Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo will start tomorrow’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France from the second row with Rossi in fifth and Lorenzo in sixth position.
An intense 15-minute qualifying session saw both riders hold provisional positions on the front row as the lap times tumbled, only to be denied in the last moments. Their final times on the second row were just a tenth of a second from second place.
Rossi was one of the first riders on track, briefly slotting into second position on his first flying effort behind teammate Lorenzo with a 1’33.313. He immediately improved with a 1’33.217 before a flurry of hot laps dropped him to sixth as he returned to the pits with 7 minutes remaining. Less than two minutes later and armed with a fresh soft rear he was back on track, picking up the pace to drop into the 1’32s with a 1’32.974 before delivering his best lap of qualifying with a 1’32.873. The time was good enough for a brief visit to the front row before dropping to the second and securing fifth for tomorrow’s race.
Teammate Lorenzo started strongly in the Le Mans sunshine, first man out on track he immediately took the top spot with his first flying lap, a 1’33.188 to lead a Movistar Yamaha one/two on the timesheets. Rival Marc Marquez then moved in, taking the top spot and relegating Lorenzo to second as the qualifying session began to heat up. The Spaniard was able to drop under the 1’33s with a 1’32.964 before returning to the pits for a new soft rear. The last few minutes saw a second attack however Lorenzo was unable to reclaim pole, delivering a session best of 1’32.899 to take sixth on the grid next to his teammate for tomorrow’s race.
Rookie Pol Espargaro delivered a heroic qualifying performance today to superbly clinch 2nd and his first ever MotoGP front row start, for tomorrow’s 28-lap dash at the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team’s home grand prix in Le Mans.
The reigning Moto2 World Champion wasted no time in setting a blazing pace at the gloriously sunny circuit, having ridden to a superbly executed 3rd place in FP3 which allowed him to progress through to Q2 for the fourth race in succession. His final lap time during the second 15-minute dash was an exceptional 1.32,734, which was quicker than last year’s pole by 0.445 of a second, in only his fifth race event for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 MotoGP team. With the 22 year old Catalan feeling self assured with his race pace and ability, he is poised to deliver a positive performance in his first outing at the Le Mans circuit on the Yamaha YZR-M1 as he proceeds to make leaps forward in terms of his performance and confidence.
Bradley Smith continued his positive form for the team’s special home Grand Prix, sponsored by Tech3’s title backers Monster Energy, by qualifying in 10th. His lap time of 1.33,058 today illustrated his large level of progression from last year, as he beat his previous time by well over one second. Having progressed straight through to Q2 with a lap of 1.33,510 equalling 9th place, Smith pushed determinedly, but was hampered slightly by grip issues yet still produced a lap time of 1.33,058, only one tenth from the fifth position. He fully intends to begin tomorrow’s 28-lap race strongly, where he will aim for a top five result at the legendary Le Mans circuit.
Aleix Espargaro continues the momentum with a very positive qualifying session at Le Mans. The NGM Forward Racing rider was the fastest open also on the French track recording a remarkable 1’33.015 and tomorrow he will take the start from the third row on the 8th spot of the grid. Aleix is confident for the race and he aims at making a good start and finish as close as possible to the Top5 riders.
Team mate Colin Edwards finished in 15th position with a lap time of 1’34.203. Colin worked hard during the day on the electronics set up and he was able to improve his feeling on the bike. The Texan rider looks forward to get a good result in the race.
5th / 1’32.873 / 9 laps
“I’m quite happy, especially after yesterday which was a big disaster. I wasn’t able to ride the bike in a good way then, but today with my team we improved the setting a lot and I’m satisfied. I’m always fast; I have a good pace and a good setting so I like the bike. In the qualifying I had the potential to be on the front row but at the end it’s ok like this. I’m in fifth ahead of Lorenzo and Pedrosa and I think tomorrow they will be great rivals. Marquez is also very fast, but I can fight with them!”
