MotoGP Le Mans Friday practice: Marquez on top

Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez leads but only by 0.007 over Pramac Ducati's Andrea Iannone; Jorge Lorenzo 7th, Valentino Rossi 10th

motogp le mans friday practice report marc marquez
2014/05/06 - mgp - Round05 - Le Mans - MotoGP - Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda - RC213V - ActionAndrew Northcott

On a sunny Friday afternoon at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit in France, Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez continued to show that he's the class of the MotoGP field by leading both practice sessions. Although the field was bunched up quite close in the morning session (the top ten riders were covered by just 0.745 seconds), things spread out a bit in the afternoon as times began to drop. Interestingly, the rider who ended up only 0.007 seconds behind Marquez in the afternoon session was Pramac Ducati's Andrea Iannone, who had the benefit of a super-soft rear tire to set his time (Marquez and most of the others were on the next-harder soft option rear tire). Iannone admitted afterward that the race is a different matter, as he was having problems with stability under braking. GO&FUN Honda Gresini's Alvaro Bautista ended up third quickest, only 0.216 seconds behind Marquez, ahead of Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Bradley Smith and Marquez's teammate Dani Pedrosa.

Marquez had a few moments during both practice sessions, including running over the kerbing in the last two corners in the afternoon that negated his first fast lap. "Like always on Fridays, I have pushed hard to try to find the limits, therefore I have had some moments," admitted Marquez. "It is my normal way of approaching the GP: Fridays limits search; Sundays limit management. I still have problems to solve at the entrance of the turns." The championship points leader feels that the Le Mans circuit will be one of the few where the softer tires allotted to the Open class bikes may work in the race and possibly afford them an advantage. "We have to be smart tomorrow. Here at a short track, the extra-soft tires of the Open class and Ducati might work for the whole race, therefore it is very important to qualify well for the grid. Le Mans is quite complicated for passing."

Having undergone surgery last week to relieve arm pump in his right forearm, Pedrosa was taking things cautiously on his first day back to competition. "I have started calm, not aggressive," said the Spaniard. "After ten days without moving my arms I have to go step-by-step. I have still stitches and I feel pain. My arm was swollen afterward, but I imagine that after a full night's rest that things will be better tomorrow. I think everything was OK for the first day." Apparently the arm pump affliction had been affecting him since Qatar, and he admitted that it had affected his racing plans for various races. In Argentina where he stated that he left his attack in the race too late, part of that was a result of his wanting to keep his arm from affecting his performance later in the race.

Although sitting only seventh quickest, Movistar Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo was feeling fairly confident, and said that the position doesn't reflect the performance potential at Le Mans, as both he and Valentino Rossi stayed on a single tire for the duration of the afternoon session. Bridgestone finally brought its latest revised version of the harder compound that they had promised back after Qatar, and Lorenzo felt it was a definite improvement, although still needing some work. "I have felt very good today; probably the best of the whole season so far," stated the Majorcan. "Bridgestone's new rear soft tire uses a extra-soft compound on one side (left) and this gives me a better feeling I didn't have before. In the traction area when you pick up the bike it is still too hard, what means still too much spinning, but on the edge it works OK. There is a full day of testing to go, but I would say that here is the race so far in which we have been closest to Marc." As the others stated regarding the extra-soft option rear tires for the Open Ducatis, Lorenzo knows getting away with the lead group is paramount. "Because of the change that allows Ducati to race with the extra soft compound rear, it is fundamental to get a good grid position."

Both Lorenzo and Rossi had tested a new chassis aimed at improving braking stability at the post-race tests at Jerez. However, while the new chassis was immediately adopted by Rossi, Lorenzo just as quickly dismissed it. "I am using the old chassis here," he said. “No difference for me, and not being better, it's better not to complicate life, because if you start to work with something new, you can end getting into unexpected problems."

On the other side of the Yamaha garage, Rossi was not a happy camper, languishing back in 10th spot and not feeling the same confidence as his teammate. "I am not satisfied, I am not happy with today's result," lamented Rossi. "I have many problems, especially on acceleration. The bike moves a lot so I have to delay the throttle opening. Tonight we have to think about it and try to understand what is happening for us to be more competitive tomorrow. The position at the end of the day does not show the reality. We, Lorenzo and I, have been riding until the end with the same tires, while the rest did change towards the end. So it is difficult to understand the real situation." Rossi knows that getting into the top ten in tomorrow's FP3 morning practice is important (the top ten riders go directly to QP2). "Our goal for tomorrow is to finish in the morning between the 10 first riders."

Rossi is yet another Factory class rider knowing that the soft tires will play an important role in the race. "Another important thing is to manage the soft tires, which are the ones that will work here. As we have a limited number, we have to be smart managing them. Ducati may have here a real advantage with the super soft rear; they might even use it in the race."

MotoGP Le Mans Friday practice times:

Pos. Rider Country Team Machine Time
1 Marc Marquez SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1:33.452
2 Andrea Iannone ITA Pramac Racing Ducati 1:33.459
3 Alvaro Bautista SPA GO&FUN Honda Gresini Honda 1:33.668
4 Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 1:33.920
5 Dani Pedrosa SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1:33.942
6 Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP Honda 1:34.040
7 Jorge Lorenzo SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1:34.054
8 Andrea Dovisioso ITA Ducati Team Ducati 1:34.117
9 Aleix Espargaro SPA NGM Forward Racing Forward Yamaha 1:34.134
10 Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1:34.498
11 Pol Espargaro SPA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 1:34.506
12 Yonny Hernandez COL Energy T.I. Pramac Racing Ducati 1:34.877
13 Cal Crutchlow GBR Ducati Team Ducati 1:34.907
14 Nicky Hayden USA Drive M7 Aspar Honda 1:34.961
15 Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing Forward Yamaha 1:35.089
16 Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Drive M7 Aspar Honda 1:35.229
17 Scott Redding GBR GO&FUN Honda Gresini Honda 1:35.424
18 Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing Honda 1:35.818
19 Hector Barbera SPA Avintia Racing FTR/Kawasaki 1:36.418
20 Mike Di Meglio FRA Avintia Racing FTR/Kawasaki 1:36.612
21 Michael Laverty IRL Paul Bird Motorsport ART/Aprilia 1:36.742
22 Broc Parkes AUS Paul Bird Motorsport ART/Aprilia 1:37.136