MotoGP Le Mans qualifying: Marquez on pole with new lap record

Marc Marquez continues his dominant form with another pole position ahead of Pol Espargaro and Andrea Dovisioso; Valentino Rossi fifth, Jorge Lorenzo sixth

motogp le mans qualifying report marquez
2014/05/17 - mgp - Round05 - Le Mans - MotoGP - Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda - RC213V - ActionAndrew Northcott

As if the MotoGP field needed reminding during Saturday's qualifying for Sunday's Monster Energy Grand Prix de France at Le Mans, Marc Marquez stamped his authority on the proceedings by quickly setting fast time in the opening minutes of the 15-minute final Q2 session, and then going even quicker in the final few minutes to obliterate the previous lap record set in 2008 (when ultra-soft qualifying tires were still being used). Marquez's time of 1:32.042 was 0.605 seconds quicker than the previous best set by teammate Dani Pedrosa, and put Marquez nearly seven-tenths quicker than surprise second-spot-holder Pol Espargaro on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. Ducati's Andrea Dovisioso grabbed third spot ahead of LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl, with the Movistar Yamaha pair of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo making up the rest of the second row. Marquez's time overshadowed the close times of the rest of the field, with second through 12th separated by less than a second.

"I didn’t expected this lap time, but today I have been able to explore to the maximum of the new soft tire," explained Marquez afterward. "Immediately I noticed that I had the complete feeling I needed." Regarding his secret to be able to go so fast on one single lap, Marquez said with a smile, "Well, sometimes you close your eyes and just wait to see if you will complete the whole lap, no?" As far as tomorrow’s race, he said that although there are other riders in the front of the grid, the ones who worry him most are Lorenzo, Rossi and Pedrosa. "On one single lap I was very fast, but the racing pace between us is very similar," said Marquez. "It won’t be an easy race tomorrow."

Espargaro's front row qualifying was obviously his best so far, and while his previous results haven't been impressive, he has been progressing very steadily using his teammate Bradley Smith (who has been impressing in his second season) as a reference. While extremely satisfied with his second qualifying spot, Espargaro knows his race pace needs work, and that he probably won't be able to keep the lead group in sight for long. He also explained that he would try not to get involved in any hypothetic war between the "four bigs" (Marquez, Lorenzo, Rossi, and Pedrosa): "It's not the moment yet," said Espargaro.

In grabbing his first front row qualifying position, Dovisioso was happy with the Ducati's progress, but realistic that his chances at the podium will be difficult. “I am happier than last year because the gap to the pole position is less, which means that we are progressing. I am positive but also realistic; we have no real chance to fight for the podium tomorrow." When asked how he could go so well in qualifying here, Dovi replied, "This track traditionally matches the Ducati—the reason I don’t really know. The braking in the turns is good for us… maybe that helps."

Rossi was happy to be on the second row, considering how his situation was yesterday. "I am very happy after the problems we had yesterday," Rossi exclaimed. "I finished yesterday really worried, but we changed a lot the bike and we have been able to improve our pace with race tires over a second. I am ready for the fight." Interestingly, Rossi said that his new crew chief Silvano Galbusera's lack of experience at Le Mans wasn't that much of issue. "Silvano has not so much experience here in Le Mans so we had to help him with the set up. Here, normally you roll the bike backwards (meaning more weight on the rear) and that’s what we did. This made me improve a lot on acceleration. Now we have some things to check for tomorrow's warm up. I would like a bit better braking, and that’s what we will try to improve tomorrow morning."

Rossi said that his fast lap wasn't perfect. "I did lose the front row due a small mistake in the last section on my fast lap. But I am in front of Pedrosa and Lorenzo and this is positive." Rossi also marveled at Marquez's pole time. "Marc’s lap time .034 is f**king fast! I hope for the race we are capable to stay closer."

Sitting at the end of the second row wasn't in Lorenzo's plans. "Sincerely, I expected something more," lamented the two-time MotoGP World Champion. "I am not going to lie, I expected first row. My rhythm is good, but it has not been enough to get a good grid position. Marc is very strong on one lap, I think he takes a lot of profit (takes advantage) of (the Honda's) braking. I think the race rhythm will be around mid-33 and if so, I am there. Tomorrow the start will be fundamental. My goal is to get quickly into the rhythm and finish on the rostrum." When asked about Marquez's dominance this year, Lorenzo replied nonchalantly, "He is riding better than last year, it’s normal, he has more experience."

MotoGP Le Mans final qualifying times:

Pos. Rider Country Team Machine Time
1 Marc Marquez SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1:32.042
2 Pol Espargaro SPA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 1:32.734
3 Andrea Dovisioso ITA Ducati Team Ducati 1:32.755
4 Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP Honda 1:32.846
5 Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1:32.873
6 Jorge Lorenzo SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1:32.899
7 Alvaro Bautista SPA GO&FUN Honda Gresini Honda 1:33.006
8 Aleix Espargaro SPA NGM Forward Racing Forward Yamaha 1:33.015
9 Dani Pedrosa SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1:33.023
10 Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 1:33.058
11 Andrea Iannone ITA Pramac Racing Ducati 1:33.102
12 Cal Crutchlow GBR Ducati Team Ducati 1:33.315
13 Nicky Hayden USA Drive M7 Aspar Honda 1:33.859
14 Yonny Hernandez COL Energy T.I. Pramac Racing Ducati 1:33.999
15 Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing Forward Yamaha 1:34.203
16 Scott Redding GBR GO&FUN Honda Gresini Honda 1:34.233
17 Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Drive M7 Aspar Honda 1:34.457
18 Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing Honda 1:34.880
19 Hector Barbera SPA Avintia Racing FTR/Kawasaki 1:35.459
20 Broc Parkes AUS Paul Bird Motorsport ART/Aprilia 1:35.759
21 Michael Laverty IRL Paul Bird Motorsport ART/Aprilia 1:35.932
22 Mike Di Meglio FRA Avintia Racing FTR/Kawasaki 1:36.163