1 Casey Stoner Honda AUS 1’33.782
2 Marco Simoncelli Honda ITA 1’34.186
3 Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 1’34.431
4 Nicky Hayden Ducati USA 1’34.652
5 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha ESP 1’34.659
6 Andrea Dovizioso Honda ITA 1’34.705
7 Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 1’34.939
8 Hiroshi Aoyama Honda JPN 1’34.959
9 Valentino Rossi Ducati ITA 1’34.966
10 Ben Spies Yamaha USA 1’34.976
11 Randy De Puniet Ducati FRA 1’34.998
12 Cal Crutchlow Yamaha GBR 1’35.158
13 Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 1’35.383
14 Hector Barbera Ducati ESP 1’35.902
15 Alvaro Bautista Suzuki ESP 1’35.992
Stoner leads all Honda top 3 on French soil
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner dominated the first day of action at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, posting the fastest time in both free practice sessions.
Stoner topped the first session ahead of his team-mate Dani Pedrosa and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and the same three were up front again in the second free practice session.
The Australian set the fastest lap of 1’33.782 in the afternoon session which was 0.404s faster than Simoncelli and nearly four-tenths quicker than his best time set in the free practice one. The Italian, who was second fastest, has twice finished on the podium in France when racing in the 250cc class, including a win in 2009.
Pedrosa was the only rider unable to improve on his time set in the morning practice, in a session which was much hotter than the conditions in the morning. The Spaniard’s lap time in FP1 was 1’34.431, compared to 1’34.478 set in FP2. The gap between Stoner and Pedrosa’s lap time was 0.696s. Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) produced a late effort to claim the fourth fastest time and finish the highest Ducati. The American secured his best ever finish at the French GP in 2010 when he came fourth as the first Ducati rider across the line. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) who has won back to back races here at Le Mans in 2009 and 2010, made a big improvement from his first session of the day, by finding half a second in his lap times to finish fifth.
Sixth was Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) who has finished on the podium six times at the Le Mans circuit. The Italian was third in this morning’s session. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was seventh and the second fastest Yamaha. The 37 year-old has had a good record at this circuit with two rostrum places here in both 2005 and 2008.
Japanese rider Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) was eighth in FP2, 1.177s off Stoner’s time, with Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) ninth. The final spot in the top ten went to Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing), whilst local favourite Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) was just outside the top ten in eleventh.
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) making his racing debut at this circuit, as he did in Estoril, crashed at Turn 8 in the last five minutes of the session, but was able to remount. The British rider finished 12th.
In a very competitive Moto2 second practice, it was Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) who led the way for this weekend’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, as he did in the morning. Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) was second ahead of Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project).
The German rider pulled out a last minute lap to rocket to the top of the timesheets with a time of 1’38.709 which was nearly three-tenths faster than Lüthi and four-tenths quicker than his own best lap from the morning. If Bradl records pole position tomorrow in qualifying, it will be his fourth successive pole of the 2011 campaign. The Kalex rider’s previous best finish here in Le Mans is a sixth place.
Lüthi who crashed in the final moments of FP1, was the nearest challenger to the dominat Bradl. Le Mans is the only circuit at which the Swiss rider has has two Grand Prix victories. Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project) who was third in Le Mans in the Moto2 class last season, looked set to achieve the quickest time in FP2 until the dying moments but finished half a second off Bradl’s quickest lap.
The riders between second and 20th on the grid were separated by just one second as they competed in very hot and sunny conditions in Northern France.
Jules Cluzel (Forward Racing) on the Suter was fourth fastest, ahead of Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) who progressed from 11th fastest in FP1. The Italian had his best ever result at Le Mans last season when he achieved fourth place. Sixth place went to Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) who secured his first pole position in the 125cc class at Le Mans in 2009.
Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2) was seventh quickest in the afternoon practice, whilst eighth went to Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing). The Japanese rider claimed his maiden victory in Grand Prix racing in the 250cc race at Le Mans in 2006.
Aleix Espargaró (Pons HP 40) was ninth ahead of Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar), who won the 125cc race French GP two years ago.
