Johann Zarco has taken charge of his home round of Moto2, the reigning champion upping the pace at the end of the afternoon to top the timesheets at Le Mans. The Frenchman just sneaked ahead of Tom Luthi, the Swiss rider having a good first day in Le Mans. Jonas Folger grabbed third spot, the last of the riders to finish close to Zarco, while others struggled.
Jorge Lorenzo put in a typically dominant display at Le Mans, taking top spot in the second session of free practice by a comfortable margin. The Movistar Yamaha rider was quick throughout, but upped his pace in the final ten minutes, as the entire field headed out for an assault on the top ten places, and passage through to Q2.
Brad Binder has topped the timesheets after the first day of practice at Le Mans. The Red Bull Ajo KTM rider made solid strides in the second session of free practice, his speed increasing all the way to the end of the session. In the final minutes, Binder put in a scorching lap to take the top spot.
Simone Corsi put in an impressive charge to top the first session of free practice for the Moto2 class. The Speed Up rider took advantage of the cooler conditions, which suit the Italian-made bike, to just edge Alex Rins on the HP 40 Kalex. Jonas Folger ended the session in third, a tenth off the pace of Corse, and fractionally faster than Tom Luthi, who finished in fourth. Lorenzo Baldassari took fifth spot, just ahead of reigning world champion Johann Zarco. The Frenchman was under a third of a second slower than Corsi at his home round.
Dani Pedrosa has topped the first session of free practice for the MotoGP class at Le Mans, both Repsol Hondas putting in a burst of speed at the end of the session. Pedrosa pushed late to edge ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, after the Movistar Yamaha rider had led for much of the session. Marc Marquez took third spot, making a similar leap to his Repsol Honda teammate, and just nudge Andrea Dovizioso into 4th on the Ducati.
KTM continued their testing, completing a three-day test at Misano with test riders Mika Kallio and Karel Abraham. Afterwards, the Austrian manufacturer issued the following press release:
No resting with testing – KTM MotoGP test in Misano
MotoGP Test 2016 – Misano (2016)
MotoGP at Le Mans is a weekend filled with anticipation. Anticipation of much-vaunted moves, with fans and media eagerly awaiting a decision from Maverick Viñales on his future. Anticipation of further negotiations, with the rest of the MotoGP and Moto2 grids eagerly awaiting a decision from Maverick Viñales on his future, so that they know which seats might be open for them. Anticipation – and for riders such as Scott Redding, trepidation – at the tires, front and rear, which Michelin have brought to Le Mans, and how different (and hopefully better) they will be from the tires which appeared at Austin and Jerez, which caused problems for so many riders. And anticipation of what the notoriously fickle weather will do at Le Mans.
To start with the last question first, the weather actually looks like being utterly glorious all weekend. Not Mugello or Barcelona style heat, but sunny, dry, and warm. Even the morning sessions should be warm, giving the teams a chance to try all of the tires Michelin have brought to Le Mans (three different fronts, three different rears), and make a fair assessment of them. For the first time this year, the weather gods are smiling unequivocally on MotoGP.
From the last question to the first, what of the big announcements expected at Le Mans? For the moment, it looks like everything is on hold. That is Maverick Viñales' fault, as the talented young Spaniard is struggling to make a decision between Yamaha and Suzuki. The Yamaha one-two in Jerez had given him food for thought, he told reporters, but then at the test the next day, he found himself close to the front, and among the fastest on race pace. "This makes me think a lot," the Suzuki rider said. "If we can take everything from the test, we can be there."
Preview press releases from the MotoGP teams, Michelin and more ahead of this week's French Grand Prix:
Repsol Honda Team head to historic Le Mans for Round 5
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of the French Grand Prix at Le Mans:
Morbidelli and Márquez hoping for podium chance in France
Racing to a first Moto2 World Championship podium of 2016 will be the top priority for Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Franco Morbidelli and Álex Márquez this weekend when they tackle the legendary Le Mans track in France.
Morbidelli is still seeking his first top three finish in the famous livery of the Belgium-based squad, having come close to securing a podium in three of the opening four races.
The next piece of the 2017 MotoGP Silly Season puzzle has fallen into place. Today, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team announced that they have signed the German youngster Jonas Folger for the 2017 season, with an option to keep him for a second year into 2018.
That Tech 3 should sign Folger is no real surprise. Hervé Poncharal made no secret of his opinion of Folger, mentioning the German in every conversation about finding riders for Tech 3. Poncharal had tried to sign Folger previously in 2014, hoping to get him into MotoGP in 2015, but the German was in the middle of a two-year deal, and unable to get out of it. Two years later, Poncharal has his man.
MotoGP is going through a tough time with tyres, but how long has this been going on?
It is Michelin’s home MotoGP round this weekend; in theory a time for celebration, even though the French company hasn’t had the easiest of returns to a class of racing that it ruled almost continuously from 1974 to 2006.
First came Scott Redding’s delaminating tyre in Argentina; which had Michelin hurriedly deploying stiffer rear casings that had riders battling wheelspin in sixth gear at a dry and sunny Jerez.
It seemed like a foregone conclusion. Since Austin, when it became apparent (if not official) that Jorge Lorenzo was off to Ducati, the idea that Maverick Viñales would take his place went from being likely to seeming almost inevitable. After all, Yamaha already have a seasoned veteran in Valentino Rossi, and as 2015 showed, a rider capable of winning a MotoGP championship when the circumstances are right. What they need is someone who can make an immediate impact, a rider who can perhaps win races, and who they can develop into a world champion. That description has Maverick Viñales all over it.
Until today, that is. On Tuesday, UK publication Motorcycle News reported that the Viñales deal could be called off entirely, after a failure to agree financial terms. Instead, in a shock revelation should it turn out to be correct, MCN is linking Dani Pedrosa to the empty seat at Yamaha, with Viñales remaining at Yamaha.
How much credence should we place in the MCN story? Journalist Simon Patterson is sure of his sources, and the details are in line with what I have heard when speaking to Yamaha sources about Viñales. Paddock gossip suggest that Yamaha offered Viñales €4 million to make the switch to the Movistar Yamaha team, but that the Hamamatsu factory upped their offer to €5 million to keep the rider they regard as their future at Suzuki. Paying over that amount for a rider who is yet to score a single podium in MotoGP may have been a little too much for Yamaha.
The Jerez round of MotoGP left us with plenty to talk about, and so episode 24 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is a long one - even after the edits. Regulars Neil Morrison and David Emmett are joined by Jensen Beeler of Asphalt & Rubber to chew over the excitement of the race and the goings on behind the scenes, and at the test afterwards.
There will be only 23 bikes on the MotoGP grid in 2017. The FIM today officially announced that the 24th grid slot has been officially withdrawn, after manufacturers could not pledge to supply additional equipment.
There was plenty of interest in the grid slot. Five teams expressed an interest, and three teams submitted an official application for the 24th grid slot. Those teams are believed to have included Pons, LCR, and Ajo, all of whom had previously admitted publicly that they were keen to move up to MotoGP.