6th / 1’32.899 / 9 laps
“It’s been the opposite of Jerez, here we have good pace but we couldn’t make a very fast lap time. I didn’t make a perfect lap and just for one tenth I couldn’t be in second place. For the race we have more options than the last races so I’m going to try and finish on the podium. We have to pay attention in the first laps because everyone wants to overtake but I think we can keep our place and move up.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“Fifth and sixth isn’t a reflection of our speed, the pace we have shown during the practices for both riders is actually more positive than it looks from the qualifying results. Our bike is well set up for the track and the race so we have some confidence for tomorrow. For sure we will be there and competitive at the front, both Jorge and Vale are very capable of fighting for the podium. We will look to make another step before warm up tomorrow to have the best possible set up for the race. It’s going to be long and tough over 28 laps. It’s a very technical circuit with no time to rest so it should be an exciting one to watch.”
2nd / 1’32,734 / 9 Laps
“I am flying high right now, and am really happy and proud that I was able to produce this lap at the team’s home race. This is very important for me, as the team and I have done a lot of work during the preseason and for the first few rounds, so this qualifying result is like a small victory. The race will still be a challenge, as there are many laps and not just one however I am confident with my pace. For sure, the factory riders may seem faster and have more experience, but starting from the front will still be a big advantage for me compared to the other races so far. I intend to fight whilst trying to learn as much as possible, and I feel like I can clinch a great result for the team and it would be perfect to go home with plenty of championship points in my pocket. I will make the most of the start and see what I can do.”
10th / 1’33,058 / 8 Laps
“Obviously, it is not ideal qualifying in 10th, especially with the nature of this circuit as it is a narrow track, and therefore it might be tricky to overtake on. Fortunately, I am confident with my starts, so I am not too worried as there is a long distance to turn one, and I’ll aim to retake some positions straight away there. I have made it a little harder for myself, and I believe I had the pace to challenge for the front row. With the team and myself we weren’t able to find a solution to some rear grip issues and especially in acceleration, which is so important here. I am pleased with the braking stability, which is a positive as it is also significant for this track due to its stop and go character. With this, I am confident that we can fight and make some ground in tomorrow’s race. There is still some work to be done in warm-up, and I aim to do my very best for tomorrow’s race to give the French fans something to cheer about.”
8th / 1’33.015
“Considering the problems we had yesterday, I’m satisfied of todays’ result. On this track we are struggling with the set up of the bike. We need to analyse the data in order to find a solution for the race. In qualifying we were quiet fast, the gap form the front row is not bad so I’m confident for the race. It will be important to make a good start and remain close to the front group especially in the first part of the race.”
15th / 1’34.203
“Yesterday we struggled a lot but the work on the electronics set up has paid and I could improve my feeling with the bike. I still have some issues with the traction control, but we have some ideas for tomorrow. We don’t have so much time but I’m confident that we can make a step forward to be more competitive.”
2014 MotoGP France
Le Mans 17/05/2014
1 Marc Marquez Honda ESP 1’32.042
2 Pol Espargaro Yamaha ESP 1’32.734
3 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati ITA 1’32.755
4 Stefan Bradl Honda GER 1’32.846
5 Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 1’32.873
6 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha ESP 1’32.899
7 Alvaro Bautista Honda ESP 1’33.006
8 Aleix Espargaro Forward Yamaha ESP 1’33.015
9 Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 1’33.023
10 Bradley Smith Yamaha GBR 1’33.058
11 Andrea Iannone Ducati ITA 1’33.102
12 Cal Crutchlow Ducati GBR 1’33.315
13 Nicky Hayden Honda USA 1’33.859
14 Yonny Hernandez Ducati COL 1’33.999
15 Colin Edwards Forward Yamaha USA 1’34.203
Hot and Sunny
(Valentino Rossi, 1-1-2005)
Fastest Lap Ever:
(Marc Marquez, 18-5-2014)
Last Years Winner: