2011 MotoGP Le Mans Friday Press Release Round Up

The press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Le Mans:

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 eval uated 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 resu lt that certainly didn't show a true reflection of the 25-year-old's potential.

Colin Edwards 7th 1.34.939 – 41 laps

"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 to gether 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 12th 1.35.158 – 42 laps

"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."

Stoner fastest on first day in France using harder slicks

Round 4: French GP – Free Practice One & Two

Le Mans Circuit, Friday 13 May 2011

Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium. Rear (asymmetric): Soft, Medium

Casey Stoner finished the first day of practice for the French Grand Prix fastest overall, lapping under the existing lap record by nearly 0.5seconds. His fastest lap came on the harder option front and rear Bridgestone slicks, but he also lapped under the lap record and set provisional fastest using the new soft asymmetric rear tyre.

In fact, after just the first session of running this weekend Stoner had already lapped faster than the lap record on the soft rear, indicating that both the harder and the new soft option slicks selected for this grand prix are performing well.

Second fastest was satellite Honda rider Marco Simoncelli, continuing his recent run of good form and the only other rider under the lap record. Dani Pedrosa finished third fastest making for an all- Honda top three, and was the only rider who went faster in the morning's session than in the afternoon. The top three riders all used the harder front and rear slicks to set their fastest times in the second free practice.

Conditions all day were fine and dry, and whilst the track temperature in the morning was cool, meaning that every rider favoured the soft front slick tyre and the new soft asymmetric rear, it was much warmer in the afternoon and the harder slicks proved fastest. The new soft / extra soft asymmetric slick tyre worked well today, allowing the riders to set fast times right from the start despite the cool track.

Whilst the gaps at the front could be measured in tenths of a second, only 0.037seconds covered seventh to tenth positions.

Masao Azuma – Chief Field Engineer, Bridgestone Motorsport

"I am pleased with the performance of both our slick tyre options today as we can see from the laptimes that both worked well. This morning, our new soft asymmetric rear tyre provided good feeling for the riders from the start and enabled the laptimes to be fast, and I am impressed that even in the first session of the weekend Casey was faster than the lap record. Then in the afternoon, as the temperature rose, many riders switched to the harder slicks and the times were also very good with both Casey and Marco faster than the lap record. The weather today has been good but it may play more of a role tomorrow and on Sunday when the forecast becomes less favourable."

Hunting the Perfect Set-Up in Le Mans

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

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

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."

More to come from Bautista after first full day at Le Mans

Publish Date: Friday, May 13, 2011

Rizla Suzuki's Álvaro Bautista today completed his first full day of practice on a MotoGP machine at the Le Mans circuit in France, but still feels he has more work to do.

Bautista (P15, 1'35.992, 42 laps) is still recovering from the broken femur he suffered eight weeks ago, and is yet to reach full fitness, but the plucky Spaniard didn't let that bother him today as he set about coming to terms with the stop-start nature of the Le Mans track – a configuration that certainly tested him and the Suzuki GSV-R to the limit. Bautista progressed steadily throughout the day and recorded his best lap-time of the penultimate circulation of the afternoon session. He worked with his team to get the GSV-R set-up to give him the confidence he requires and is convinced he will be stronger as the weekend progresses. Today marked the first time that Bautista has completed a session on a MotoGP bike after a crash in last year's first session ruled him out of the rest of the weekend's proceedings.

Today's practices were both held in dry and sunny conditions, but a brisk wind kept temperatures at a pleasant 24ºC this afternoon. Honda's Casey Stoner led the way in both of today's practice sessions to top the leader-board on day one.

Rizla Suzuki and Bautista have one more practice session tomorrow morning, before an hour of qualifying in the afternoon. Sunday's 28-lap race is the fourth round of the 2011 season and the lights will go out to signal the start of the race at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).

Álvaro Bautista:

"It has been a difficult day because for me this has really been the first time I've ridden a MotoGP bike here - after crashing and not being able to continue last year. In both sessions I had a bit of a problem entering the corners because I didn't feel like I had enough grip. The bike felt like it was floating and this didn't give me the confidence to turn quickly. We will have to work on this to improve things, but I have complete faith in my team that they will get it sorted out. We still need a bit more time to get the bike set right so I can start to push to the limit, but the bike didn't give me that today and in my condition it's quite difficult to push that far. My mind and my body still don't want to risk anything, so we still need to go step-by-step, but I'm sure we'll be quicker tomorrow. My leg is much better than Portugal, it's still not perfect, but I was able to do the whole of today's practices without getting too tired."

