Press releases from the MotoGP teams after qualifying at Le Mans for tomorrow's French Grand Prix:
Tech 3 Yamaha target podium challenge in home race
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team will go into its home race at the historic Le Mans circuit in France confident that Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow can battle for the podium after both produced brilliant qualifying performances today.
For the third time in four races this season, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team has one rider starting from the front row after Dovizioso stormed to third place on the grid.
Dovizioso, who is going in search of a third successive MotoGP rostrum at the legen dary Bugatti track in tomorrow's 28-lap race, challenged for a front row place throughout a session that started on a wet track after earlier rain.
Conditions quickly improved and for the second half of the session, Dovizioso and Crutchlow were able to lap on slick tyres with the circuit completely dry and at one stage they occupied the top two places on the timesheets.
Only eight minutes remained when Dovizioso thrilled the large number of Tech 3 Yamaha fans in the crowd by powering his YZR-M1 machine to a lap of 1.34.099. That moved him to the top of the timesheets by almost 0.9s.
He was able to improve his pace to a 1.33.976, which secured him a richly deserved first front row start as a Yamaha rider and he was only 0.035s behind reigning World Champion Casey Stoner in second.
British rider Crutchlow also led the leaderboard in the early stages and he came close to claiming a third front row start of the season after another outstanding qualifying display.
He was in eighth place when a lap of 1.34.178 elevated him to the front row. Despite the 26-year-old's best efforts to improve his pace he will start from the middle of the second row in fifth place, his best time just over 0.2s from Dovizioso.
Andrea Dovizioso 3rd 1.33.976 – 23 laps:
“I am really happy to be on the front row for the first time with Tech 3 and Yamaha. We have done a great job all weekend. I have been fast in every session and even in the tricky conditions at the start of qualifying I was very competitive and strong and the times were coming really easily. I am particularly happy to be on the front row because a small problem meant I was not able to be on track for the final five minutes of the session. That is the period when you improve your time and it was a pity that I couldn't battle in the final stages because I'm sure I had a chance of getting pole position. So to be on the front row despite not riding in the last five minutes is fantastic and I am very confident for the race tomorrow. I'm sure I have the pace to stay at the front and I am very happy to be on the front in the Tech 3 Team's home race. I will do my best for Tech 3 and our main sponsor and event sponsor Monster.”
Cal Crutchlow 5th 1.34.178 – 22 laps:
“I can't be disappointed to have qualified in fifth position but I think I could have chal lenged for pole position had things gone my way. I made a couple of small mistakes on my fast laps right at the end and that cost me a little bit of time. And we didn't have the best set-up with the bike. We made some modifications for qualifying but with the conditions wet and damp at the start, we couldn't tell if it was an improvement and in hindsight it would have been better to stay with the setting I ran this morning. We are not sure what is in store with the weather tomorrow but I am happy with the job we did today and once again we are very close to the front and I'm really looking forward to a good fight in the race. Andrea did a good job today and it is great to have both Tech 3 Yamaha riders competing for the front row. Hopefully we can both have a strong result for Tech 3 and Monster tomorrow.”
TOUGH DAY FOR PASINI, 20TH IN THE QUALIFYING PRACTICE FOR THE GP OF LE MANS
Today was the second day of the French Grand Prix, with the third free practice session and the qualifying practice for the starting grid of tomorrow.
In the MotoGP class, Mattia Pasini started the day with a crash. In FP3, after completing few laps, the Italian fell, breaking the fourth metatarsal of the left foot and getting a contusion to the left wrist. Therefore the session ended sooner than expected for him.
In the qualifying session, Mattia and his crew worked on some improvements when the track was still wet. Because of a technical problem, the Italian didn’t have the chance to take advantage of the moment when the track was drier, so that he wasn’t able to improve his position on the starting grid for the race.
Mattia Pasini #54 - 20th with 1'38.511
“This was really a difficult day. Yesterday things went reasonably well, whereas the situation today didn’t quite work as we hoped. In the morning I crashed out straight away, probably because the cold track didn’t really help us. In the afternoon, we started fairly well on wet track, we hadn’t completed many laps in the whole, but we still could improve the electronics a little bit. When it was time to get back on the track with slick tyres, we had a problem with the clutch. At the end, once I got out, it was starting to rain again and it wasn’t possible to improve the grid position. It’s a shame because yesterday we were fast, we could have had some good qualifying session. In any case the race is tomorrow, so we’ll a recap and sort things out for Sunday.”
