Jorge Lorenzo has stamped his authority on the field at Le Mans, dominating the last session of free practice for the MotoGP field before qualifying starts. Lorenzo and Marc Marquez swapped top spot in the first half of FP4, before Lorenzo opened a gap in the second half, his advantage ending up at over half a second.
Andrea Iannone has ended free practice on top of the pile, the factory Ducati rider just squeaking past Jorge Lorenzo to end the day as the fastest man in FP3. Iannone had a little help from Lorenzo, though, much to the Spaniard's chagrin. The Italian followed the Yamaha M1 of Lorenzo through a blistering final lap, using the tow to propel him to the top of the timesheets.
They say that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. There are also two certainties in MotoGP so far this year: at every race, Michelin will introduce yet another new tire, and the Ducati Desmosedici GP will sprout a new set of wings. For Le Mans, Michelin brought a new rear tire, with a slightly softer construction but identical compounds, to try to generate a little more grip and address rider complaints about the rear spinning without creating drive, even in high gears. The new wings on the Ducati were much larger than the previous versions, to perhaps address the need for drive out of the many first gear corners at Le Mans.
Michelin bringing yet another tire to another race may sound like they are still flailing around, but in reality, it is a sign that the French tire maker is starting to settle on a development direction, after their plans had been sent astray by the double Ducati disasters of Loris Baz and Scott Redding. The rear tire raced at Austin and Jerez was the so-called "safety tire", a construction Michelin was certain would make race distance without any nasty surprises. It was raced without any real testing, meant only as a back up, not seriously intended for competition.
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.
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
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.