Alex Rins ended an incident-packed FP2 session for the Moto3 class on top of the timesheets, in a session cut short by the weather. The Estrella Galicia rider just edged ahead of Mapfre Aspar's Jonas Folger, while Luis Salom took third spot half a second behind Rins, and just ahead of Maverick Viñales. British rider Danny Webb ended in fifth, ahead of Niklas Ajo and Webb's Ambrogio teammate, Brad Binder.
A change in the weather thwarted Viñales' forward progress. The Red Bull KTM rider had fallen on his out lap, taking his time to get going again once he had returned to the pits. Spots of rain started falling shortly after the halfway mark, becoming more serious with some five minutes or so left, sending everyone back into the pits. A number of riders crashed during the session, though most of them during the dry first part, rather than due to the rain, with Efren Vazquez coming off worst, being taken to the Medical Center with a suspected fractured collar bone.
Scott Redding has ended the first session of free practice for the Moto2 class at Le Mans firmly in charge of proceedings. The Marc VDS Racing rider seized control in the first fifteen minutes of the session, and kept the lead all the way to the end.
Redding was challenged by his main title rival Pol Espargaro, but the Pons Tuenti HP 40 rider stranded a tenth off Redding's time. Tom Luthi grabbed third spot, the Swiss rider now starting to recover from the horrific arm and shoulder injury he suffered during preseason testing, while Jerez winner Tito Rabat ended the session in fourth, just under half a second off the time of Redding. Two more Spaniards grabbed fifth and sixth, Nico Terol finishing ahead of Julian Simon.
Dani Pedrosa has topped the timesheets in the first session of free practice for the MotoGP class at Le Mans. The Repsol Honda man was strong throughout practice, and held off a late challenge from Jorge Lorenzo to take first blood in France. Lorenzo was not far off, however: on his final lap, he got to within four hundredths of Pedrosa's time, setting the scene for a very close weekend.
Valentino Rossi also had a strong start, taking third spot behind his Yamaha Factory teammate, three tenths off the time of Pedrosa and ahead of a pair of Ducatis, Nicky Hayden grabbing fourth while Andrea Dovizioso secured fifth. Cal Crutchlow ended the session in sixth place, ahead of Marc Marquez, who is still learning his way around the track on a MotoGP bike. The two satellite Honda riders follow in eighth and ninth, Alvaro Bautista a couple of tenths quicker than Stefan Bradl, while Hector Barbera made his way into the top ten to grab the final spot in the provisional line up for QP2.
Maverick Viñales has set out his statement of intent, topping the first session of free practice for the Moto3 class with a late charge. The Spaniard deposed both Alex Rins and Jonas Folger, after Folger had controlled the second half of practice. The session got underway with a few spots of rain, but, that soon cleared up and temperatures rose dramatically towards the end of practice, meaning times dropped.
Where do you draw the line? That's the central question in the paddock at Le Mans. The last-corner incident at Jerez is still front and foremost in many riders' minds, though perhaps none more so than Jorge Lorenzo's. Jorge Lorenzo still believes that Marc Marquez should be penalized for the move he made at Jerez, while the rest of the world remains to be convinced.
The subject came up at a rider briefing held by Race Direction at Le Mans, after all of the riders had arrived at the track, but before the press conference was due to begin. The briefing had been convened to discuss other issues - what to do when races are red flagged, behavior on the grid, the procedure for restarts, and a host of other complicated but important details surrounding safety. The briefing was clearly needed, as Marc VDS rookie Livio Loi's post red flag crash at Jerez made clear, the youngster's lack of experience causing him problems.
It was inevitable that the subject of the clash between Marquez and Lorenzo would come up at a meeting such as this, and, depending on whose account you believe, it was inevitable that tempers would be frayed. Lorenzo was described on GPOne as being 'furious' with Race Direction over their refusal to penalize Marquez for his pass at Jerez, though in the press conference, Lorenzo played that report down. He stood by his assertion that Race Direction needed to penalize Marquez, and that he had left the meeting early because "I thought it was over, the briefing, and I leave. Someone has to leave first, so I was the first one to leave."
Three races into the 2013 MotoGP season, and the Yamaha Factory Racing team have been forced to tear up the script they had written for themselves after preseason testing. Their original goals were for Jorge Lorenzo to win as often as possible in the early part of the season, building a lead at the tracks at which Yamaha is supposed to be strong, then defend that lead in the second half of the year. Valentino Rossi, meanwhile, was to finish adapting to the Yamaha once again and get on the podium ahead of the Hondas as much as possible, to help build out Lorenzo's lead in the championship.