Paul Denning – Team Manager:

"Álvaro is more focussed on performance here in Le Mans, than he is on recovering from his broken leg, but we have to be realistic and remember that he is still in the recuperation process. In addition, the Le Mans circuit holds some horrible memories from last year, so for all these reasons it will take a while to build his confidence and let him attack the circuit. Without question there's work to do with the bike and the benefits of the new chassis are not being felt yet - we need to get the settings right so he can go closer to the limits. We've done plenty of laps today - and got some useful data - and now we have a base to be able to improve significantly tomorrow."


MAPFRE Aspar rider back on track and resdiscovering form after Estoril crash

The Grand Prix de France got underway beneath warm early summer sunshine at Le Mans today, with Spanish riders particularly looking forward to the weekend following an historic podium treble last year. First blood in the MotoGP class went to Casey Stoner, who dominated both sessions and ended up 0.4 seconds clear of second place, although just 2.5 seconds covered the entire field. Close lap times at one of the least technical circuits on the calendar means that the racing should be just as tight on Sunday.

Héctor Barberá climbed back on board his Ducati for the first time since his first-lap crash last time out in the Grand Prix of Portugal. The MAPFRE Aspar rider spent the day getting back into his rhythm, starting out using the same setting that he used here last year. However, it didn't work as hoped and despite several changes throughout the day he could finish no higher than fourteenth fastest, two seconds off the day's best time but confident of making major improvements tomorrow.

14th Héctor Barberá 1.35.902 (22 laps): "Today was a tough one for us. After crashing without really knowing why in the last race I found it hard to get my feeling back. I started out this morning with the same setting as last year but I didn't feel comfortable. My riding style has changed a lot since then so our data is not much use and we had to take a step backwards. This afternoon I improved and got a better feeling as the laps went by. It was a case of patching things up between me and the bike after the crash in Portugal. I am finding it hard to get the bike turned on corner entry and I'm sure once we do that the lap times will come. I spent the whole day on a used race tyre to get data for Sunday so that should also mean we have room for improvement in the lap time. We have to keep working hard to return to the position where we should be tomorrow. Physically I feel good, I have done a good job with my personal trainer and I'm not feeling any problems."

Karel Abraham is disappointed after the first and second free practice

Trying to find the right set-up of his Ducati Desmosedici GP11, Karel Abraham finished 17th in the first and second free practice of the Grand Prix of France.

"I can't be satisfied with this result," said Karel Abraham. While in the first free practice he set a best time of 1.37,154, in the second free practice was faster by 0,837 seconds and set a best time of 1.36,327. Although he was only 2,545 behind the fastest rider, Karel Abraham finished 17th.

"I have to improve my pace," said the Czech motorcycle rider and reminded problems which he had with the front end of the motorcycle.

"We will see tomorrow what the weather conditions will be," continued Karel Abraham, reffering to the weather forecast which reports the rain.

"Surface of the circuit is composed of four different types of asphalt and is very slippery, especially in the rain," added.


Le Mans, 13 May: The MotoGP World Championship continues its swing through the European heart of the schedule with a stop at the famous "24 Heures circuit du Mans" in the Sarthe region of France for the opening day of the fourth round of the season. Spring temperatures of 24 degrees welcomed the premier class riders at the 4.158 km race track with Stoner on the top of the time sheet with a best lap time of 1'33.782.

Despite the good weather, the opening day of Grand Prix of France was not positive for LCR Honda MotoGP racer Toni Elias who came here with high motivation after some small improvements in the last test session in Estoril but could not make the most of his RCV ending the day in 16th position (1'36.304).

Elias: "Honestly I was expecting a different result. After the small adjustments we made in Portugal I was confident to set a good pace on this track because I like its stop-and-go nature but with this overall package I could not lap as I would like. We are still struggling with rear traction control and we must concentrate on honing our machine stability during braking, as well as improving the rear feeling for the numerous hairpin exits".


Marco Simoncelli staked his claim to be one of the leading performers at the Grand Prix of France from the first session this morning, the Team San Carlo Honda Gresini once again proving that he is ready to join the MotoGP elite with an impressive effort. "Super Sic" was second only to Casey Stoner in FP1, improving his lap time in FP2 this afternoon by a second to finish the day in the same position. His pace and feeling with the bike suggest he can be a contender for victory on Sunday, especially with another full day to make further adjustments and improvements to his bike. Hiro Aoyama also enjoyed a good day despite struggling somewhat this morning, the Japanese rider improving by a second and a half in the afternoon. The hard work continues for him tomorrow as he continues to improve his feeling with the Honda RC212V.

