up for it because we have a good setting for the dry and wet.”
Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: 13th – 1m 35.862s “Today was a day to forget as soon as possible! This morning wasn’t so bad because we were using a different strategy from the other guys. Honestly the cooler conditions caused me some problems because it took me a long time to feel the bike on new tyres. In general at the beginning of the session it was quite dangerous – not really wet and not really dry – but I felt pretty good. We were the first to go out on slick tyres because we expected some rain through the session so it was the right decision from our side. Unfortunately I was attacking too much and had a big crash but I am okay. I am still looking forward for tomorrow because I think we will still be able to perform well.”
Michel Pirro, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 14th – 1m 36.646s “Qualifying took place in tricky conditions, but this morning we had found a good balance for the bike and perhaps we could have done even better this afternoon if it wasn’t for the conditions and some ongoing back pain that I am suffering. Now we are just hoping for dry conditions tomorrow because it is always difficult to ride in the wet. My thoughts today are also with the family of the sixteen-year-old girl who has been killed today in Brindisi, Italy, which is very sad news indeed.”
Moto2 rider quotes
Marc Marquez, Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol-Suter: pole position – 1m 37.710s “Qualifying was a little strange because it was raining on and off and there was always the possibility that it would rain even more heavily. That is why I was trying to push at the beginning of the session. It was my mistake – I braked too late for the corner and although I knew I was going too fast I tried to get through the corner. Now I know that I won’t be able to push any harder there during the race! Anyway, we are ready. We worked our way through free practice always thinking about our race settings. Now we have to wait and see what the weather will bring.”
Thomas Luthi, Interwetten-Paddock-Suter: 2nd – 1m 37.739s “That was difficult – we had to take a lot of risks to get in a good lap this afternoon. I think the race will be close, with some nice battles going on. Like everyone else, I don’t know what to expect from the weather, so we will just have to take it as it comes.”
Pol Espargaro, Pons 40 HP Tuenti-Kalex: 3rd – 1m 38.190s “It was so difficult to know what was going to happen next with the weather. We started the session with the softer rear tyre, which we would normally keep to the end, because we thought it might rain later on. I wasn’t able to make a perfect lap but third fastest is good. It will be a hard race – we hope for dry weather and then we will see who is running up front.”
Moto3 Rider Quotes
Maverick Vinales, Blusens Avintia – FTR Honda: pole position – 1m 55.865s “I felt comfortable in the practice sessions, both in the dry and in the wet. We were able to go fast in both conditions. Tomorrow’s race will be a difficult one. We will have to wait on the weather, but we have a game plan to push hard from the start and establish a gap. It will be a difficult race, because it could just as easily be soaking wet as it could be sunny.”
Efren Vazquez, JHK T-Shirt Laglisse – FTR Honda: 2nd – 1m 56.847s “I’m very happy with the front row and I’m very pleased with the work we’ve done this weekend. I think this is the most productive race for us since the start of the championship. We are now getting to where we thought we could be. My thanks to the team who are full of enthusiasm and working hard. I hope this is just the beginning of some good results. We have a tough race ahead of us – we will see what the weather brings and I will give 100 per cent.”
Miguel Oliveira, Estrella Galicia 0.0 – Suter-Honda: 3rd – 1m 57.114s “Thanks to my team we did a good job in the morning session. But in the afternoon we could only do eight laps, though despite so little track time I did feel comfortable on the bike. We still have some problems with the rear of the bike, which we will try to resolve for the race. Anyway, we were lucky to get in a good lap, especially because there were a lot of riders falling due to the tricky conditions. The track was very slippery and that complicated matters. We need to regain our confidence for tomorrow, step by step. If it rains the main thing will be to make no mistakes – our objective is to score points.”
— Yamaha Report
Today’s qualifying session for The Monster Energy Grand Prix de France proved to be a challenging one in mixed weather conditions. Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies were faced with a wet, damp and then drying track as they fought to finally deliver fourth and sixth on the grid respectively for tomorrow’s race. Lorenzo made a step forward from yesterday’s sessions but was unable to complete a perfect lap to get on the front row. Team mate Spies made the best of a tricky day having lost a set of the new Bridgestone tyres in yesterday’s crash which hampered the final set up of his M1 in this morning’s practice. The final grid sees four Yamaha YZR-M1s in the top six positions.