Difficult Qualifying Delivers Second Row for Yamaha
Today’s qualifying session for The Monster Energy Grand Prix de France proved to be a challenging one in mixed weather conditions. Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies were faced with a wet, damp and then drying track as they fought to finally deliver fourth and sixth on the grid respectively for tomorrow’s race. Lorenzo made a step forward from yesterday’s sessions but was unable to complete a perfect lap to get on the front row. Team mate Spies made the best of a tricky day having lost a set of the new Bridgestone tyres in yesterday’s crash which hampered the final set up of his M1 in this morning’s practice. The final grid sees four Yamaha YZR-M1s in the top six positions.
Position : 4th Time: 1'34.104 Laps: 22
“I’m not happy, I wanted to be at least on the front row but it was not possible, Andrea was very fast today. I didn’t make one perfect lap, maybe three or four tenths could be improved with a perfect lap but the track conditions were very difficult today and it was very easy to crash and get injured. We are in fourth position and tomorrow I think we can fight for the podium and the victory. I will try to make a very good start.”
Position : 6th Time: 1'34.669 Laps: 23
“Today was a tricky session for everybody, kind of risky. Finally the track started to come good but the guys who did the better lap times were a little bit more brave than others. With this tarmac it’s hard to see if it’s wet or dry in some places. We did the best we could and put together a decent lap to get on the second row. It was pretty hard to commit to 110% when the track is like that so the result is good.”
“A very weird practice and very tricky! In the beginning it was quite wet then began to dry up so it was difficult to know what to do at what time. Finally to not be on the front row is disappointing as we had a good pace yesterday. We improved a little bit but it was quite risky as some of the curbs were still quite wet.”
“To start from the second row is a good achievement for Ben considering we had some difficulties this morning because of yesterday’s crash. Because of that he couldn’t run the new tyre in this morning’s session so we couldn’t work properly on the set up. Now, if the race is going to be dry we are ready. We’ve done a good job so we’ll keep our fingers crossed for a dry race. Jorge made another step forward from yesterday but also struggled to secure a front row start in the difficult track conditions.”
MIXED FEELINGS FOR TEAM SAN CARLO HONDA GRESINI PAIR AT LE MANS
After impressing during free practice yesterday and this morning it was understandable that Alvaro Bautista felt some disappointment at qualifying on the third row of the grid in eighth place this afternoon. Track conditions certainly did not help the Spaniard, with light rainfall making for a damp but drying surface throughout the session, and any hopes of late improvements were dashed with a crash in the crucial final few minutes although he remains confident that he has a good setting for the race tomorrow. Michele Pirro provided the team with some cheer, meanwhile, lapping as the second fastest CRT bike after consistently threatening home favourite Randy De Puniet – another small step forward that gives the rider and his crew optimism for the future.
Alvaro Bautista ( 8th 1’ 34” 922 ) “It was a shame about the crash because we worked well again this morning and my pace was good. Unfortunately the session this afternoon was affected by the weather. At the start the track was wet and then when we were able to go out on slicks I was trying to get comfortable but the conditions were less than perfect. Eventually I crashed in turn nine and it ruined qualifying for us because we had another couple of laps in us and the potential to go half a second quicker. These things happen in racing but tomorrow we will aim to make up for it because we have a good setting for the dry and wet.
Michele Pirro (14th 1’ 36” 646) “Qualifying took place in tricky conditions but this morning we had found a good balance for the bike and perhaps could have done even better this afternoon if it wasn;t for the conditions and some ongoing back pain that I am suffering. Now we are just hoping for dry conditions tomorrow because it is always difficult to ride in the wet. My thoughts today are also with the family of the sixteen-year-old girl who has been killed today in Brindisi, Italy, which is very sad news indeed.”
Fausto Gresini “The crash was not something we wanted after such a positive couple of days and it was a shame because Alvaro had found a good feeling with the bike but the conditions today didn't help. Maybe without the crash he could have found another half second and moved up a row but that's not important now - we need to focus on the race tomorrow. He has a good set-up for wet or dry conditions so it will be important to get a good start. Michele had a good session and is the second highest CRT on the grid, showing that the hard work we are doing as a team is paying off.”
Rossi seventh, Hayden eleventh at damp Le Mans
Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden posted the seventh and eleventh best times, respectively, in today’s qualifying session for the French Grand Prix. For the Italian, who today was consistent in both the dry morning session and the mixed conditions of the afternoon, it was his best qualifying result of the season. The American rider, on the other hand, will look for a better-performing solution in tomorrow’s warm-up session, given that he still has some problems with his setup.
