2012 Le Mans MotoGP Friday Press Releases

Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Le Mans:


Tech 3 Yamaha make fast start to home race preparations

The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team's all-important home race at the legendary Le Mans circuit in France kicked off in positive fashion today, with Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow posting competitive times on the opening day of MotoGP practice.

Italian Dovizioso made an impressive start to the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France when a lap of 1.35.065 placed him third on the timesheets in this morning's opening session.

Concentrating on improving grip in cool and cloudy conditions and working on tyre endurance, Dovizioso was able to knock almost 0.5s off his time in this afternoon's second session and his quickest lap of 1.34.585 secured him a place inside the top six on combined times.

Dovizioso is confident with further improvements to his YZR-M1 machine for tomorrow's final practice and qualifying that he will be capable of challenging for a podium place in Sunday's 28-lap race.

Le Mans has been a happy hunting ground for Dovizioso and it is the track where he has enjoyed the most success in his Grand Prix career, having collected an impressive seven podium finishes.

Crutchlow also enjoyed a satisfactory start to the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team's home event and the 26-year-old was only 0.025s behind Dovizioso in seventh position on the combined timesheets.

Crutchlow's brilliant form in the opening three races of 2012 has seen him make the best start to a MotoGP campaign for a British rider since 1988 and after clocking a time of 1.35.318 this morning, he improved his pace by over 0.7s in the second session.

This weekend is only Crutchlow's second visit to the historic Bugatti track and he dedicated his time to building up his experience of the stop and go circuit while concentrating on gaining better turning performance with his YZR-M1 machine.

Andrea Dovizioso 6th 1.34.585 – 43 laps:

“I am very happy because the dry conditions meant we could concentrate on working on the set-up of the bike and my feeling has improved a lot with the Yamaha. I was third fastest this morning but I did two good practice sessions worki ng a lot on the race set-up of the bike, particularly with the endurance of the Bridgestone tyres. My best lap time came with 23 laps on the rear tyre, so this is very positive and shows that my pace for the race is not bad at all. We just need to fine-tune the set-up of the bike tomorrow but we don't have any big problems where we have to think about making some big modifications. I would like to improve my feeling a little bit with the front tyre and I hope it will be dry tomorrow and we can continue improving the bike. But even if rains we are already in a good point to be fighting for a really good result in the race on Sunday.”

Cal Crutchlow 7th 1.34.610 – 41 laps:

“We have a couple of small problems but nothing that I don't think we can fix ahead of the race. I can't get the bike to turn into the corner as I' d like and I'm losing a little bit of time in that area. We will have a sit down tonight and see if we can come up with a set-up that will improve the turning. To be honest, Le Mans is not the best circuit for me and it is quite difficult. I've only been here once before and I crashed in the race last year, so a big part of my job today was just trying to gain some more experience with the layout. It was still a positive day and I am really close to Andrea and Ben, so with an improvement to the turning of the bike, I'm sure I can be even more competitive. The weather might not be as good tomorrow but I am ready for anything and determined to do the best job I can for Tech 3 and Monster this weekend.”


MATTIA PASINI SETS THE 15TH TIME IN THE FIRST DAY AT LE MANS

The circuit of Le Mans hosts the fourth round of the MotoGP 2012 season during this weekend.

The Grand Prix began positively for Pasini and his crew. In the practice of the morning they worked on some initial modifications to the setting, so that they could achieve a better performance on the French track.

In the afternoon, the Italian improved his time after few laps, making some further steps with the ART machine set-up. An outing to the gravel prevented him from working any further on the bike he prefers, therefore postponing any chages to tomorrow’s sessions, but being aware that more improvements can be made in the upcoming practices.

Mattia Pasini #54 - 15th with 1'37.093

“The weekend started off really well. This morning we were kind of far with the electronics, but for the afternoon session we managed to improve and make some steps forward also with the chassis. We were fast since the beginning. I tried a hard tyre, but after few laps I didn’t have much front grip and I went out of the racing line: the bike then fell into the gravel and that made us throw away half of the session. However, I am happy, because we’re progressing little by little, and that’s our objective. The weekend is still long, we have to keep working in this direction and we’ll see how things go.”


Friday in Le Mans: Twelfth position for Karel Abraham

Czech MotoGP Rider Karel Abraham closed first day in Le Mans on 12th position reaching his maximum 1:35,787. Karel Abraham lost 2,047 seconds to fastest Casey Stoner.

Karel Abraham

„We tried a lot in the morning, but we must quit first practice earlier. I was feeling that bike is sliding, so I entered pit and we found that we had lost a cap of brake fluid tank. Fluid was leaking on the rear tyre. In the afternoon we tried a different set up and I felt better, I hope that we found a good way and we can improve it. We must hope that it won´t rain, Le Mans circuit has a couple of different surfaces and is very shifty on wet.“

Marco Grana, chief mechanic Cardion AB Motoracing

„We had small problem in the morning with rear brake fluid tank. Karel touched the cap of tank by his shoe move it out. In the afteroon we tried different bike with different set up on the front. In the end we feel better, but it´s still not comfortable. Karel is losing too much in T3, he´s braking too soon. It´s the same problem we had at the beginning of this season. Tomorrow, we want to test the set up, which is close to set up of bike from last year. We will compare it to the bike from today and we´ll see how Karel will feel on it.”


Practice Begins at Le Mans

Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies took to the Le Mans circuit today for the first two practice sessions of the French Grand Prix. Although dark clouds threatened to dampen the sessions, the riders were lucky to enjoy dry track time throughout. Lorenzo started the day missing some rear grip from his YZR-M1 on corner entry but was able to make some set up changes and improve in the second session to finish the day third in the combined times.

Spies enjoyed a positive first day at Le Mans apart from a fast crash going into turn two midway through the second session. The Texan rider was unhurt and able to immediately continue the practice on his second bike. A consistently quick pace saw him wrap up day one in fifth place on the combined times.

Jorge Lorenzo

Position : 3rd Time: 1'34.136 Laps: 20

“This morning we had some difficulty entering the corners, I didn’t trust the bike so much. This afternoon we made some changes to the rear and it improved the feeling and the lap time a lot. I did a half race simulation and we had a good pace. We are now ready for a dry race but everyone says it is going to rain which will completely change the conditions.”

Ben Spies

Position : 5th Time: 1'34.467 Laps: 18

“Today was ok, to be top five both sessions is good after Estoril, especially here where I’ve struggled in the past. I made a small mistake this afternoon, got into turn one pretty fast and was too fast into turn two so couldn’t make the corner. I got on the second bike and was pleased we were still able to go fast as we had a lot of laps on the front tyre. The bike seems to be working pretty well here so we’ll keep going and see what we can do tomorrow.”

Wilco Zeelenberg

Team Manager

“Not an easy first day of practice, this morning we struggled a bit with rear traction, especially during braking. We had the same issue in Estoril and we learned quite a bit there so we were able to make it a lot better. The handling improved a lot as a result in the afternoon. I think we need to make another step tomorrow but we are happy with the pace from the second practice.”

Massimo Meregalli

Team Director

“A good start for Ben today apart from an unfortunate crash in the second session, luckily he was unhurt so we could continue. Ben was able to do a lot of laps on a very used front tyre; this is encouraging for the race. Jorge made good improvements after struggling for rear grip this morning and we expect another step tomorrow. Let’s hope the weather forecast is wrong or today’s work will not be very useful!”


Stoner leads the way at Le Mans on Friday

Round 4: French MotoGP™ - Free Practice One and Two

Le Mans, Friday 18 May 2012

Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium. Rear: Soft, Medium (Asymmetric)

Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main), Hard (Alternative)

Weather: Dry Ambient 15-18°C; Track 17-23°C (Bridgestone measurement)

Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner continues to assert his dominance by topping both Free Practice sessions and clocking the fastest time of the day at an overcast Le Mans circuit on Friday.

Stoner set his quickest time of 1:33.740 in FP2 to finish the day 0.265 seconds ahead of teammate Dani Pedrosa, with Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo placing third with a best time of 1:34.136.