Jorge Lorenzo / Position 4th – Time 1.34.104 – Laps 22
“I’m not happy, I wanted to be at least on the front row but it was not possible, Andrea was very fast today. I didn’t make one perfect lap, maybe three or four tenths could be improved with a perfect lap but the track conditions were very difficult today and it was very easy to crash and get injured. We are in fourth position and tomorrow I think we can fight for the podium and the victory. I will try to make a very good start.”
Ben Spies / Position 6th – Time 1.34.669 – Laps 23
“Today was a tricky session for everybody, kind of risky. Finally the track started to come good but the guys who did the better lap times were a little bit more brave than others. With this tarmac it’s hard to see if it’s wet or dry in some places. We did the best we could and put together a decent lap to get on the second row. It was pretty hard to commit to 110% when the track is like that so the result is good.”
Wilco Zeelenberg – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“A very weird practice and very tricky! In the beginning it was quite wet then began to dry up so it was difficult to know what to do at what time. Finally to not be on the front row is disappointing as we had a good pace yesterday. We improved a little bit but it was quite risky as some of the curbs were still quite wet.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“To start from the second row is a good achievement for Ben considering we had some difficulties this morning because of yesterday’s crash. Because of that he couldn’t run the new tyre in this morning’s session so we couldn’t work properly on the set up. Now, if the race is going to be dry we are ready. We’ve done a good job so we’ll keep our fingers crossed for a dry race. Jorge made another step forward from yesterday but also struggled to secure a front row start in the difficult track conditions.”
Tech 3 Yamaha target podium challenge in home race
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team will go into its home race at the historic Le Mans circuit in France confident that Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow can battle for the podium after both produced brilliant qualifying performances today.
For the third time in four races this season, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team has one rider starting from the front row after Dovizioso stormed to third place on the grid.
Dovizioso, who is going in search of a third successive MotoGP rostrum at the legen dary Bugatti track in tomorrow’s 28-lap race, challenged for a front row place throughout a session that started on a wet track after earlier rain.
Conditions quickly improved and for the second half of the session, Dovizioso and Crutchlow were able to lap on slick tyres with the circuit completely dry and at one stage they occupied the top two places on the timesheets.
Only eight minutes remained when Dovizioso thrilled the large number of Tech 3 Yamaha fans in the crowd by powering his YZR-M1 machine to a lap of 1.34.099. That moved him to the top of the timesheets by almost 0.9s.
He was able to improve his pace to a 1.33.976, which secured him a richly deserved first front row start as a Yamaha rider and he was only 0.035s behind reigning World Champion Casey Stoner in second.
British rider Crutchlow also led the leaderboard in the early stages and he came close to claiming a third front row start of the season after another outstanding qualifying display.
He was in eighth place when a lap of 1.34.178 elevated him to the front row. Despite the 26-year-old’s best efforts to improve his pace he will start from the middle of the second row in fifth place, his best time just over 0.2s from Dovizioso.
Andrea Dovizioso / Position 3rd – Time 1.33.976 – Laps 23
“I am really happy to be on the front row for the first time with Tech 3 and Yamaha. We have done a great job all weekend. I have been fast in every session and even in the tricky conditions at the start of qualifying I was very competitive and strong and the times were coming really easily. I am particularly happy to be on the front row because a small problem meant I was not able to be on track for the final five minutes of the session. That is the period when you improve your time and it was a pity that I couldn’t battle in the final stages because I’m sure I had a chance of getting pole position. So to be on the front row despite not riding in the last five minutes is fantastic and I am very confident for the race tomorrow. I’m sure I have the pace to stay at the front and I am very happy to be on the front in the Tech 3 Team’s home race. I will do my best for Tech 3 and our main sponsor and event sponsor Monster.”
Cal Crutchlow / Position 5th – Time 1.34.178 – Laps 22
“I can’t be disappointed to have qualified in fifth position but I think I could have chal lenged for pole position had things gone my way. I made a couple of small mistakes on my fast laps right at the end and that cost me a little bit of time. And we didn’t have the best set-up with the bike. We made some modifications for qualifying but with the conditions wet and damp at the start, we couldn’t tell if it was an improvement and in hindsight it would have been better to stay with the setting I ran this morning. We are not sure what is in store with the weather tomorrow but I am happy with the job we did today and once again we are very close to the front and I’m really looking forward to a good fight in the race. Andrea did a good job today and it is great to have both Tech 3 Yamaha riders competing for the front row. Hopefully we can both have a strong result for Tech 3 and Monster tomorrow.”