Current Championship leader Nicolás Terol Bankia (Aspar) grabbed the fastest time in the second practice session of the day, for this weekend’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, from fellow Spaniard Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo). Third fastest was Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany).
The Bankia Aspar rider’s time of 1’43.788 was nearly 1.5s quicker than his fastest time of FP1. Terol finished second here last season after qualifying on pole for the first time in his GP career and will be aiming for his fourth successive victory of the 2011 campaign. Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) who finished fourth at Le Mans in 2010 had topped the timesheets for most of the session until Terol snatched the quickest time in the final moments. The Avant-AirAsia-Ajo rider had a nasty highside on his last lap and was lucky to be able to ride back to the pits unharmed. Terol’s best lap was just over half a second ahead of his Spanish compatriot.
With warmer temperatures for FP2, compared to a very fresh start in the morning, it was Cortese who was the highest placed German rider. The 21 year-old finished in sixth place in France in 2010 and that has been his best result in six Grand Prix starts at the circuit. There was a gap of nearly another half a second to the next rider in fourth place, Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar). Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) had problems with his machine at the start of the session but the German finished fifth on the timesheet.
Sixth quickest was Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) who finished eighth in Portugal, with Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing Team) seventh, one spot ahead of Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo). Alberto Moncayo (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica) was ninth fastest with the third Bankia Aspar rider taking the final spot in the top ten, Adrián Martín. The 18 year-old equalled his best finish in Grand Prix racing in Portugal with a ninth place. Martín was 1.719s off his team mate Terol’s fastest time of the session.
– HRC Report
After their strong performances in Portugal, the Repsol Honda trio maintained momentum in the first free practice sessions of the Grand Prix of France.
The team returned to work with a similar set up used two weeks ago in Estoril, a comparable track layout wise, and after the first two sessions the riders are confident in improving their pace and performance looking for good qualifying results.
Casey Stoner topped the time sheets in both free practice sessions, with Dani Pedrosa the third fastest rider of the day and Andrea Dovizioso sixth. Stoner’s fastest laptime of 1’33.782 in his first outing with the RC212V in Le Mans was just a fraction off Valentino Rossi’s pole position last season (1’33.408) and almost half a second quicker than the existing Circuit Lap Record of 1’34.215 set by Rossi in 2008.
Stoner kept a similar set up to Portugal and focused on improving traction in the rear of his machine. Pedrosa, after missing the majority of the post-race test in Portugal due to his physical condition, took his time this afternoon to try the new Ohlins front fork and also both hard and soft tyres to compare. Dovizioso spent the sessions trying to improve stability under braking and working on set up for tomorrow’s qualifying session.
CASEY STONER – 1st – 1’33.782
“The track has quite good grip and we have a better feeling than in the past few years in this track and we are very happy, we went out this morning and didn’t change so much from Portugal as the tracks are pretty similar for us, we felt good immediately and then changed a few things and tried something we haven’t tested before on the Honda which seemed to give us more traction in the rear without affecting anything else. The weather is fantastic here and I hope it stays this way! We’re happy to be where we are and we’ll continue to work tomorrow morning to ensure we have the best set up for qualifying. Every session we do we’re trying to modify something to improve the bike, I don’t know if this is good enough to get pole at the moment as people are able to pull out a very good lap on the soft tyre, today we are fast but I’m sure tomorrow the others will also be fast, at this moment we feel comfortable with the settings with just a few more adjustments to make tomorrow, hopefully we can stay ahead of the rest”.
DANI PEDROSA – 3rd – 1’34.431
“In the morning it was difficult with the cold conditions to find some grip and then in the afternoon the grip got better but we couldn’t improve as much as we expected. Anyway we have some ideas and I hope to make a step forward tomorrow. We need to work on the front and rear suspension to get a better feeling, the bike was moving a lot this afternoon entering and at the exit of the corners. We have to keep the momentum and bounce back again because we are doing well, the bike is going very strong and we have to keep focused and work hard”.
