Qualifying French MotoGP, Le Mans, France

2012-05-19 09:42
Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) and Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V) scored a brilliant one-two in this afternoon’s qualifying session for tomorrow’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans.

The session started on a slightly damp track, with most riders making a cautious start to proceedings on rain tyres. As the circuit dried the pace quickened and pole position changed hands time and again as rider after rider pushed the pace higher and higher.

Two days after announcing that he will retire at the end of this season Stoner led the way for much of the outing, twice heading the rest of the pack by more than two seconds. But with just two minutes to go Pedrosa moved ahead to claim his first pole of the year, by 0.303s. With the track fully dry during the final stages the Spaniard came within 0.021s of matching his 2011 French GP pole time, but afterwards he admitted that it had been a difficult qualifying because it had been tricky to judge whether the track was dry or damp. Stoner’s plans to regain pole from his team-mate went awry when he was baulked on several occasions by slower riders.

Despite this afternoon’s inconsistent conditions both Repsol Honda men are confident that they are well prepared for tomorrow’s race, round four in this year’s 18-round MotoGP World Championship. Both Pedrosa and Stoner have qualified on the front row at all four races so far. Earlier today Stoner had topped free practice, despite sliding off this morning when he rode over a damp section of kerbing.

Honda’s other two RC213V riders had a more challenging time at Le Mans this afternoon, with Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V) and Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V) falling victim to the treacherous track. Bradl suffered a nasty highside at the Musee left-hander, while Bautista’s tumble prevented him from repeating his fine performance during free practice, which he ended in fourth place. Despite their crashes both men were able to continue on their spare machines, ending the session eighth and 13th quickest.

Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR-Honda) was second best CRT rider in 14th position, just behind Bradl.

Marc Marquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol-Suter) took the Moto2 pole position despite sliding off midway through the 45-minute session. His tumble required some repair work in the pits, but the Spanish teenager never relinquished first place. It was his third consecutive pole, following on from similar performances at Jerez and Estoril.

Towards the end of the 45-minute outing rain began to fall over some parts of the track, making it impossible for Marquez’s rivals to put in a last-gasp bid for pole. The damp conditions claimed Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team-Kalex) who tumbled without injury at Musee while trying to improve on his second-row start.

Marquez – who won his first Moto2 race here last year – will be joined on the front row by Thomas Luthi (Interwetten-Paddock-Suter) and Pol Espargaro (Pons 40 HP Tuenti-Kalex). Luthi was just 0.029s seconds slower than Marquez, while Espargaro was a further 0.451s down.

Other top performers in the Honda-powered series were Andrea Iannone (Speed Master – Speed Up) who was fifth quickest, just behind Redding, and Redding’s team-mate Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex) who took the last second-row position in sixth.
Honda dominated Moto3 qualifying, filling the first five positions with Maverick Vinales (Blusens Avintia – FTR Honda) taking pole at the end of a tricky, rain-affected qualifying session. It was the Spanish teenager’s first pole of the season.

A rain shower soaked the track at the start of the session and the slippery surface caught out many riders, including Estoril winner Sandro Cortese (KTM). Vinales reigned supreme on the damp track, upping his pace as the tarmac began to dry out. He ended the session almost a full second ahead of Efren Vazquez (JHK T-Shirt Laglisse – FTR Honda). Last spot on the front row went to Miguel Oliveira (Estrella Galicia 0.0 – Suter Honda). Vinales’ best lap was a full ten seconds slower than he had managed in dry free practice.

The second row of the Moto3 grid is led by another two Honda riders – Jakub Kornfeil (Thomas Sabo GP Team – Honda) and local star Alexis Masbou (Caretta Technology – Honda).

Following today’s wet and dry weather, more rain is forecast for tomorrow.


MotoGP rider quotes

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: pole position – 1m 33.638s
“I’m not a pole man, so I’m happy to be here for the first time this season. The 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, but we had some more drops of rain in the last five minutes. So it was key to choose the right moment to push and to not to go off-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 make a good start and to be able to keep a good pace until the end.”

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: 2nd – 1m 33.941s
“We’re really happy to be on the 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 pretty 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 and wait for the race as the weather conditions are still unpredictable.”

Alvaro Bautista, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 8th – 1m 34.922s
“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.”

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: 13th – 1m 35.862s “Today was a day to forget as soon as possible! This morning wasn’t so bad because we were using a different strategy from the 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 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 will still be able to perform well.”

Michel Pirro, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 14th - 1m 36.646s
“Qualifying took place in tricky conditions, but this morning we had found a good balance for the bike and perhaps we 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.”


Moto2 rider quotes

Marc Marquez, Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol-Suter: pole position – 1m 37.710s
“Qualifying was a little strange because it was raining on and off and there was always the possibility that it would rain even more heavily. That is why I was trying to push at the beginning of the session. It was my mistake – I braked too late for the corner and although I knew I was going too fast I tried to get through the corner. Now I know that I won’t be able to push any harder there during the race! Anyway, we are ready. We worked our way through free practice always thinking about our race settings. Now we have to wait and see what the weather will bring.”

Thomas Luthi, Interwetten-Paddock-Suter: 2nd – 1m 37.739s
“That was difficult – we had to take a lot of risks to get in a good lap this afternoon. I think the race will be close, with some nice battles going on. Like everyone else, I don’t know what to expect from the weather, so we will just have to take it as it comes.”

Pol Espargaro, Pons 40 HP Tuenti-Kalex: 3rd – 1m 38.190s
“It was so difficult to know what was going to happen next with the weather. We started the session with the softer rear tyre, which we would normally keep to the end, because we thought it might rain later on. I wasn’t able to make a perfect lap but third fastest is good. It will be a hard race – we hope for dry weather and then we will see who is running up front.”


Moto3 Rider Quotes

Maverick Vinales, Blusens Avintia – FTR Honda: pole position – 1m 55.865s
“I felt comfortable in the practice sessions, both in the dry and in the wet. We were able to go fast in both conditions. Tomorrow’s race will be a difficult one. We will have to wait on the weather, but we have a game plan to push hard from the start and establish a gap. It will be a difficult race, because it could just as easily be soaking wet as it could be sunny.”

Efren Vazquez, JHK T-Shirt Laglisse – FTR Honda: 2nd – 1m 56.847s
“I’m very happy with the front row and I’m very pleased with the work we’ve done this weekend. I think this is the most productive race for us since the start of the championship. We are now getting to where we thought we could be. My thanks to the team who are full of enthusiasm and working hard. I hope this is just the beginning of some good results. We have a tough race ahead of us – we will see what the weather brings and I will give 100 per cent.”

Miguel Oliveira, Estrella Galicia 0.0 – Suter-Honda: 3rd – 1m 57.114s
“Thanks to my team we did a good job in the morning session. But in the afternoon we could only do eight laps, though despite so little track time I did feel comfortable on the bike. We still have some problems with the rear of the bike, which we will try to resolve for the race. Anyway, we were lucky to get in a good lap, especially because there were a lot of riders falling due to the tricky conditions. The track was very slippery and that complicated matters. We need to regain our confidence for tomorrow, step by step. If it rains the main thing will be to make no mistakes – our objective is to score points.”

Source: Honda Pro Image

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