The first track sessions of the French round of the 2011 MotoGP Championship were played out under glorious sunshine in Le Mans today. Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies spent the morning and afternoon free practice sessions working through a number of chassis set-up changes and tyre options in preparation for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Lorenzo wrapped up the day in fifth having taken just over half a second off his morning time with improved set-up. The reigning World Champion will focus on improving his bike’s ability to turn in tomorrow morning’s final free practice ahead of the afternoon qualifying session.
Lorenzo’s team mate Ben Spies was happy to be back on the bike and re-building his confidence after his DNF at Estoril two weeks ago. Echoing his team mate’s performance Spies also made good improvements over the day, taking nearly eight tenths of a second off his time by end of session and finishing in tenth. The Texan claimed the highest speed on the Le Mans circuit for the sessions, clocking 288.9km/hr with his Yamaha YZR-M1.
Jorge Lorenzo – Position 5th – Time 1.34.659 – Laps 45
“As I’ve said before, this year it’s going to be a difficult year. Some of the other riders are much faster than before. We’re working hard and we are trying a lot of things to improve the bike. We will keep on, we made some improvements over today and I hope tomorrow we will make a step and be a bit faster.”
Ben Spies – Position 10th – Time 1.34.976 – Laps 48
“I was pretty happy with today, building some confidence back up after the last race in Estoril. The sessions went pretty well for us we just didn’t put in one fast lap. We’ve been quite consistent with race distance on the tyres and I’m reasonably happy with the bike so if we can make it better for tomorrow I think we’ll be up with the front guys.”
Wilco Zeelenberg – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“The second session went a bit better but we’re not completely happy and satisfied as we are still missing some ‘turnability’. We improved a bit from the morning, Jorge was more consistent and a bit faster but for sure he wants more and we do need it. Hopefully tomorrow we can make another step without losing our strong points because at the moment braking on corner entry is quite good.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“We still have some work to do but the balance of Ben’s bike is not too far off. We are also working to find which tyre is best for tomorrow’s qualifying; we are positive about what we can achieve in the next sessions. Jorge made clear improvements over the day although they are still looking to find some more agility.”
Encouraging start for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team on home soil
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad made an encouraging start to preparations for the Team’s all-important home race in France after Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow set a fast and competitive pace on the opening day of practice at the historic Le Mans circuit.
Today’s session was run in gloriously sunny conditions, which gave Edwards and Crutchlow the perfect opportunity to focus on making further adjustments and improvements to the settings they found during a successful one-day test session after the recent Estoril round in Portugal.
Edwards was able to knock almost a second off his best time from this morning’s session, the American thrilled that a revised set-up he evaluated in Estoril to improve rear grip barely needed to be modified to allow him to challenge for a top six time in Le Mans today.
Edwards ended with a best time of 1.34.939 to finish just 0.5s away from the top three in seventh place on the combined timesheets.
Crutchlow’s incredible prowess at quickly learning new tracks was evident again today, the British rider finishing second quickest Yamaha in this morning’s session as he immediately adapted to the heavy braking and hard acceleration characteristics of the legendary Bugatti track.
Ninth fastest in the opening session, Crutchlow looked certain to force his way deservedly back into the top ten this afternoon when he suffered a small front-end crash in the final three minutes.
Despite shaving over 0.6s off his best time set this morning, Crutchlow had to settle for 12th on the leaderboard, a result that certainly didn’t show a true reflection of the 25-year-old’s potential.
Colin Edwards – Position 7th – Time 1.34.939 – Laps 41
“I knew we’d made a big step with the changes we made to the bike during the test in Estoril and today’s practice confirmed that. We made a couple of little tweaks to the setting we finished the test in Portugal with, but by the end of the day the bike was pretty much identical to how we put it on the truck a couple of weeks back. I feel like I’ve got a lot more rear grip and the bike goes in the direction that I point it and that just makes my riding feel really natural. I’ve been missing that feeling and for most of the year I’ve been fighting the bike to get it to do something. But today it was much easier to do the lap time. And it doesn’t matter what track you’re on, if you can ride without fighting the bike, you can string together some good laps. I’m really happy but we can make the bike a little bit better. I’d like to get the electronics helping me turn on the exit a bit more in some of the tighter sections. Overall it has been a really positive start and that’s important being such a huge race for the Team and for Monster.”
Cal Crutchlow – Position 12th – Time 1.35.158 – Laps 42
“I’m pretty happy with how today went apart from the stupid crash at the end which was just a mistake I made in braking for Turn 6. I just ran in a bit hot on the brakes and tipped off. Despite that I was only a tenth behind Colin and he’s got a great record at this track. On the lap I crashed I’d done my best splits of the session in the first two sectors and was only two-tenths off the best lap at that point. If I’d lost another two-tenths in the second two splits then I’d have been in the top six. To finish 12th doesn’t do us justice at all and if we can carry on tomorrow making the same progression I did today, I know I can be comfortably in the top ten. Although people told me Le Mans was going to be easier to learn than Jerez and Estoril, I actually think it is harder because it is so hard to pick up the tenths you need to go faster. And it doesn’t help make it any easier when Casey goes out on lap record pace in the first practice! We can make the bike better for tomorrow. As soon as I open the throttle I run wide, so I’ll have a sit down with my guys and come up with a plan to solve that tomorrow. This is a massive weekend for the Team and Monster and today was a positive start, so I’m looking forward to Sunday and fighting for a top ten again.”
2011 MotoGP France
Le Mans 13/05/2011
1 Casey Stoner Honda AUS 1’33.782
2 Marco Simoncelli Honda ITA 1’34.186
3 Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 1’34.431
4 Nicky Hayden Ducati USA 1’34.652
5 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha ESP 1’34.659
6 Andrea Dovizioso Honda ITA 1’34.705
7 Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 1’34.939
8 Hiroshi Aoyama Honda JPN 1’34.959
9 Valentino Rossi Ducati ITA 1’34.966
10 Ben Spies Yamaha USA 1’34.976
11 Randy De Puniet Ducati FRA 1’34.998
12 Cal Crutchlow Yamaha GBR 1’35.158
13 Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 1’35.383
14 Hector Barbera Ducati ESP 1’35.902
15 Alvaro Bautista Suzuki ESP 1’35.992
(Valentino Rossi, 1/1/2005)
Fastest Lap Ever:
(Daniel Pedrosa, 5/18/2008)
Last Years Winner: