MotoGP: Marc Marquez Fast In France

Factory Yamaha riders struggle to match Honda pace during first day of practice.

Marc Marquez

After holding off charging Dani Pedrosa at Jerez for his second podium finish of the season, Valentino Rossi struggled during the first day of practice at Le Mans, round 5 of the 2014 MotoGP world championship. The factory Yamaha rider completed the day 10th overall, more than a second behind leader Marc Marquez and nearly half a second slower than teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Pedrosa won last year's race in wet conditions.

After trying a medium-compound Bridgestone rear, Marquez switched to a soft rear and was the first to drop into the 1:33 range. He set his quickest time, a 1:33.452—0.165 second inside Pedrosa's 2011 race lap record—on soft front and rear slicks. By the end of practice, Andrea Iannone, Alvaro Bautista, Bradley Smith, and Pedrosa also managed to get into the 1:33s. Pedrosa and Stefan Bradl, sixth, were on track just days after surgery for arm-pump.

“I felt comfortable right from the start today,” Marquez said. “We began with the base setup from Jerez and worked from there. In the afternoon, we tried things with the tires and tweaked the setup further to keep going forward. Besides being the fastest over a single lap, our pace was also really good, so I am happy with how everything went in general.”

Jorge Lorenzo

Lorenzo, seventh overall, led a big chunk of the significantly warmer afternoon practice, but he was unable to improve on 1:34.054. “I’m satisfied with the pace,” the Spaniard said. “We are not in a position that reflects our performance in the time sheets. We were the only one with the same tire the whole session. I think with a new tire we could have improved half a second at the end.”

Running exclusively in the afternoon on the new chassis that he used during the race in Jerez, Rossi ran off the track twice at Chemin aux Boeufx, and with just two seconds remaining in the session was 11th. This is important because only the riders who post the 10 best times in practice are guaranteed spots in Qualifying 2; the rest must go through Q1.

On his final lap, however, Rossi set a personal best in Sector 3 and finished the session 10th, just 0.008 ahead of Pol Espargaro. “I’m not happy about today, especially this afternoon,” Rossi said. “I have a lot of problems with the bike, especially in acceleration. The bike is very nervous. We tried to modify something during practice, but we didn’t fix the problem.

“The difference between Jerez and here for the settings is unbelievable, so we have to change a lot of things. I’m too far from the front, so for tomorrow, we have to check the data and improve to be more competitive. It is important to start in the top five here.”

Nicky Hayden

Unlike Jerez, which is more flowing, the stop-and-go nature of this 14-turn, 2.6-mile track hurt Nicky Hayden, whose customer Honda RCV1000R remains down on acceleration and top speed to the factory machines. The former world champion was 14th at the end of Friday practice, one place ahead of fellow American Colin Edwards on the second Forward Racing Yamaha.

Hard braking aggravated Hayden’s sore wrist. “I knew my wrist would be a problem,” he said. “It is a bit better than Jerez, so we will have to see how it holds up the rest of the weekend.”

On Thursday, Rossi announced his intention to continue racing through the 2016 season. “Last year, especially the second part of the season, I was a bit too far from the top three,” he said. “So I wanted to see if this year is better. I enjoy a lot, so my project is to make another contract of two seasons.”

Marquez announced earlier this week he will stay with Honda for at least two more seasons. “I feel so good with this team,” he said. “I think they feel good with me.”

Marc Marquez

Dani Pedrosa

Andrea Dovizioso

Cal Crutchlow

Andrea Iannone

Jorge Lorenzo

Valentino Rossi

Nicky Hayden

Pol Espargaro

Stefan Bradl