— Ducati Report
Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden posted the seventh and eleventh best times, respectively, in today’s qualifying session for the French Grand Prix. For the Italian, who today was consistent in both the dry morning session and the mixed conditions of the afternoon, it was his best qualifying result of the season. The American rider, on the other hand, will look for a better-performing solution in tomorrow’s warm-up session, given that he still has some problems with his setup.
The track, which was initially damp from the rain that had fallen until shortly before qualifying, dried little by little, making the standings quite volatile as the riders switched from rain tyres to slicks in their efforts to adjust to the changing surface.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) 7th (1:34.907)
“I had to pass a rider on my good lap, otherwise I could have been faster, but anyway, I’d say that it’s going pretty well. I’m a bit sorry not to have made the second row, which was pretty close, but the fact remains that this is our best qualifying session of the season and that we were also at the same level in this morning’s dry session. This afternoon we did a good job of adapting to the track conditions, which changed quite quickly, and every exit I found myself on the track at the right time. We made another small step forward compared to Estoril, and we worked well. We’ll see what conditions we find tomorrow. If it’s dry we’ll have to try to start well and stay with those in front for as long as possible, and maybe we’ll be able to cut a little more time.”
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) 11th (1:35.291)
“It was quite a hectic session, with just enough rain to complicate things. With us being behind on the setup, we needed some dry time, as the lap times just aren’t coming for us in those conditions. We’ve tried a lot of different options, but we still haven’t solved the problems we have on this track: running wide in some places, problems turning, and some chatter. We’re having trouble finding a really good direction. The team’s not giving up, and we’ll be back to do our best tomorrow.”
— Bridgestone Report
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium. Rear: Soft, Medium (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main), Hard (Alternative)
Weather: Dry Ambient 15-17°C; Track 16-20°C (Bridgestone measurement)
Dani Pedrosa has put himself in a strong position to score a first ever MotoGP™ victory at Le Mans after the Repsol Honda rider took pole position for tomorrow’s French Grand Prix ahead of teammate Casey Stoner.
The top three qualifiers at Le Mans used different front tyres in combination with the soft rear slick to record their best times, with Pedrosa setting his time of 1:33.638 on the medium compound front slick tyre to finish three-tenths of a second clear of Stoner who ran the soft compound front slick. Meanwhile, Monster Tech3 Yamaha’s Andrea Dovizioso opted for the new specification medium compound front slick and was the only other rider to qualify in the 1 minute 33 second bracket and will line up on the grid in P3. In front of his home crowd, Power Electronics Aspar Randy de Puniet was the top CRT qualifier and will start on the fourth row in 12th place.
Rain earlier in the day resulted in the qualifying session starting under damp track conditions with riders taking to the track on soft wet tyres front and rear in an effort to gauge grip levels on the circuit. Halfway through the session a dry line started to appear and riders began to switch to slick tyres which quickened the pace and saw the rider classification change from one lap to the next. Though the session ended with the circuit being mainly dry, track temperatures remained quite cool at around 20°C which prevented riders matching the times recorded at last year’s qualifying practice which took place in much warmer conditions.
Masao Azuma – Chief Engineer, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
“We had highly variable conditions for qualifying today, with the track starting damp and then drying slowly during the session and so riders chose a wide variety of wet and slick tyre compounds to deal with the rapidly changing grip levels on the circuit.
“As we saw in yesterday’s free practice, when conditions were dry in qualifying many riders chose to run the soft rear slick in conjunction with the medium front slick to give them more stability in the heavy braking sections in the first half of the circuit. I expect that if conditions are dry tomorrow then this combination will be widely used and that the majority of riders that choose the medium compound front slick will select this option in the new specification front slick tyre. There is a high probability of a wet or flag-to-flag race but whatever the weather brings tomorrow, the pace for the top five riders is very close so I hope to see a very exciting race.”