MotoGP 2017 – Round Five – Le Mans – Grand Prix de France
Maverick Vinales finds his mojo to take Le Mans MotoGP pole for an all Yamaha front row
Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) took another impressive pole position at a proven venue for the 2013 Moto3 World Champion, topping the timesheets from teammate Valentino Rossi in a huge leap forward from the more difficult Spanish GP for the two. Home hero Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) took his first ever front row start in an electric atmosphere at the Bugatti circuit.
It was a last lap dash for Zarco after also proving a superstar in Q1, the Frenchman getting his head down and into the zone as the factory Yamaha pairing pushed at the front. Seemingly forced to settle for Row 2, the double Moto2 Champion kept pounding around the 2.6 mile circuit undeterred and lit up the timesheets on his final lap to take back the front row.
Maverick Viñales – P1
“It was a tricky qualifying, because the track was not at its best, but anyway our bike is really good here. We knew we could do it, so I just tried to concentrate and push to the best of my ability and bring home the pole position. We have to be really careful with the weather, we also have to pay a lot of attention if we have a flag to flag, a wet race or even on the dry, we still have to improve. We have to work tonight and try to improve for tomorrow.”
Valentino Rossi – P2
“I’m so happy, because today was the first practice in the dry, so you never know. We modified the setting a bit, and that, together with this track and this asphalt, makes our bike work well. In the end it was a really good qualifying, I think on the first flying lap I was fast, but I reached Jack a bit too early, so I lost a bit of time. It’s a shame for missing out on the pole position, but starting from second place is OK for the race.”
Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Manager
“Today worked out perfectly for the team. Its been a really challenging day, from FP3 until the very end of Q2, due to the condition of the track, which was constantly changing lap by lap, but all for the better. All of todays sessions were really exciting. The new tarmac provides very good grip, which perfectly suits our bike and both our riders have done a great job to exploit this advantage to the fullest. They have been fast and consistent in all the sessions and todays results give us a lot of confidence for tomorrows race, but saying that, we still have some areas where we can improve. The tyre choice remains a question mark, because the conditions over the last two days havent allowed us to complete a proper comparison amongst all the options. For this reason, the warm up will be extremely important. We will start the race from the best position on the grid, in first and second place, and today Zarco made it an all-Yamaha front row.”
Johann Zarco – P3
“The result is fantastic and I am delighted to qualify on the front row for my home race, even if I didn’t expect it. Before the qualifying, I was a bit nervous because of my fall this morning, but I ran a decent pace in FP4 which gave me my confidence back. Then in Q1, I was able to improve my time in the final run and I went on to finish in P2, which was great. After that, in Qualifying 2, I only had one rear tyre that I could use so I waited for a bit, but I watched the pace of my opponents and this encouraged me because I knew that I could do a good job.
“Eventually, both sessions went really well for me and now I will enjoy this moment because the fans were superb today and they want a podium tomorrow but so do I. Yet, being fast this afternoon gives me the confidence for this, plus the bike was perfect today and the team did a good job. In the race, I plan to stay with the top guys but you have to be calm in order to be fast here in Le Mans so I need to control my emotions and be strong at the start. Then I will fight and hopefully get a podium and if I achieve this, it will be truly awesome.”
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) was the man just pushed back by Zarco’s last lap and starts P4, ahead of reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) after a more difficult day for the number 93.
Cal Crutchlow – P4
“It was a decent day. It’s been a difficult and strange weekend so far as we haven’t had hardly any dry track time and even in qualifying the track wasn’t completely dry and in great shape. We did a good job as a team, but I made a sloppy lap at the end when I made some mistakes and I was disappointed to end up on the second row. I feel quite good ahead of the race. But as you can see, at the moment it’s quite hard to be as competitive as the Yamaha, and the Honda takes a bit more setting up around this track. Hopefully tonight the engineers can work their magic and tomorrow we will be really competitive because, when we do get it right, we’re very, very fast. I’m looking forward to that and hopefully it will be a good day for us tomorrow.”
Marc Marquez – P5
“We knew this is a track where we normally struggle a bit more than at others, but anyway we’re not so far off. We’re not yet where we would like to be but we’ll work hard this evening checking the data and hopefully we’ll be able to get a bit closer in tomorrow’s warm-up. We’ve had just one completely dry session so far this weekend, so FP4 was like a normal FP1, and with the new tarmac and everything we needed more track time, more laps to set up the bike and to adapt the riding style. As for the crashes, I had both of them in the same corner: regarding the one in FP4, I was trying to find the limit, and as for the one in qualifying, we had changed the setup a little bit and I probably should have done that corner a little bit differently. I was prepared for it in view of my second exit but then I had a little problem with the second tyre and couldn’t do a perfect lap. Anyway, of course we’ll do our best in the race.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) – fastest in Q1 from Zarco – completes the second row.
Andrea Dovizioso – P6
“It’s been quite a complicated weekend but in the end, after missing out on the top 10 by just a few tenths this morning, I was able to set an excellent time in Q1 and then go sixth quickest and gain a row 2 start for tomorrow’s race. I’m optimistic because I think I have a good pace, even though it’s difficult to understand that of the other top riders. We know that our rivals will be very competitive but in any case we’ll try and stay with them.”
Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) starts P7 despite a crash after topping FP3 in Le Mans too, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) giving the Austrian factory their best ever qualifying to date in P8 – an awesome achievement in their first season, and with teammate Bradley Smith also in the Q2 shootout and lining up in tenth.
Splitting the two ‘Bulls’ was Karel Abraham (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) in a solid showing for the Czech rider, while Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) managed to get back on the bike and qualify 11th after a horrible spill earlier in the day left the Australian battered and bruised.
Miller’s dramatic exit from FP4 came after losing control of his Honda RC213V and making heavy impact with a trackside barrier. After a medical check a shaken Miller took his place in Q2 on his spare bike despite the discomfort of football-size swelling on his right knee and bruised right hand. Those injuries contributed to a second but harmless tumble at the final corner when he was set to improve his time in the final moments of qualifying.
Miller had topped the timesheets in variable damp and drying conditions in Friday practice and with treatment at the Clinica Mobile is confident of recovering for a strong performance in the race.
Jack Miller – P11
“I was happy to get back on the bike for qualifying after not feeling 100% after the crash in FP4. It was a nasty crash and I’m lucky to walk away with just some bruises. I had some locking on the front through turn one which sent me towards the wall and when I saw I wasn’t going to stop in time I let go before I hit the wall. In Q2 I went quicker on my first run but my hand was not perfect after the crash and I struggled to stop the bike on the brakes in the final corner and touched the kerb. A shame but I’ll be ready for the race after I get some ice on my hand and knee to get the swelling down.”
After rain affected sessions throughout the weekend, some big names find themselves falling foul of the fight to get through Q1, with Jerez winner Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) in P13, ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) and Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) to lock out the fastest fifteen.
Dani Pedrosa – P13
“This weekend has been quite difficult in general, due to the weather that had us struggling with the tyre temperature. Then this morning during FP3 we had some little problems with the bike that meant I couldn’t improve my lap time and go directly to Q2. The FP4 session went quite well; we proved to have a good pace and that’s the positive part of today. It was the same way in Q1; we were fast but unfortunately just not enough to move through. Anyway, we must now think about tomorrow. We must be very focused on the start and in the first chicane, and we also must try and be quite aggressive in the first laps to recover positions. We’ll try our best and see where we end up.”
Le Mans’ most successful premier class rider on the grid, Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) faces a fight back on Sunday from sixteenth. Lorenzo could not establish a good feeling with the track conditions.
Jorge Lorenzo – P16
“Unfortunately the weather conditioned my practice and qualifying. With the rain I felt I was very competitive, but when I fitted slicks with the track partially damp, I wasn’t able to push hard because I didn’t feel safe enough. In Q1 there were a lot of really quick riders, and despite the fact that I set a good time, we weren’t able to get into Q2. Pity, because I feel sure that if I had had another 15 minutes available I could have dropped my lap time by three or four tenths, and I think that my real position in dry conditions is amongst the top eight riders. Now the only thing that I can do is use the warm-up tomorrow morning to improve the set-up of my bike and then try and make up positions in the race.”
The lights go out for the French GP at 14:00 (GMT +2) – with the grid more exciting than ever after the shake up with the weather.
