May 18th, 2013
2013 Le Mans MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Exceptional Rookies, Real Race Pace, And What It Takes To Be Champion
Marc Marquez is just starting to let the mask slip. Asked in the press conference about the fact that he will start from pole at Le Mans, despite this weekend being the first time he has ridden a MotoGP bike at the French track, Marquez admitted he always has to play down his chances ahead of each weekend. "On Thursday, I always need to say something similar," he said.
His modesty is very becoming, and throughout the preseason and the early races, he has continued to dampen down overly-inflated expectations. Yes, pole is nice. Yes, winning is fantastic. No, he is not even thinking of the title yet. But everything about Marc Marquez screams ambition, the desire to win, to do what it takes to beat his rivals and prove to everyone what he believes, that he is the best rider in the world, a (self-)belief that motivates every top level athlete.
The last-corner lunge inside Jorge Lorenzo at Jerez will be cited as evidence, but more than that, the desperate attempts in the preceding laps were proof enough, if proof were needed. Is Marc Marquez thinking of winning the MotoGP championship in his first year, a feat previously only achieved by Kenny Roberts? No, it is not chief among his concerns. Is he trying to win as many races as possible, an objective that will bring him the 2013 title if he succeeds? Of course he is. He may not be thinking about the championship, but he is definitely trying to win it.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying for tomorrow's French Grand Prix at Le Mans:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Le Mans:
Summary of qualifying and results for Moto2:
Summary of qualifying and results for MotoGP:
Jorge Lorenzo responded to Marc Marquez's early domination on Saturday by heading the fourth MotoGP free practice session. In doing so he went about setting the fastest lap of the weekend, which was faster than Dani Pedrosa's race lap record from last year and a tenth quicker than last year's pole position lap time. Marquez finished the session in second place despite a crash on the approach to the Dunlop chicane while Dani Pedrosa finished third ahead of Valentino Rossi, Stefan Bradl and Andrea Dovizioso.
The session was red-flagged for seven minutes in the early stages after Cal Crutchlow, who finished the session in seventh place, had a big high-side whilst pushing on cold tyres. He landed hard on his right side and looked very sore, lying prone on the side of the circuit. He eventually got to his feet and walked away gingerly, perhaps having been seriously winded. There were comical scenes following as Crutchlow rode a push-bike to the medical centre from the pits, after his initial ride on the back of a scooter.
The top ten was completed by Alvaro Bautista, Bradley Smith and American Nicky Hayden aboard the second factory Ducati.
Summary of qualifying and results for Moto3:
Tito Rabat has finally deposed Scott Redding from the top of the Moto2 timesheets, setting the fastest time in the final session of free practice at Le Mans. The Pons Tuenti HP 40 rider put in a late charge to sit at the top of the standings, with Redding closing in at the end of the session.
Redding ended the morning in second, just under three hundredths off the pace of the Spanish championship leader, after making life difficult for himself by crashing early in the session. He was one of several to go down - others included Thomas Luthi, Sandro Cortese and Jordi Torres - but was unhurt in the incident, going back out to better the times he had set before the off.
Nico Terol took third place, a tenth behind Redding, and just ahead of Takaaki Nakagami and Pol Espargaro, places three to five separated by just twenty two thousandths of a second.
Scintillating Spanish rookie Marc Marquez finished FP3 half a second quicker than the rest of the MotoGP field. The Repsol Honda rider's stunning lap time of 1:33.600 was close to the pole position time of last years French grand prix. Jorge Lorenzo finished in second place followed by the third of the championship contenders Dani Pedrosa. Ducati continued their impressive showing for the weekend thus far with Nicky Hayden finishing the session in fourth ahead of Cal Crutchlow and his Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso. An impressive Bradley Smith, Alvaro Bautista, Valentino Rossi and Stefan Bradl rounded out the top ten.
An initially cool track saw the likes of Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Stefan Bradl fail to improve on their fastest lap times from Friday, while Alvaro Bautista suffered a heavy crash on the approach to the Dunlop chicane with six minutes to go in the session, Hector Barbera had a near identical spill, both riders were able to walk away.