The track, which was initially damp from the rain that had fallen until shortly before qualifying, dried little by little, making the standings quite volatile as the riders switched from rain tyres to slicks in their efforts to adjust to the changing surface.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) 7th (1:34.907)
“I had to pass a rider on my good lap, otherwise I could have been faster, but anyway, I’d say that it’s going pretty well. I’m a bit sorry not to have made the second row, which was pretty close, but the fact remains that this is our best qualifying session of the season and that we were also at the same level in this morning’s dry session. This afternoon we did a good job of adapting to the track conditions, which changed quite quickly, and every exit I found myself on the track at the right time. We made another small step forward compared to Estoril, and we worked well. We’ll see what conditions we find tomorrow. If it’s dry we’ll have to try to start well and stay with those in front for as long as possible, and maybe we’ll be able to cut a little more time.”
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) 11th (1:35.291)
“It was quite a hectic session, with just enough rain to complicate things. With us being behind on the setup, we needed some dry time, as the lap times just aren’t coming for us in those conditions. We’ve tried a lot of different options, but we still haven’t solved the problems we have on this track: running wide in some places, problems turning, and some chatter. We’re having trouble finding a really good direction. The team’s not giving up, and we’ll be back to do our best tomorrow.”
Dani takes pole with Casey in second
Dani Pedrosa will start tomorrow's Grand Prix of France from pole position (1'33.638) with team mate Casey Stoner in second place (1'33.941) after a stressful qualifying practice that was decided in the final minutes.
Rain affected the session at the Le Mans circuit, after three free practices in dry conditions, and choosing the right moment to make the time attack for the best grid position was key.
Dani holds the best pole position time in Le Mans from 2008 and also took the circuit record last year. This is his first pole of the 2012 season, and the first since Brno last year.
Casey, on top of the time sheets in all the free practice sessions, will line up next to Dani after finishing three tenths off the Spaniard in qualifying.
DANI PEDROSA 1st 1'33.638
"I'm not a pole man, so I'm happy to be here for the first time this season; front row is always good and the team has done a great job with the bike. It's been a difficult session, quite similar to Jerez, the track was drying up but we had some drops again in the last five minutes. So it's been key to choose the right moment to push and to not get out of the line. Let's see what the weather does tomorrow but we have to be ready to go fast in any conditions. The race is very long here, 28 laps, and everything can change during the race, so I hope to have a good start and to be able to keep a good pace until the end".
CASEY STONER 2nd 1'33.941
"We're really happy to be on front row, but qualifying definitely didn't go to plan. The track was drying out and we knew we had the pace, you just had to be a little cautious in some areas that were still holding water. We felt we were fast enough to be on pole position but every time I was on a good lap or building up to one, I got held up. I tried to drop back and give myself some space but I still managed to catch up to a CRT bike in front of me which ruined that lap. Then the next lap we were doing pretty well but I saw yellow flags and rain so I backed off, unfortunately the rain wasn't heavy enough to upset my lap and I could have continued it, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I think we're looking good for the race, we're pre tty comfortable in dry conditions but we still have warm up and a chance for the others to find something extra, so we're going to have to improve our bike a little also and wait for the race as the weather conditions are still unpredictable".
Round 4: French MotoGP™ - Qualifying Practice
Le Mans, Saturday 19 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 15-17°C; Track 16-20°C (Bridgestone measurement)
Dani Pedrosa has put himself in a strong position to score a first ever MotoGP™ victory at Le Mans after the Repsol Honda rider took pole position for tomorrow’s French Grand Prix ahead of teammate Casey Stoner.
The top three qualifiers at Le Mans used different front tyres in combination with the soft rear slick to record their best times, with Pedrosa setting his time of 1:33.638 on the medium compound front slick tyre to finish three-tenths of a second clear of Stoner who ran the soft compound front slick. Meanwhile, Monster Tech3 Yamaha’s Andrea Dovizioso opted for the new specification medium compound front slick and was the only other rider to qualify in the 1 minute 33 second bracket and will line up on the grid in P3. In front of his home crowd, Power Electronics Aspar Randy de Puniet was the top CRT qualifier and will start on the fourth row in 12th place.