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO – 6th – 1’34.705
“This morning we started well and we continued working on the set up of the bike in the afternoon. We tried a different setting on the other bike to improve the stability under braking but we didn’t get the results we expected. Tomorrow we will continue to fine tune the set up and the electronics. I feel I have margin to improve so I’m not too worried, I have always had good results on this track and the feeling with the machine is good. I’m not happy of the nine tenths gap from Casey, he is very fast, but apart from him we are closer to the first riders. We need to keep on working and improve the race pace”.
– Ducati Report
On a day marked by beautiful weather, Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi earned the fourth- and ninth-best times, respectively, during the first two free-practice sessions at the French Grand Prix.
During the afternoon session, the American found a good feeling with his GP11, and he hopes to continue at the same level over the course of the weekend. The Italian, on the other hand, was affected by setup issues, and by the time he and his crew made a change that seemed promising, he only had time for a couple of laps before the checkered flag flew. Tomorrow he’ll continue experimenting with setup in an effort to reduce the gap to the front.
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro Team) 4th, 1:34.652
“Today was certainly better than the last few Fridays, by quite a long way. It’s still early, and it’s just one day, but the bike felt quite good here straight away. The Portugal test was very useful for me and the team. We thought we made a little step there, and it seems like we confirmed that here. Overall, the bike definitely seems a little bit better, but we’ve still got a long way to go to be that fast consistently. Also, the gap to the very front is still out there quite a ways. Le Mans is difficult because it’s not a real grippy track, but we know our bike is really good on hard braking, and as I expected, that’s helping us here. Anyway, hopefully this will give us a little bit of momentum, and we’ll keep rolling tomorrow.”
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team) 9th, 1:34.966
“For sure I hoped today would go better than that. We had a few problems trying to find the right setting, so we’re too far back today. We’re struggling somewhat on corner exits. The bike moves a lot under acceleration, and we’re trying to understand if it’s a question of setup, or one of electronics, because at the moment, I’m having a hard time riding. In the end, we found an interesting change for the rear, but there were just a few minutes left in the session. I only had time for a couple of laps, during which I more or less matched my best time. Maybe with a little more time, I could have dropped another tenth and made up some positions, but tomorrow we definitely have to do much better when we try that setup with more time.”
– Yamaha Report
The first track sessions of the French round of the 2011 MotoGP Championship were played out under glorious sunshine in Le Mans today. Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies spent the morning and afternoon free practice sessions working through a number of chassis set-up changes and tyre options in preparation for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Lorenzo wrapped up the day in fifth having taken just over half a second off his morning time with improved set-up. The reigning World Champion will focus on improving his bike’s ability to turn in tomorrow morning’s final free practice ahead of the afternoon qualifying session.
Lorenzo’s team mate Ben Spies was happy to be back on the bike and re-building his confidence after his DNF at Estoril two weeks ago. Echoing his team mate’s performance Spies also made good improvements over the day, taking nearly eight tenths of a second off his time by end of session and finishing in tenth. The Texan claimed the highest speed on the Le Mans circuit for the sessions, clocking 288.9km/hr with his Yamaha YZR-M1.
Jorge Lorenzo / Position 5th – Time 1.34.659 – Laps 45
“As I’ve said before, this year it’s going to be a difficult year. Some of the other riders are much faster than before. We’re working hard and we are trying a lot of things to improve the bike. We will keep on, we made some improvements over today and I hope tomorrow we will make a step and be a bit faster.”
Ben Spies / Position 10th – Time 1.34.976 – Laps 48
“I was pretty happy with today, building some confidence back up after the last race in Estoril. The sessions went pretty well for us we just didn’t put in one fast lap. We’ve been quite consistent with race distance on the tyres and I’m reasonably happy with the bike so if we can make it better for tomorrow I think we’ll be up with the front guys.”
Wilco Zeelenberg – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“The second session went a bit better but we’re not completely happy and satisfied as we are still missing some ‘turnability’. We improved a bit from the morning, Jorge was more consistent and a bit faster but for sure he wants more and we do need it. Hopefully tomorrow we can make another step without losing our strong points because at the moment braking on corner entry is quite good.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“We still have some work to do but the balance of Ben’s bike is not too far off. We are also working to find which tyre is best for tomorrow’s qualifying; we are positive about what we can achieve in the next sessions. Jorge made clear improvements over the day although they are still looking to find some more agility.”