Marco Simoncelli (2nd 1' 34" 186) "I am happy because we have taken a positive step from the morning to the afternoon. We have improved by almost a second and that is a lot. It is partly down to improving the set-up but also the fact that this morning I was using a soft front tyre and that is not the best option for me. After a quick look at the data we can see that we need to make a small change to improve my confidence under braking, which is the area we struggled most in today. Overall we haven't made a bad start although we will probably have to make some changes related to fuel consumption given that lower temperatures are predicted for tomorrow and Sunday. Anyway, I am confident and we have started out on the right foot."

Hiroshi Aoyama (8th 1'' 34" 959 ) "We tried two differeent bikes today with different set-ups and tried to define a path to follow tomorrow and Sunday. We are happy we found the right one and we don't have much more work to do. We just need to improve grip and find more stability under braking but we have some ideas. I am confident because the team are working well and we are not too far off the front guys."

Fausto Gresini "Another fantastic day of practice for Marco Simoncelli. He was fast from the start this morning and after making a few changes to the set-up in the afternoon he improved by almost a second. He has a good feeling and the work he has done has been excellent. Obviously we have a few small changes to make for tomorrow and with the way we have gone with the bike Marco will have an opportunity to improve further. I have to compliment the team because once again they have shown the progress they are making and they have provided Marco with a bike that allows him to ride at such a high level. Aoyama also went well today, lowering his best lap from the morning by a second and a half. He is eighth at the moment and not far from the front after being sixth for most of the session. I am happy and satisfied to have such a competitive team."

Repsol Honda maintain rhythm in Le Mans Free Practice

After their strong performances in Portugal, the Repsol Honda trio maintained momentum in the first free practice sessions of the Grand Prix of France.

The team returned to work with a similar set up used two weeks ago in Estoril, a comparable track layout wise, and after the first two sessions the riders are confident in improving their pace and performance looking for good qualifying results.

Casey Stoner topped the time sheets in both free practice sessions, with Dani Pedrosa the third fastest rider of the day and Andrea Dovizioso sixth. Stoner's fastest laptime of 1'33.782 in his first outing with the RC212V in Le Mans was just a fraction off Valentino Rossi's pole position last season (1'33.408) and almost half a second quicker than the existing Circuit Lap Record of 1'34.215 set by Rossi in 2008.

Stoner kept a similar set up to Portugal and focused on improving traction in the rear of his machine. Pedrosa, after missing the majority of the post-race test in Portugal due to his physical condition, took his time this afternoon to try the new Ohlins front fork and also both hard and soft tyres to compare. Dovizioso spent the sessions trying to improve stability under braking and working on set up for tomorrow's qualifying session.

CASEY STONER – 1st - 1'33.782

"The track has quite good grip and we have a better feeling than in the past few years in this track and we are very happy, we went out this morning and didn't change so much from Portugal as the tracks are pretty similar for us, we felt good immediately and then changed a few things and tried something we haven't tested before on the Honda which seemed to give us more traction in the rear without affecting anything else. The weather is fantastic here and I hope it stays this way! We're happy to be where we are and we'll continue to work tomorrow morning to ensure we have the best set up for qualifying. Every session we do we're trying to modify something to improve the bike, I don't know if this is good enough to get pole at the moment as people are able to pull out a very good lap on the soft tyre, today we are fast but I'm sure tomorrow the others will also be fast, at this moment we feel comfortable with the settings with just a few more adjustments to make tomorrow, hopefully we can stay ahead of the rest".

DANI PEDROSA – 3rd - 1'34.431

"In the morning it was difficult with the cold conditions to find some grip and then in the afternoon the grip got better but we couldn't improve as much as we expected. Anyway we have some ideas and I hope to make a step forward tomorrow. We need to work on the front and rear suspension to get a better feeling, the bike was moving a lot this afternoon entering and at the exit of the corners. We have to keep the momentum and bounce back again because we are doing well, the bike is going very strong and we have to keep focused and work hard".

ANDREA DOVIZIOSO – 6th - 1'34.705

"This morning we started well and we continued working on the set up of the bike in the afternoon. We tried a different setting on the other bike to improve the stability under braking but we didn't get the results we expected. Tomorrow we will continue to fine tune the set up and the electronics. I feel I have margin to improve so I'm not too worried, I have always had good results on this track and the feeling with the machine is good. I'm not happy of the nine tenths gap from Casey, he is very fast, but apart from him we are closer to the first riders. We need to keep on working and improve the race pace".


Just a few hundredths of a second separates both Randy De Puniet—"landlord" of the fourth round in Le Mans—and Loris Capirossi from the leading group on the first day of practice session at the Le Mans Motogp round, ending the day with satisfaction for the Pramac Racing Team. In the morning session, De Puniet stopped the clock with a time 1'35.687. In the afternoon, the Frenchman lowered his best time to 1'34.998, closing the day eleventh. Capirossi had the thirteenth-fastest lap time at 1'35.383. The Italian rider improved his best time as well, lowering it by a second compared to that of the first practice session. The last free practice session is tomorrow, with qualifying in the afternoon.