The plan worked perfectly at Qatar. Lorenzo was untouchable in the race, and won easily. Rossi showed he still had it by getting on the podium and taking second, while the first Honda was Marc Marquez in third. This worked out even better than expected, as although Marquez is clearly an exceptional talent, the real title threat, Yamaha believed, would come from Dani Pedrosa.
Race two, at Austin in Texas, went a little better and a little worse than anticipated. That Marquez would win there had been expected, after all, the Repsol Honda rookie had been quickest at the test. But Marquez' advantage over Lorenzo - and especially the gap from Pedrosa to Lorenzo - was much smaller than they had feared, putting Lorenzo within striking distance of the Repsol Hondas. For Valentino Rossi, on the other hand, things did not go so well, the Italian never feeling comfortable on the bike, and finishing behind two satellite riders, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow and the LCR Honda of Stefan Bradl.
Race three is where the plan started going horribly wrong. The Yamaha men arrived in Jerez supremely confident, after having dominated preseason testing there. Jerez was the start of a run of Yamaha tracks, where Lorenzo and Rossi - and maybe even Cal Crutchlow - would really start to shine, and put some clear blue water between themselves and the Repsol Hondas. It did not work out that way: the Yamahas struggled against the mighty Hondas, and Dani Pedrosa took a very easy victory. Adding insult to injury, Marc Marquez bumped Jorge Lorenzo out of second place, robbing the Yamaha man of the lead in the championship, and putting both Repsol Hondas ahead.
And now MotoGP heads to Le Mans, yet another track that is supposed to favor the Yamahas. Given Jorge Lorenzo's utterly dominant win in the soaking rain at the French circuit in 2012, it is easy to think that the Yamahas should have an easy time of it here. The danger is that riders, teams and fans follow the comfortable assumption that Le Mans is a Yamaha track, disregarding recent history there.
Press release previews from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of this weekend's French Grand Prix at Le Mans:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's races at Le Mans:
That MotoGP is too Iberocentric - too many Spanish races, and too many Spanish riders - is obvious to all who follow the sport, with the possible exception of a blinkered Spanish journalist or two. The series has to change, to move away from having four races a season in Spain, and to explore new markets in South America and Asia.
This is exactly what is to happen, according to an interview Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta gave to the Reuters news agency on Friday. Reuters reporter Alan Baldwin spoke to Ezpeleta at the Barcelona circuit, where the Dorna CEO was attending the Formula 1 race. In the interview, Ezpeleta laid out his intentions to move away from Spain and, to a lesser extent, the US, and towards Asia and South America, with new races to be held in Brazil and Asia, though as he has done before, Ezpeleta would not be drawn on exactly which Asian country.
The race in Brazil is scheduled to take in Brasilia, the capital of the South American country. Whether that is at the Brasilia race track (the Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet in Brasilia) is unclear, but Ezpeleta told Reuters that work was currently underway on the circuit, and the hope was it would be finished by the end of the year. That would make scheduling a race for 2014 difficult, but Ezpeleta was confident that there could be a race in Brazil from 2015 onwards. Ezpeleta did not give any details of the race planned for Asia, but Reuters reporter Baldwin suggests that it could take place in Thailand. Previously, Dorna sources have hinted that a race could take place in Indonesia, though currently, neither country has a circuit that would pass an FIM safety inspection. Given the explosion of interest in the sport in the region, however, that could change quickly.
The second batch of post-race press releases after this weekend's World Superbike round at Monza, issued a day later because of the confusion over the results:
Press releases from some of the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after several incident-packed races at Monza:
Motor racing has been described as drag racing between corners. Never is this adage truer than at Monza. Speed out of corners is paramount, especially out of the Parabolica, the fast last corner that leads on to the equally fast start/finish straight. The faster you exit a corner, the sooner you reach your top speed. Monza has two long straights, both with fast corners leading onto them; this is what makes it different from other tracks with long straights. Fuel limits and tyres come into play in a different way here than any other track on the calendar. The other unique aspect of Monza is the controversies that arise from its uniqueness, and this weekend was no different in that respect.
The last lap of the second World Superbike was frought with controversy after an overtake followed by an off-track excursion. The results of third and fourth place in the race have subsequently been reversed, following an appeal.
Fourth time lucky, the World Supersport race was reduced to a ten-lap dash at the end of the day.
The second World Superbike race at Monza once again demonstrated the kind of excitement that only a fast track can deliver.