Persistent cloud cover and wind kept temperatures low throughout the day, with track temperatures during FP1 at 17°C before warming slightly to reach a maximum of 23°C during FP2. With the cold conditions in the morning practice session, all riders opted for the soft compound option for both the front and rear while the slightly elevated track temperatures during FP2 resulted in some riders switching to the medium compound front slick tyre. The soft asymmetric rear slick tyre was used in both sessions and worked extremely well in the frigid conditions, with Stoner’s benchmark lap-time today quicker than the best time in the corresponding session at last year’s French Grand Prix which took place in much warmer temperatures.

The French GP continues tomorrow morning with FP3 scheduled for 1010 local time (GMT+2) with the one hour qualifying session starting at 1355 local time.

Masao Azuma – Chief Engineer, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department

“Track conditions for Friday were quite cool with track temperatures much lower than they were for last year’s Friday practice at the French GP and so the soft front and rear slicks were chosen in the morning session to give riders better initial grip and warm-up performance.

“As track temperatures increased for FP2, we saw many riders trying out the medium compound front slick tyre for its greater stability under braking though most riders still preferred to run the soft compound rear slick. This combination could be widely used for qualifying and the race if track temperatures are similar to what we had today. In these low temperature conditions the 2012 specification slick tyres are working very well with riders lapping at a good pace despite track temperatures being over 20°C cooler than they were for the same session last year.”


BRADL INVESTIGATES FRENCH SURFACE AT HIS FIRST OUTING ON DAY ONE

Le Mans, 18th of May: The MotoGP World Championship continues its swing through the European heart of the schedule with a stop at the famous “24 Heures circuit du Mans” with LCR Honda racer Stefan Bradl occupying the 11th position overall (1’35.201) in the first day of practices.

In dry but cool conditions, MotoGP riders headed out for the first free practices to get ready for the fourth round of the championship this season in the Sarthe region of France and German rookie had to learn how to perform on this surface aboard the RC213V.

Stefan: “It was a tough first day for me because it’s always difficult to arrive on a new circuit riding a new bike: actually I need one practice at least to get a base set up, the correct balance and a base ideal line. This morning was quite difficult for me considering the low grip conditions and I was struggling almost everywhere along the track. But in the afternoon we could really improve everywhere and I feel quite positive because we are closer to the P8. We can find something more in the overall package because we are not at 100% yet as I am struggling in the entry of the corners and I do not have enough front feeling”.


Adaptation day for Chris Vermeulen at Le Mans

A long weekend has begun today at Le Mans with the NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team hard at work to provide Chris Vermeulen with the best possible conditions for this Sunday’s GP race. Complicated beginning as expected and yet has managed to end the second free practice with a general good feeling within the team.

Chris has worked in the setup of the Suter-BMW and the results have been positive since the Australian was able to improve his lap time in over two seconds from FP1 to FP2.

Tomorrow it will be necessary to make another step and the team is convinced that all efforts will take them in the right direction.

Chris Vermeulen - 7

“First of all I would like to thank the NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team for giving me the opportunity, its great to be back in the premier class of motorcycle racing. Definitely wasn’t easy to start again after about eight months of no riding, to get back to seed, to feel the breaks and the tires and this sort of racing bike again but I really enjoyed my time on the bike so far today. We have a lot of work to do with development on the bike and I think everybody knows that. I hope my feedback is been positive for the team and I’m sure tomorrow we can improve the bike and hopefully go a bit quicker.”

Kornelis Veldeman – Crew Chief

“Having Chris on the bike today has been positive for both Chris and the team. He has given us his feedback on the bike: good comments, how the bike reacts. Step by step Chris is improving his lap times, from this morning we improved a few seconds and there is room for improvement after making some changes. All and all we are working in the right direction. The focus for tomorrow will be the chassis and keep working on the electronics for the engine break, we need to provide him more engine break compared to what Colin usually uses.”


Repsol Honda Team set the pace at Le Mans

After announcing yesterday in the official press conference his plans to retire at the end of this season, Casey Stoner got back on track and set the fastest time (1'33.740) in the first day of practice at the Le Mans circuit. His team mate, Dani Pedrosa, finished the day close behind (1'34.005), just two tenths off the Australian.