A cold, damp track and bright sunshine greeted the Moto3 riders for their third practice session, in which young German charger Jonas Folger topped the time sheets. Maverick Vinales finished second, a tenth behind and some six tenths off yesterdays fastest time set by Spaniard Alex Rins, who ended FP3 in third place. Mahindra rider Miguel Oliveira finished in fourth while Niccolo Antonelli rounded out the top five.
The session was marred no less than eight crashes for the likes of Romano Fenati, Jakub Kornfeil, Niklas Ajo, Florian Alt, Matteo Ferrari, Brad Binder, Alessandro Tonnuci and Luis Salom. Jakub Kornfeil initially limped away from his crash but was eventually stretchered from the scene. The heaviest crash was for championship contender Salom, who ran wide at the final corner onto some damp articificial turf and highsided, consequently careering into an airfence at high pace. He was attended to by circuit medical staff and looked to be in some discomfort.
Efren Vazquez, who crashed heavily yesterday did not take part in the session and is believed to be undergoing collarbone surgery today in Barcelona. He hopes to return in time for Mugello in two weeks, but time could be tight.
2013 Le Mans MotoGP Friday Round Up: Of Four Fast Men, Improved Ducatis, Redding's Reign, And A Quota On Spaniards
So far, so good. That seems to be the story from the first day of practice at Le Mans. A full day of dry weather - except for the last few minutes of FP2 for the Moto3 class, where the rain turned briefly to hail, only to blow out again as quickly as it came - means that everyone had a chance to work on their race set up. With the top four separated by just 0.166 seconds, the top five are within a quarter of a second, and Alvaro Bautista, the man in ninth, is just over seven tenths from the fastest man Dani Pedrosa.
A good day too for the Hondas. Dani Pedrosa was immediately up to speed, as expected. Marc Marquez was also quick in the afternoon, which was less expected. Unlike Jerez and Austin, this was the first time he rode a MotoGP machine at Le Mans, and getting used to hauling a 260 hp, 160kg bike around the tight layout of the French track is a different proposition to riding a Moto2 bike with half the horsepower here. He took a morning to get used to the track, asked for a few changes to the base set up inherited from Casey Stoner, and then went and blitzed to second in the afternoon, 0.134 seconds off his teammate.
More important than Marquez' speed is his consistency, however. In the afternoon, he posted seven laps of 1'34, which looks to be the pace to expect for a dry race. Only two men did more, Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo having posted nine laps at that pace, with both men also consistently a tenth or two quicker than the Spanish rookie.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Le Mans:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Le Mans:
Scott Redding continues to dominate the Moto2 class at Le Mans, comfortably topping the second session of free practice in the afternoon. The young Englishman took the lead early in the session, then extended it to nearly three quarters of a second, before spending the rest of the session lapping faster than anyone else on track.
The sole exception was the man in second place, Thomas Luthi. The Interwetten rider chipped away at Redding's time, ending the session just under four tenths behind the Englishman. Luthi just pipped Julian Simon to second, finishing six thousandths ahead of the Spaniard, while Takaaki Nakagami ended FP2 in fourth. It was a tough session for Pol Espargaro, the Pons Tuenti HP 40 rider managing only the ninth fastest time, though the gap between ninth and fourth is small, less than two tenths of a second. Tito Rabat, championship leader and fourth fastest in the morning, ended the afternoon session in fourteenth.
Dani Pedrosa has maintained his spot at the top of the timesheets at Le Mans, carefully controlling the second session of free practice for the MotoGP class at the French circuit. The Repsol Honda man took over the top spot with two thirds of the session gone, and kept pushing to cut his lap times and extend his lead.
Teammate Marc Marquez took second spot, just pipping Valentino Rossi and forcing the Italian down into third by a few thousandths of a second. Rossi held off his Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo by three hundredths, finishing ahead of Lorenzo for the first time this year in a session during a race weekend. Stefan Bradl set the fifth fastest time, a tenths slower than Lorenzo, and a couple of tenths ahead of Cal Crutchlow in 6th.
The two Ducatis ended in seventh and eighth, both just over half a second behind Pedrosa, the Ducati looking more competitive here than at any other track so far this year. Alvaro Baustista took 9th spot, and Aleix Espargaro ended the session in 10th and best CRT machine, just over a second slower than Pedrosa.