After dominating the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France weekend so far, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez recorded his fifth pole of the season – setting the fastest lap ever on two wheels at the Le Mans circuit.
Rookie and Moto2 World Champion Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech3) secured second on the grid putting in a 1’32.734 late in the session to push Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) down to third.
Marquez set a fast time on his first run in the sunny conditions of Le Mans. However, on his second exit of Q2 Marc bettered his own time by half a second and lapped the 4.185km circuit in a new record time of 1’32.042, which was 0.692 faster than anyone else, and beat Pedrosa’s record time from 2008 by 0.605s (1’32.647).
Marc Marquez: “I’m very happy to be on pole and also with the gap between myself and second place on the timesheet. Tomorrow will be interesting as my main rivals – Dani, Jorge (Lorenzo) and Valentino (Rossi) – are not on the front row but on rows two and three. However, I know they will be there in the battle and we must be prepared. Starting from pole is an advantage and I will try to capitalise from it and give 100% – as always – to fight for the win!”
Pol Espargaro: “For me it is my first small victory. We worked so hard to be competitive and finally we are here. We put in a lot of effort in the pre-season and the first races and it is such a great reward to get this at the team’s home round. I know that it was just one lap and our rhythm is not as high as the other guys. But starting from second will give me some strength for the race.”
“We have to be realistic about the podium though. Our rhythm is not as high, maybe in a few faces we can think about the podium. I will obviously try and push my hardest but for sure Jorge Lorenzo’s rhythm and speed is very high.”
Dovizioso was pleased with his first front row grid for 2014 but was more satisfied with his overall preparations and pace before Sunday’s fifth race of the year.
The second row features Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP), who has recovered quickly from arm pump surgery since Jerez, with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) reaching his personal target of qualifying in the top five as he slots in behind the German. Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was 0.857s off pole in sixth place but he will still be confident of a good race at a venue where he has a strong record.
Valentino Rossi: “I’m quite happy, especially after Friday which was a disaster. I wasn’t able to ride the bike in a good way then, but today with my team we improved the setting a lot and I’m satisfied. I’m always fast; I have a good pace and a good setting so I like the bike. In the qualifying I had the potential to be on the front row but at the end it’s ok like this.”
“I’m in fifth ahead of Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa and I think they will be great rivals. Marc Marquez is also very fast, but I can fight with them!”
Making up an all Spanish the third row are Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini), top Open rider Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team). Pedrosa who is still recovering from an operation last week on his arm, managed to be the fastest rider in the speed trap with a top speed of 309.7km/h.
Dani Pedrosa: “Free practice wasn’t too bad for us, but in qualifying we weren’t so great. I’m riding a little smoother this weekend and not so aggressive, due to my injured forearm, and when I wanted to push to improve my times I wasn’t really able to. I think that in general we have done a good job in practice and I will try to get a good start tomorrow, because I am very far back. It will be important to bring the tyre temperature up on the warmup lap and try to overtake some riders in the opening laps”
The fourth row meanwhile comprises Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech3), Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing) and Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team), with Iannone briefly flashing up in second place provisionally before his lap time was cancelled as he exceeded the track limits.
Results – Q2:
1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 32.042s 304km/h (Top Speed)
2. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1)* 1m 32.734s +0.692s 309km/h
3. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 1m 32.755s +0.713s 308km/h
4. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 1m 32.846s +0.804s 307km/h
5. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 1m 32.873s +0.831s 307km/h
6. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 1m 32.899s +0.857s 305km/h
7. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 1m 33.006s +0.964s 308km/h
8. Aleix Espargaro ESP NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 1m 33.015s +0.973s 301km/h
9. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 33.023s +0.981s 310km/h
10. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 33.058s +1.016s 305km/h
11. Andrea Iannone ITA Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 1m 33.102s +1.060s 304km/h
12. Cal Crutchlow GBR Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 1m 33.315s +1.273s 304km/h
13. Nicky Hayden USA Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) 1m 33.859s
14. Yonny Hernandez COL Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 1m 33.999s
15. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 1m 34.203s
16. Scott Redding GBR Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RCV1000R)* 1m 34.233s
17. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) 1m 34.457s
18. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing (RCV1000R) 1m 34.880s
19. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Avintia) 1m 35.499s
20. Broc Parkes AUS Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART)* 1m 35.795s
21. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART) 1m 35.932s
22. Mike Di Meglio FRA Avintia Racing (Avintia)* 1m 36.163s
Fastest practice time: Marc Marquez ESP Honda 1m 33.366s (FP4)
Official Le Mans MotoGP records:
Best lap: Dani Pedrosa ESP Honda 1m 32.647s (2008)
Fastest race lap: Dani Pedrosa ESP Honda 1m 33.617s (2011)
Moto3 – Jack Miller second on the grid
Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) will start from second spot on the grid behind pole sitter Efren Vazquez (SAXOPRINT RTG) who outpaced the rest of the field in Le Mans with a new pole record of 1’42.49. Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) joins them on the front row.
Local hero Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold) heads the second row and might have done better had he not crashed immediately after setting his best time. He was not seriously hurt in the incident and is joined on row two by Niklas Ajo (Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo) and Isaac Viñales (Calvo Team).
The third row will feature Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0), John McPhee (SAXOPRINT RTG) and Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia).
The winner of the last two races Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) just sneaked into the top ten at the end and therefore will get away from the head of the fourth row.
In addition to Masbou there were crashes without significant consequences for Luca Grünwald (Kiefer Racing) at Museum Corner and Hafiq Azmi (SIC-Ajo KTM) who walked away from nasty late spill on the final corner.
Qualifying Results Moto3 (top 10)
1. Efren Vazquez SPA SaxoPrint-RTG (Honda) 1m 42.491s
2. Jack Miller AUS Red Bull KTM Ajo (KTM) 1m 42.516s
3. Alex Rins SPA Estrella Galicia 0,0 (Honda) 1m 42.718s
4. Alexis Masbou FRA Ongetta-Rivacold (Honda) 1m 42.752s
5. Niklas Ajo FIN Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo (Husqvarna) 1m 42.769s
6. Isaac Viñales SPA Calvo Team (KTM) 1m 42.815s
7. Alex Marquez SPA Estrella Galicia 0,0 (Honda) 1m 42.896s
8. John McPhee GBR SaxoPrint-RTG (Honda) 1m 42.936s
9. Zulfahmi Khairuddin MAL Ongetta-AirAsia (Honda) 1m 42.991s
10. Romano Fenati ITA SKY Racing Team VR46 (KTM) 1m 43.068s