The latest episode of the Paddock Pass podcast is out, and features David Emmett and Steve English catch up after the last couple of rounds of World Superbikes, after both Assen and Imola. There was an awful lot to talk about, but the one subject we didn't discuss was Nicky Hayden's terrible cycling accident, which happened a day after we recorded. Please bear that in mind when you listen to the show.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class in Le Mans:
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class in Le Mans:
With some more sun on the menu for the MotoGP class, the riders were eager to assess their pace in fully dry if slightly chilly conditions. One might say a little too eager, both factory Ducatis crashing on their outlap within two minutes of each other in the same turn ten, followed soon after by Jack Miller making it safely through a scary crash into turn one.
Meanwhile, the Yamahas showed off their pace and their internal winglets by claiming the top three in the debut of the session, with Maverick Viñales on top of Johann Zarco and Valentino Rossi.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class in Le Mans:
The intermediate class was finally graced with a fully dry session, with the occasional damp patch seriously testing the riders’ attention – to more or less success, with several crashes and plenty of replay-worthy moments.
Franco Morbidelli was back to his usual antics, which meant taking the lead and letting everyone else try and catch up. Pecco Bagnaia accepted that challenge and he proved to be just as fast in the dry as he was in the wet around Le Mans, the Italian topping the session in his final few laps. Morbidelli dropped less than a tenth behind his VR46 Academy colleague to secure second position.
A glimpse of sun on a largely light blue sky almost looked like an illusion after the setting offered by Le Mans for the previous practice sessions. A drying track set things up nicely for a fierce fight for direct Q2 access in the final ten minutes of the session.
That also meant that besides Danilo Petrucci going like a rocket through the turn two gravel trap, there was little action in the first half of the session, Alvaro Bautista getting quite a bit of airtime as the only rider going around as the track was drying.
Cold, dark and humid – isn’t France lovely? The endless talk about weather in Le Mans doesn’t look like ending anytime soon, with a damp circuit waiting for the lightweight class in the third practice session.
The Italian brigade attacked the top of the timesheets from the start, with Marco Bezzecchi, Niccolo Antonelli and Lorenzo Dalla Porta holding the lead temporarily, while the likes of Joan Mir and Jorge Martin were sitting comfortably in their garages waiting for the track to dry.
"A wasted day, again at Le Mans," was Cal Crutchlow's verdict on the first day of practice at the French circuit. He had a point: the first session of practice started wet but dried out towards the end, though the track was never really fully dry. FP2 started completely wet, with plenty of rain, but again the rain stopped and the track improved a little. At no time did the track ever really become consistently one thing or another. And with dry weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday, there was not much to learn.
"It’s just a joke," Crutchlow complained. "I don’t know why we come here again at this time of the year. First of all, obviously I really believe we should have a race in France, I like coming to France, the fans are completely mad and I have a good rapport with them. But I don’t know why we come here and I don’t know why we come here now. No idea. Every year, I can’t tell you a year I’ve raced in MotoGP where it’s been sunny all weekend, I don’t think."
Naturally, this kicked off a heated debate among the various nationalities of journalists over whose country has the worst weather, with Silverstone and Assen the candidates giving Le Mans a proper run for their money. Crutchlow remained firm. "I love Le Mans, the history is superb, bike racing at Le Mans is massive as well as car racing. But the circuit’s no good. It’s stop-start and the time of the year’s always raining." It isn't 'always' raining at Le Mans, of course. But it feels like it does.
The Tech3 team have exercised their option to keep Johann Zarco for the 2018 season. On Thursday, the two parties reached an agreement that will see the Frenchman stay with the team for a second year.
With the title contenders being extra cautious in full wet conditions, that let some more names shine through at the top of the timesheets - at least until the very end, when some familiar names were cast in the top roles. Jerez winner Alex Marquez waited until the very last lap to cruise to the top and lead the session by almost eight tenths of a second.
As weather predictions claimed, the MotoGP class was greeted by a very wet track and tiny patches of blue sky as they left the pitlane for the second practice session of the day. Wet weather aficionados Scott Redding, Loris Baz and Jack Miller were the first to make a statement at the top of the timesheets, while the usual podium contenders were refining their rain settings and playing it safe in the tricky conditions.
While the sun seemed to break through the clouds towards the end of FP1 sessions, Le Mans changed its mind at the last minute and a downpour hit the circuit before the lightweight class took to the track for the second time today.
Eleven degrees air temperature and a truly soaked track made for some cautious first few laps for the Moto3 riders. Wildcard Danny Kent showed off his Moto3 expertise to grab the lead midway through the session and he looked on course to keep it before crashing out in the final minutes.
Did someone say wet? Hafizh Syahrin probably said enthusiastically as he headed out for the intermediate class’ first practice session. While the Malaysian rider was the first leader of the session, he dropped back on a drying track and let the usual contenders fight it out at the top.
The Moto2 class had the honour of actually seeing extended patches of blue sky amongst the clouds, although the track kept some slightly damp patches throughout. The blue-wearing men usually dominating proceedings at this point in the weekend let some other names have their way at the top, Lorenzo Baldassarri grabbing the spotlight in the final minutes of the session, as threatening dark clouds were gathering once again.
The rain in Le Mans was kind enough to stop before the start of the first MotoGP practice of the day, but the brand new tarmac stayed damp in the chilly conditions for most of the session. The final fifteen minutes saw some brave souls head out on slick tyres, Jack Miller the first to make the best of them by topping the timesheets by over three seconds at one point. The Marc VDS rider kept his top position to the flag, although the gap became a little more reasonable.