Marco Rigamonti - Randy De Puniet Track Engineer

"Since this morning, we've tried different solutions to solve the problems that Randy found. We worked especially in the front of the bike, as Randy had difficulty finishing the corners. To solve the problem, the Franchman tried a pretty extreme solution. We'll try to take a step forward tomorrow. We tested also the tires, we know how to make the race, although

tomorrow we will have final answer. We are near to the leading group, I think that tomorrow we can improve our results".

Randy De Puniet - Pilota Pramac Racing Team - 11° miglior tempo 1'34.998

"I've improved my performance, my best lap time is lowered and the feeling with the bike is good. The front of the bike didn't get the same problems since Estoril, although it's not perferct. We took half step forward, tomorrow I hope to confirm my progress. I'm calm, run here, in my home, give me a lot of energies".

Loris Capirossi - Pilota Pramac Racing Team – 13° miglior tempo 1'35.383

"I'm satisfied. We took a great step forward changing the bike. Each time we came out of the garage we managed to improved our lap times. We know where to work, the bike is balanced, but give up when braking as it doesn't turn as it should. Let's see if we can improve a bit more in the last free practie and solve the problem. I am a bit worried about tomorrow climatic conditions: ride with such a low temperature certainly doensn't help to keep the tires on the asphalt".


On a day marked by beautiful weather, Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi earned the fourth- and ninth-best times, respectively, during the first two free-practice sessions at the French Grand Prix.

During the afternoon session, the American found a good feeling with his GP11, and he hopes to continue at the same level over the course of the weekend. The Italian, on the other hand, was affected by setup issues, and by the time he and his crew made a change that seemed promising, he only had time for a couple of laps before the checkered flag flew. Tomorrow he'll continue experimenting with setup in an effort to reduce the gap to the front.

Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro Team) 4th, 1:34.652

"Today was certainly better than the last few Fridays, by quite a long way. It's still early, and it's just one day, but the bike felt quite good here straight away. The Portugal test was very useful for me and the team. We thought we made a little step there, and it seems like we confirmed that here. Overall, the bike definitely seems a little bit better, but we've still got a long way to go to be that fast consistently. Also, the gap to the very front is still out there quite a ways. Le Mans is difficult because it's not a real grippy track, but we know our bike is really good on hard braking, and as I expected, that's helping us here. Anyway, hopefully this will give us a little bit of momentum, and we'll keep rolling tomorrow."

Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team) 9th, 1:34.966

"For sure I hoped today would go better than that. We had a few problems trying to find the right setting, so we're too far back today. We're struggling somewhat on corner exits. The bike moves a lot under acceleration, and we're trying to understand if it's a question of setup, or one of electronics, because at the moment, I'm having a hard time riding. In the end, we found an interesting change for the rear, but there were just a few minutes left in the session. I only had time for a couple of laps, during which I more or less matched my best time. Maybe with a little more time, I could have dropped another tenth and made up some positions, but tomorrow we definitely have to do much better when we try that setup with more time."


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And Friday practice is normally when he thinks he's cracked it. Perhaps tomorrow will bring more success, although it sounds unlikely. Tis a strange and rare beast the Desmosedici. Seems you can turn it inside out, running from one set up extreme to the polar opposite and it remains recalcitrant in exactly the same manner. She really is a Latin temptress!

Week in, week out the only thing Ducati seem to be achieving this year is the résumé embellishment of one Mr C. Stoner.

Casey needs to show he can beat Pedrosa and Simoncelli (if he stays on!) consistently to be regarded as a title contender this season. He also needs to back up the (trash) talk with dominant performances. Let's not forget that while brilliant at times on the Ducati he has been widely inconsistent as well. I don't think mentally he is as strong as he needs to be. I personally don't see him winning another championship. Don't mind being wrong though :)

Dovizioso needs to show some stuff too - and soon. The window of him being on that Factory Honda bike is closing rapidly. This is likely his last season on premier equipment like the Repsol Honda if he doesn't start beating (some of) the other Honda's regularly and that sense of urgency surely is not showing.

is that to win on the Duke Stoner needed 100% of his skill 100% of the time. On the Honda he can have a wee margin. Does not the fact that since jumping on the Honda Stoner has crashed but once in testing (and he knows the reason and that it was his fault), notwithstanding being taken out by Rossi at Jerez. Yet Rossi has now crashed the Duke five times whilst not being anywhere near the pointy end, and is scratching his head as to why.

Stoner may not win another championship (highly unlikely though) but if so that will be due to Pedrosa and Lorenzo more than Rossi.