MotoGP 2017 – Round Five – Le Mans – Qualifying Results
- VINALES Maverick 25 SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1’31.994
- ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1’32.100
- ZARCO Johann 5 FRA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 1’32.229
- CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR LCR Honda Honda 1’32.300
- MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1’32.493
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Ducati Team Ducati 1’32.726
- REDDING Scott 45 GBR Octo Pramac Racing Ducati 1’33.119
- ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 1’33.399
- ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati 1’33.517
- SMITH Bradley 38 GBR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 1’33.629
- MILLER Jack 43 AUS Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 1’33.756
- BAZ Loris 76 FRA Reale Avintia Racing Ducati 1’33.955
- PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1’32.415 (Q1)
- BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati 1’32.484 (Q1)
- FOLGER Jonas 94 GER Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 1’32.695 (Q1)
- LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA Ducati Team Ducati 1’32.830 (Q1)
- IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki 1’32.844 (Q1)
- ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia 1’33.187 (Q1)
- PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA Octo Pramac Racing Ducati 1’33.231 (Q1)
- BARBERA Hector 8 SPA Reale Avintia Racing Ducati 1’33.233 (Q1)
- LOWES Sam 22 GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia 1’33.817 (Q1)
- RABAT Tito 53 SPA Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 1’33.875 (Q1)
- GUINTOLI Sylvain 50 FRA Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki 1’34.082 (Q1)
Back-to-back pole positions for Thomas Lüthi (SWI) as the Swiss rider bests his 2016 lap
Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) took a record-breaking pole position for the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France, taking a good portion of time off his 2016 pole record – 12 years after the number 12 took his first pole at Le Mans. Rookie sensation Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) took his first ever front row the race weekend after his first intermediate class podium in P2 – with Championship leader Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) locking out the top three.
Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) impressed in fourth, with Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) taking P5 for Suter. Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) starts off the front row for the first time this season in sixth, putting together a solid salvage job after a difficult day in France and a highside crash on Saturday morning.
Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) takes seventh ahead of Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) and Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) completing Row 3, with Sandro Cortese locking out the top ten behind teammate Schrötter.
Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) took P11 despite a crash, ahead of Xavier Simeon (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2), Yonny Hernandez (AGR Team), Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) and Ricky Cardus (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in twelfth to fifteenth.
Remy Gardner pushed relentlessly to seize a starting position on the 8th row of the grid as he continues to recover from his ankle injury. The young Australian grit his teeth before finishing with a time that places him 23rd on the grid.
Remy Gardner – P23
“It was tricky, but the qualifying wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I managed to improve my riding a lot. We are only 1.2 of a second back from the front, which is good, but I think we definitely made a decent step forward in this session to get my confidence back up. Unfortunately, I made a mistake on my final lap, which would have been strong, but I was pushing a bit too hard and I ran wide so I nearly tucked the front. This is a shame, but the big day is tomorrow and I’m sure that the long and hard race will give me what I need to get back into the swing of things. Still, I’m quite happy overall and I will give it everything that I have got in the GP.”
MotoGP 2017 – Round Five – Le Mans – Moto2 Qualifying Results
- Thomas Lüthi (SWI – Kalex) 1’36.548
- Francesco Bagnaia (ITA – Kalex) +0.026
- Franco Morbidelli (ITA – Kalex) + 0.101
Jorge Martin (SPA) snatches his second consecutive pole
Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) will start the French GP from pole position after some spots of rain in the Moto3™ qualifying session left the field on a rush to be the last over the line as it dried out – making it the third pole in five races for the Spaniard. Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) had crossed the line with a slightly faster time, but had the laptime cancelled due to exceeding track limits at Turn 8, consequently starting from P2. Juanfran Guevara (RBA BOE Racing Team) completes the front row.
Jorge Martin – P1
“If I can be honest, this session has been a… disaster! Everything that could happen did happen, so even more so I can be happy with my pole position! I crashed out at the very beginning and I got really nervous, because I knew how important every lap was going to be, given that it was our first and only real session on the dry. I was struggling, but in the end I was able to get the confidence back and set some good lap-times. It’s good to have found the feeling with these conditions in such a short time, so I hope tomorrow we’ll be able to do a great race: from pole everything looks a lot different!”
Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) heads up the second row in a solid session for the Italian title contender, ahead of an incredible P5 for Albert Arenas (Aspar Mahindra Moto3) after the Mahindra rider also impressed in a damp FP3. Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo), fastest before the shower interrupted the session, starts from sixth.
Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate) followed up his impressive P4 over the line in Jerez with more good form to line up in seventh, with Championship leader Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) in the middle of the third row. Mir is ahead of the second Red Bull KTM Ajo machine of Bo Bendsneyder, as the Dutchman got back at the sharp end. Wildcard and Bendsneyder’s new teammate Danny Kent – 2015 Moto3 World Champion – completes the top ten.
Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and teammate Aron Canet join Kent on row four, with Livio Loi (Leopard Racing), Mahindra-riding rookie Manuel Pagliani (CIP) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) locking out the top fifteen.
MotoGP 2017 – Round Five – Le Mans – Moto3 Qualifying Results
- Jorge Martin (SPA – Honda) 1’42.813
- Nicolò Bulega (ITA – KTM) + 0.031
- Juanfran Guevara (SPA – KTM) + 0.148