Encouraging start for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team on home soil
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad made an encouraging start to preparations for the Team’s all-important home race in France after Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow set a fast and competitive pace on the opening day of practice at the historic Le Mans circuit.
Today’s session was run in gloriously sunny conditions, which gave Edwards and Crutchlow the perfect opportunity to focus on making further adjustments and improvements to the settings they found during a successful one-day test session after the recent Estoril round in Portugal.
Edwards was able to knock almost a second off his best time from this morning’s session, the American thrilled that a revised set-up he evaluated in Estoril to improve rear grip barely needed to be modified to allow him to challenge for a top six time in Le Mans today.
Edwards ended with a best time of 1.34.939 to finish just 0.5s away from the top three in seventh place on the combined timesheets.
Crutchlow’s incredible prowess at quickly learning new tracks was evident again today, the British rider finishing second quickest Yamaha in this morning’s session as he immediately adapted to the heavy braking and hard acceleration characteristics of the legendary Bugatti track.
Ninth fastest in the opening session, Crutchlow looked certain to force his way deservedly back into the top ten this afternoon when he suffered a small front-end crash in the final three minutes.
Despite shaving over 0.6s off his best time set this morning, Crutchlow had to settle for 12th on the leaderboard, a result that certainly didn’t show a true reflection of the 25-year-old’s potential.
Colin Edwards / Position 7th – Time 1.34.939 – Laps 41
“I knew we’d made a big step with the changes we made to the bike during the test in Estoril and today’s practice confirmed that. We made a couple of little tweaks to the setting we finished the test in Portugal with, but by the end of the day the bike was pretty much identical to how we put it on the truck a couple of weeks back. I feel like I’ve got a lot more rear grip and the bike goes in the direction that I point it and that just makes my riding feel really natural. I’ve been missing that feeling and for most of the year I’ve been fighting the bike to get it to do something. But today it was much easier to do the lap time. And it doesn’t matter what track you’re on, if you can ride without fighting the bike, you can string together some good laps. I’m really happy but we can make the bike a little bit better. I’d like to get the electronics helping me turn on the exit a bit more in some of the tighter sections. Overall it has been a really positive start and that’s important being such a huge race for the Team and for Monster.”
Cal Crutchlow / Position 12th – Time 1.35.158 – Laps 42
“I’m pretty happy with how today went apart from the stupid crash at the end which was just a mistake I made in braking for Turn 6. I just ran in a bit hot on the brakes and tipped off. Despite that I was only a tenth behind Colin and he’s got a great record at this track. On the lap I crashed I’d done my best splits of the session in the first two sectors and was only two-tenths off the best lap at that point. If I’d lost another two-tenths in the second two splits then I’d have been in the top six. To finish 12th doesn’t do us justice at all and if we can carry on tomorrow making the same progression I did today, I know I can be comfortably in the top ten. Although people told me Le Mans was going to be easier to learn than Jerez and Estoril, I actually think it is harder because it is so hard to pick up the tenths you need to go faster. And it doesn’t help make it any easier when Casey goes out on lap record pace in the first practice! We can make the bike better for tomorrow. As soon as I open the throttle I run wide, so I’ll have a sit down with my guys and come up with a plan to solve that tomorrow. This is a massive weekend for the Team and Monster and today was a positive start, so I’m looking forward to Sunday and fighting for a top ten again.”
– Bridgestone Report
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium. Rear (asymmetric): Soft, Medium
Casey Stoner finished the first day of practice for the French Grand Prix fastest overall, lapping under the existing lap record by nearly 0.5seconds. His fastest lap came on the harder option front and rear Bridgestone slicks, but he also lapped under the lap record and set provisional fastest using the new soft asymmetric rear tyre.
In fact, after just the first session of running this weekend Stoner had already lapped faster than the lap record on the soft rear, indicating that both the harder and the new soft option slicks selected for this grand prix are performing well.