Rain earlier in the day resulted in the qualifying session starting under damp track conditions with riders taking to the track on soft wet tyres front and rear in an effort to gauge grip levels on the circuit. Halfway through the session a dry line started to appear and riders began to switch to slick tyres which quickened the pace and saw the rider classification change from one lap to the next. Though the session ended with the circuit being mainly dry, track temperatures remained quite cool at around 20°C which prevented riders matching the times recorded at last year’s qualifying practice which took place in much warmer conditions.
Race action at the French Grand Prix kicks off at 1400 local time (GMT +2) tomorrow.
Masao Azuma – Chief Engineer, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
“We had highly variable conditions for qualifying today, with the track starting damp and then drying slowly during the session and so riders chose a wide variety of wet and slick tyre compounds to deal with the rapidly changing grip levels on the circuit.
“As we saw in yesterday’s free practice, when conditions were dry in qualifying many riders chose to run the soft rear slick in conjunction with the medium front slick to give them more stability in the heavy braking sections in the first half of the circuit. I expect that if conditions are dry tomorrow then this combination will be widely used and that the majority of riders that choose the medium compound front slick will select this option in the new specification front slick tyre. There is a high probability of a wet or flag-to-flag race but whatever the weather brings tomorrow, the pace for the top five riders is very close so I hope to see a very exciting race.”
Breathtaking qualifying in Le Mans: Karel Abraham will start from 4th row
10th best lap time of qualifying practice to Grand Prix of France in Le Mans made Czech MotoGP Rider Karel Abraham. With 1:35,250 he lost only 1,612 second to pole position holder Dani Pedrosa. Qualifying practice was affected by shower before beginning of the session.
„We had started with wet tyres, but track was getting dry during the session. Than we saw Stefan Bradl trying dry tyres and making the best lap immediately after. Despite the fact he crashed in next lap, he showed us the right way. We were doing very good time in next few laps riding on second place and I must admit I was hoping for raining again at this moment. Well, it didn´t and we must fight until the end of the session. Tenth place is good comparing to the problems in last races and Friday´s practices. Now we must hope, that we will ride on dry tomorrow. And if it rains, I hope it will start before warm up, so we got the chance to try the bike on the wet.”
Marco Grana, chief mechanic Cardion AB Motoracing
„We are very happy today. The first success is that we change completely the bike from Friday and I think that we found right way in set up. And second – we were competitive in rain and on dry track too. Karel rode very well in combined condition, which he doesn´t like at all. We are close to the first group. We will adjust the set up little bit and I believe that we could do very good race.”
POWER ELECTRONICS RIDER DE PUNIET READY TO RACE
Frenchman aiming to be top CRT at home race; tough day for Aleix Espargaró
Randy de Puniet fought through the pain barrier to qualify as the fastest CRT rider at his home Grand Prix this afternoon. The POWER ELECTRONICS rider will start from twelfth position on the grid at Le Mans tomorrow, his second best qualifying result of the year after taking tenth at Jerez. Once again he has qualified as the highest CRT rider on the grid and his goal is to take the same honour in tomorrow's race and join the three podium finishers in parc fermé. Qualifying practice started this afternoon in damp conditions and although the track surface was cool (19ºC) it eventually dried out in time for the riders to put some fast times in on slick tyres.
De Puniet's team-mate Aleix Espargaró did not enjoy such a good day today, however, suffering an engine problem this morning and another breakdown this afternoon when his oil level sensor light came on. With two crashes yesterday it has been a tough weekend so far for the Spaniard, who starts tomorrow's race from seventeenth - his worst qualifying result of the season - as he defends his position as the leading CRT rider in the championship.
12th Randy de Puniet (1.35.694, +2.056s, 21 laps): "I am satisfied because it has been a tough weekend so far because of the pain from my crash at Estoril. I am struggling to ride but we've been taking things step by step and I am twelfth on the grid, ahead of a factory rider for the second time this season. That's perfect because this is my home race - the only problem here is with the weather. Hopefully it doesn't rain but we'll see. I am ready to fight and am feeling confident because I feel good on the ART and I am determined to be the first CRT across the line. The fans are giving me a lot of support and even though I won't be on the podium I want to give them something to cheer about."
17th Aleix Espargaró (1.37.760, +4.1222s, 15 laps): "I can't remember having a more difficult weekend in my career, with so many crashes and mechanical failures. I was struggling physically yesterday but I was able to fully focus today and it was still a disaster, but we still have the race to come and I hope things are different. I was really only able to do a lap and a half today - the track was almost perfect at the end but it started to rain again with three minutes to go and that ruined it for me. I am faster in race trim than my position suggests so let's see if I can keep pace with Randy tomorrow."