The Repsol Honda Team had a positive start to the Grand Prix of France with both factory riders already showing good pace in the morning session, taking first and second on the time sheets on their first outing here with the 1000cc machines. In the afternoon, with slightly higher track temperatures, Stoner managed to improve his time by 0.6 seconds and Pedrosa by 0.9.

CASEY STONER 1st 1'33.740

"The sessions today went quite well for us. Believe it or not, today we were trying to create chatter, so we can make the most use of this dry time on track to understand it a little better and make some improvements for the rest of the season. We are happy to use some of the sessions to focus on fixing the chatter issue, and not worry about the set up immediately. We started to find some chatter at the end of the day when we switched to the hard front tyre and hopefully it will stay dry tomorrow so we can continue to work on this. After yesterday's announcement, I definitely felt a weight off my shoulders when I got on the bike this morning. The last two races I've had a lot of thoughts running through my mind and this weekend I already feel better knowing it's off my chest and we can now focus on the rest of the season, and try to enjoy it".

DANI PEDROSA 2nd 1'34.005

"The feeling was pretty good overall; normally with these cold conditions the track here is very slippery, but the tyres worked well, the grip level is good and we managed two good session practices. We still have some work to do, mainly on the corner entry, but the first impression has been positive so far. It looks like the temperature will drop and some rain is coming, so it's been useful to have time in the dry to get the feeling at a track like this, where you have a lot of wheelie. I didn't test the new front Bridgestone tyre today, but I would like to do it tomorrow if it's dry".


BAUTISTA MAKES POSITIVE START AT LE MANS

If the opening day of practice was anything to go by the French Grand Prix could be one to remember for all the right reasons for Team San Carlo Honda Gresini, with Alvaro Bautista finding crucial confidence on board the Honda RC213V and lapping fourth fastest by the end of the two sessions today. Despite a crash this morning Michele Pirro also made an encouraging start to his weekend, closing the gap to the top factory riders on his FTR machine.

Alvaro Bautista ( 4th 1’ 34” 437 ) “Today was a very positive start for us. We tried some things with the setting to improve the bike from Estoril and initially they didn't work that well but with a few tweaks to the suspension we found some interesting solutions. We continued to work in the same direction in the afternoon and I felt a lot better on the bike than I did at Estoril and Jerez. Obviously there are still some little details to work on but for now I am happy because we have taken a step forward. We'll have to keep an eye on the weather tomorrow but I am hopeful.”

Michele Pirro (16th 1’ 37” 310) “I had a crash this morning and thankfully escaped unhurt despite being thrown around. I have a little pain in my back but we were able to work hard throughout the afternoon on the new chassis. We have gathered a lot of data and closed the gap to the top CRT. Obviously we still have a lot of work to do but my first impressions are good. Tomorrow we will keep working hard and hopefully take another step forward.”

Fausto Gresini “I'd say we have started out on the right foot even though Alvaro is not a big fan of this track. The team have worked hard along with the Honda engineers to improve under braking and corner entry. Alvaro liked the new solutions and we have taken an important step forward. Our main objective is to fight with Dovizioso and Crutchlow and I think we are on the right path. As far as the CRT project is concerned Michele had his first big crash and that set us back. We have a new chassis to work with here and in the afternoon we were able to get some encouraging laps in. There are some other things to try and I am sure that when we get them in place we will be up there fighting to be the top CRT. ”


Rossi, Hayden ninth and tenth in French GP free practice

Unfavourable weather forecasts notwithstanding, the first day of the French Grand Prix race weekend gave the two Ducati Team riders the opportunity to complete both free practice sessions on a dry circuit.

Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden finished the day in ninth and tenth places, respectively, with both riders being affected by lack of grip, which prevented them from taking full advantage of the bike’s power.

Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) 9th (1:35.112)

“This afternoon we tried some bike settings that were quite varied, and we’re trying to understand what the right direction is for finding more grip on corner exits. So far, particularly when the tyre starts to wear, we’re losing a lot compared to the others. Our gap to the front is pretty large, and although the gaps in our group are quite small, there’s more time between us and seventh place than there was in Portugal. We’ll have to try to do better. We’re trying some different things and we’re working hard, so we’ll see how we do tomorrow.”

Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) 10th (1:35.132)

“It wasn’t an easy day. The weather was a bit cold, but luckily it was dry. I struggled a little bit everywhere. Grip on the edge wasn’t very good, and any time I would get going okay, I would have a hard time stopping the bike and would run wide on entry. I haven’t had that problem much this year, and when you push wide, it also hurts the exit. We tried a couple of things but never really found a really good direction. We tried the hard tyre a little this afternoon just to check, because the soft tyre definitely feels like it’s going off a bit, but I wasn’t able to make it work that well. We’ll sit down tonight and have a good think about it and see what to do tomorrow.”


RANDY DE PUNIET LEADS CRT PACK AT LE MANS

Aleix Espargaró unhurt after two crashes on opening day

The ASPAR POWER ELECTRONICS TEAM continued their dominance of the CRT era on the opening day of the fourth round of the season at Le Mans, where Randy de Puniet was the fastest rider on the new machines. His team-mate Aleix Espargaró had to cope with the double setback of two crashes, one in each of today's two free practice sessions, that saw him head to the Clinica Mobile with a headache at the end of the afternoon - although that may have come about more through his frustration than the impact of the fall.

De Puniet, who is also struggling for fitness after injuring his back and ribs in Portugal two weeks ago, did not let his physical problems hold him back in front of his passionate home fans. The Frenchman was 13th fastest with almost a second advantage over his closest CRT rival although he is keen to improve his bike further, in particular in corner exit, ahead of Sunday's race. Aleix hit the ground hard this morning when his rear wheel locked under braking, potentially due to a problem with the engine braking system, before losing the front in what he admitted was a loss of concentration this afternoon.

13th Randy de Puniet (1.36.438, 18 laps): "It hasn't been a bad day and we've been fortunate that it didn't rain. We made some changes to the electronics and suspension and even though I am not 100% I am the fastest CRT. I did a run of six laps and my times were consistent. On my best lap I lost half a second because of a slower rider but our biggest problem right now is not with the bike it is with my condition, which will be difficult to improve. I didn't have any injections today because I wanted to see how my body handled it and hopefully I'll be able to hang on until the race."

17th Aleix Espargaró (1.37.585, 32 laps): "We have started out on the wrong foot here, with a crash this morning that left me with a sore head and that contributed to me losing my concentration this afternoon. In the end I crashed again and now I need to get some rest and some good sleep tonight to recover. We made a mistake this morning by running the harder tyre when the track was still cold and it's a shame because other than the two crashes I was riding well and could have improved my lap times. If it is dry tomorrow I should be close because with the new front tyre I'm always quicker."


POSITIVE DAY IN LE MANS FOR THE PRAMAC RACING TEAM

The first track sessions of the French round of the 2012 MotoGP World Championship were played out with dark clouds looming over the Le Mans circuit, but fortunately without the rain.

Pramac Ducati sole rider Hèctor Barberà spent the morning and afternoon free practice sessions working through different set-up changes and tyre options in preparation for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

The Spanish rider wrapped up the day in eighth position having taken just over two tenth of a second off his morning time with improved set-up and claimed the highest speed on the Le Mans circuit for the sessions, clocking 309.2 km/hr aboard his Ducati GP12.

Tomorrow the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France will see the final free practice session and the qualifying practice in the afternoon, a decisive session for the grid line up, which may take place on a wet track.

Hèctor Barberà - Rider Pramac Racing Team -

“Today has been a satisfying free practice session, confirming my liking of the French track. I can say that I really enjoyed myself riding on this surface.

We started this weekend with the right foot and compared to the morning session, we have improved our lap time also in the afternoon.

I've had a good feeling with my Ducati GP12 and I hope tomorrow doesn't rain, because that would mean starting all over again.”

Francesco Guidotti - Team Manager Pramac Racing -

“I share Hèctor's feeling: this has been a positive day.

We started at the beginning this morning with clear ideas, arranging heights, rigidity and choosing the right tyres.

We are also very happy to be the fastest Ducati on the field in the combined free practice timesheet, but now we are focusing on tomorrow's qualifying practice.”


 

2012

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