Second fastest was satellite Honda rider Marco Simoncelli, continuing his recent run of good form and the only other rider under the lap record. Dani Pedrosa finished third fastest making for an all- Honda top three, and was the only rider who went faster in the morning’s session than in the afternoon. The top three riders all used the harder front and rear slicks to set their fastest times in the second free practice.
Conditions all day were fine and dry, and whilst the track temperature in the morning was cool, meaning that every rider favoured the soft front slick tyre and the new soft asymmetric rear, it was much warmer in the afternoon and the harder slicks proved fastest. The new soft / extra soft asymmetric slick tyre worked well today, allowing the riders to set fast times right from the start despite the cool track.
Whilst the gaps at the front could be measured in tenths of a second, only 0.037seconds covered seventh to tenth positions.
Masao Azuma – Chief Field Engineer, Bridgestone Motorsport
“I am pleased with the performance of both our slick tyre options today as we can see from the laptimes that both worked well. This morning, our new soft asymmetric rear tyre provided good feeling for the riders from the start and enabled the laptimes to be fast, and I am impressed that even in the first session of the weekend Casey was faster than the lap record. Then in the afternoon, as the temperature rose, many riders switched to the harder slicks and the times were also very good with both Casey and Marco faster than the lap record. The weather today has been good but it may play more of a role tomorrow and on Sunday when the forecast becomes less favourable.”
– Suzuki Report
Rizla Suzuki’s Álvaro Bautista today completed his first full day of practice on a MotoGP machine at the Le Mans circuit in France, but still feels he has more work to do.
Bautista (P15, 1’35.992, 42 laps) is still recovering from the broken femur he suffered eight weeks ago, and is yet to reach full fitness, but the plucky Spaniard didn’t let that bother him today as he set about coming to terms with the stop-start nature of the Le Mans track – a configuration that certainly tested him and the Suzuki GSV-R to the limit. Bautista progressed steadily throughout the day and recorded his best lap-time of the penultimate circulation of the afternoon session. He worked with his team to get the GSV-R set-up to give him the confidence he requires and is convinced he will be stronger as the weekend progresses. Today marked the first time that Bautista has completed a session on a MotoGP bike after a crash in last year’s first session ruled him out of the rest of the weekend’s proceedings.
Today’s practices were both held in dry and sunny conditions, but a brisk wind kept temperatures at a pleasant 24ºC this afternoon. Honda’s Casey Stoner led the way in both of today’s practice sessions to top the leader-board on day one.
Rizla Suzuki and Bautista have one more practice session tomorrow morning, before an hour of qualifying in the afternoon. Sunday’s 28-lap race is the fourth round of the 2011 season and the lights will go out to signal the start of the race at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).
Álvaro Bautista: “It has been a difficult day because for me this has really been the first time I’ve ridden a MotoGP bike here – after crashing and not being able to continue last year. In both sessions I had a bit of a problem entering the corners because I didn’t feel like I had enough grip. The bike felt like it was floating and this didn’t give me the confidence to turn quickly. We will have to work on this to improve things, but I have complete faith in my team that they will get it sorted out. We still need a bit more time to get the bike set right so I can start to push to the limit, but the bike didn’t give me that today and in my condition it’s quite difficult to push that far. My mind and my body still don’t want to risk anything, so we still need to go step-by-step, but I’m sure we’ll be quicker tomorrow. My leg is much better than Portugal, it’s still not perfect, but I was able to do the whole of today’s practices without getting too tired.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager: “Álvaro is more focussed on performance here in Le Mans, than he is on recovering from his broken leg, but we have to be realistic and remember that he is still in the recuperation process. In addition, the Le Mans circuit holds some horrible memories from last year, so for all these reasons it will take a while to build his confidence and let him attack the circuit. Without question there’s work to do with the bike and the benefits of the new chassis are not being felt yet – we need to get the settings right so he can go closer to the limits. We’ve done plenty of laps today – and got some useful data – and now we have a base to be able to improve significantly tomorrow.”