BRADL STILL CONFIDENT DESPITE HIS FIRST MOTOGP CRASH AT LE MANS QUALIFYING
Le Mans, 19Th of May: cooler conditions marked the qualifying session at Le Mans race track today with premier class riders setting their fastest lap on soft tyres in readiness for the tomorrow’s 28-lap race. LCR rider Stefan Bradl occupies the 13th place on the grid (1’35.862) after a crash on turn five.
German rookie started the weekend missing some front feeling from his RC213V on corner entry but was able to make some set up changes showing good pace in the 60-minute afternoon session. Bradl hit the ground hard half way through the session but he was capable to rejoin the session unharmed.
Stefan: “Saturday in Le Mans is a day to forget asap. This morning it wasn’t so bad because we were using a different strategy than other guys. Honestly the cooler conditions caused me some problems because it took me a long time to feel the bike on new tyres. In general at the beginning of the qualifying session it was quite dangerous not really wet and not really dry but I felt pretty good. We were the first to go out on slick tyres because we expected some rain through the session so it was the right decision from our side. Unfortunately I was attacking too much and had a big crash but I am okay. I am still looking forward for tomorrow because I think we are still able to perform well”.
THE RAIN COMPLICATES THE CAME IODARACING TEAM QUALIFYING PRACTICES
The track condition has conditioned the French Grand Prix qualifying practice where MotoGP class had to use the rain tyres in the first half, while during Moto2 practice a light rain has complicated the grip of Le Mans Circuit.
Tomorrow Danilo Petrucci will start from the 18th position with the time of 1’37.767 at 4.129 to Pedrosa’s pole position. The Came Iodaracing Team rider has tested different solutions for the wet and for the dry, making a good pace in both conditions.
In Moto2 class Simone Corsi gets the 14th place with 1’38.961 at 1.251 to Marc Marquez. The Roman rider, after good results in the practices of yesterday, has sufferd a lot this strange condition as it happened in the Jerez race.
"I’m quite happy for this result – Petrucci declared – but the weather conditions has complicated the planned work. In the last minutes of the practice, during my best lap, Bautista chashed in front of me and I lost a little time that could permit me to finish in 16th position. We have a good pace and this will be good for the race where my target will be to finish at points”.
"Yesterday and this morning we did a good job – Corsi said – the bike was very good and we were quite competitive. Unfortunately the strange conditions of the qualifying practice didn’t permit to me to have a good feeling with the bike”.
Vermeulen´s progression at Le Mans continues
The development of the Suter-BMW from the NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans continued in a positive direction even in bad weather conditions.
Chris Vermeulen, rider of choice to substitute Colin Edwards, has been hard at work to find the right setup for the bike. The Australian rider managed to achieve a fast lap in 1´38.658, at only one tenth of Mattia Pasini, who will be right before him on tomorrow’s starting grid and faster by seven tenths according from the best time from Friday.
Tomorrow the rain could be yet again a determining factor for tomorrow’s French GP but the NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team is ready for the race that will begin at 14:00 local time.
Chris Vermeulen – 21st (1´38.658)
“It was great to get out with the bike for the second time today, for the second day it felt more comfortable, I felt at home straight away. This morning we struggled a lot and in the end we found out what was causing it and finally made a big step with the bike, we kind of lost a lot of time this morning which was unfortunate and this afternoon the weather conditions was a bit mixed. I don’t know the bike well, I’m not 100% comfortable with it yet obviously and I just took my time. We got some dry time at the end of the session, just kept the set of tires and we got faster and faster, and more information with the bike. I think now we have a good idea on some changes, we’ve tried a lot of things and hopefully a direction ahead to make a reasonable bike to start the race. “
Kornelis Veldeman – Crew Chief
“Today we did improved but because of the weather conditions we couldn’t improve as much as we had hoped. In the end we improved of a second compared to yesterday’s lap times we were aiming for two seconds but because of having half of the session with rain it wasn’t possible. On the other had it was good for Chris to do some laps in wet conditions. Overall we improved, we improved on the electronics side even if position wise we didn’t and it’s a shame.
The major modification today was on the electronics: to have more engine break in mid corner, less engine break on the straight and of course traction control. We have to keep in mind that we are working with new electronics and we need some time to work on it.”