Press releases from the MotoGP teams after qualifying on Saturday at Le Mans:
Crutchlow and Edwards show class in Le Mans
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team is confident of a strong showing in its crucial home race tomorrow after Cal Crutchlow and Colin Edwards produced breathtaking qualifying performances at the Le Mans circuit this afternoon.
Crutchlow's fantastic rookie season in the MotoGP World Championship continued in brilliant fashion, the British rider surging to a career best sixth position on the grid in just his second day of riding at the legendary Bugatti track in France.
The 25-year-old spent most of the session assessing the performance of Bridgestone's hard compound rear tyre before Crutchlow commenced a stunning time attack in the final 1 5 minutes. A lap of 1.34.374 pushed him into fifth position but Crutchlow then shaved another 0.5s off to secure a memorable maiden top six place on the grid for tomorrow's 28-lap French Grand Prix.
Crutchlow's best time of 1.33.804 was only 0.098s behind reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo riding the factory Yamaha YZR-M1 machine, as less than 1.5s split the top 14 riders in an enthralling session. Crutchlow was less than 0.2s away from a front row start, raising hopes that he can fight for a third consecutive top ten finish in tomorrow's race.
With temperatures slightly cooler than yesterday as scattered cloud hung over the Le Mans circuit, American Colin Edwards equaled his best qualifying performance of the campaign and he'll start the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team's all-important home race from seventh on the grid.
Edwards worked tirelessly to improve the set-up he first trie d during the Estoril test earlier this month, which significantly helped with the rear grip of his YZR-M1 machine. Edwards, who has scored two of his 11 MotoGP podiums in Le Mans, clocked a best time of 1.34.063 to finish seventh on the timesheets. Edwards was only 0.259s behind Crutchlow.
Cal Crutchlow 6th 1.33.804 – 28 laps
"I knew I had the raw speed to come into MotoGP and be fast, but to get a top six on the grid in just my fourth race is a brilliant achievement. Thanks again to my guys in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team because we've worked really well again and I wanted to do well with this being the Team's home race in France. At one point in the session I was only 15th and I was starting to get a bit worried because we spent a lot of time on the hard tyre. I couldn't get it to work and I did a faster lap on a softer tyre that had done 30- laps. To be honest, the bike has been quite difficult to ride this weekend. We've had to change the wheelbase setting from the Estoril test but it still feels a little bit unstable. To qualify sixth on a circuit I've never seen before though is great, but my expectation will still be to finish in the top ten. And that's going to be difficult when you look at how close the times are. As always I'll be going all out tomorrow to get a good result."
Colin Edwards 7th 1.34.063 – 30 laps
"I liked looking at the timesheets in Le Mans a lot better when the Yamaha used to be on the top. I honestly can't do anything on else with the package I've got. I know I'm riding really good and the set-up we found in Estoril that improved rear grip has been working fantastic here too. I could probably find a tenth or two but I definitely don't have another second hidden away. I know where I'm losing the time but there is nothing I can do about it. I can't change the bike to make it accelerate it any harder but that other bike is a really good package. The goal tomorrow will just to be aggressive in the first few laps and ride the wheels off it until I see the flag. That's really all I can do but this is the Team's home race and a huge event for Monster, so I'll be pushing my hardest for another top six."
Gutsy fourth row for Bautista at Le Mans
Publish Date: Saturday, May 14, 2011
Álvaro Bautista produced yet another brave performance during today's qualifying at Le Mans to put his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R on the fourth row for tomorrow's race.
Bautista (P12, 1'34.513, 29 laps) improved consistently throughout the day, and during this afternoon's qualifying was regularly in the top-10, he produced solid race-pace laps that show he has a chance of being competitive on Sunday. His final time was less than a second from a front-row start and with the injury he is still carrying, and the lack of track-time that he has had on a MotoGP machine around the French circuit, emphasise what a superb performance the Spaniard has produced today.
Dry and sunny conditions again covered the 4,185m Le Mans track and for the second day in succession Honda's Casey Stoner led the way in both of the sessions and took pole position for tomorrow's race, but with rain a possibility for Sunday the race could be wide open.
The main event gets underway at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT) on Sunday 15th May, when Bautista will be looking to continue with the improvement in fitness and hard work - that he has so far shown this weekend - to bring his Rizla Suzuki home in a good points scoring position.
"I am happy with the work we have done today. This morning we tried a new setting in the bike because yesterday we needed more rear grip when we entered the corners and today we tried to make the bike shorter to help with this. It was the right thing to do because suddenly it felt much better, but the change was made on the old frame, so this afternoon we put the same setting in the new chassis and the improvement was even better. My rhythm was between mid 1'34 and 1'35 all the time and this was easy to do. At the end of qualifying I tried to follow some other guys, but I made some mistakes on my best lap – so I think I can certainly improve on that. We have done a good job today and I am happy with the whole team because they are helping me so much to get the confidence in the bike. If we continue in this way I think we will be at the top of our performance very soon!"
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
"Álvaro had done incredibly well to return from injury in Estoril and today in Le Mans he has begun to compete properly and ride with his usual levels of aggression. It's easy to underestimate the psychological – as well as physical - effects of accidents and injuries, and to come back as quickly as he has – and to such a reasonable level – is very encouraging for the rest of the season. I have to say well done to Tom – Álvaro's Crew Chief – for sticking to his guns and making the right changes to the bike, which have allowed Álvaro to be a lot more competitive today."
Stoner smashes lap record on Bridgestone's new rear tyre to set pole in France
Round 4: French GP – Qualifying
Le Mans Circuit, Saturday 14 May 2011
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium. Rear (asymmetric): Soft, Medium
Casey Stoner continued his domination in France today by securing his third lap record of the season, more than one second faster than the existing Le Mans lap record set by Valentino Rossi in 2008.
Stoner has been at the top of the timesheets all weekend on both the harder and softer option rear slicks, but it was on a harder front and the new soft rear that he set his best time on his penultimate lap of the hour-long qualifying session. His time is also 0.3seconds faster than last year's pole time set by Rossi.
Marco Simoncelli finished an impressive 0.059seconds adrift of Stoner, whilst Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa finished third and fourth to make an all-Honda top four.
As riders used Bridgestone's new soft asymmetric rear slick in the closing stages of qualifying, the laptimes tumbled and the top nine riders all went faster than the lap record.
Track conditions today were again good despite an early morning rain shower. The track soon dried and although the morning's practice session was cold, all the day's running was dry. The forecast for tomorrow is also good with only a slight chance of rain at lunchtime.
Masao Azuma – Chief Field Engineer, Bridgestone Motorsport
"Once again today we could see good laptimes on both the harder and the softer front and rear slicks which is encouraging for varied tyre compound selections in tomorrow's race, so long as the track stays dry. Casey again proved very fast, and I am impressed that the top nine riders were all able to lap under the lap record. In qualifying the harder front slick was favoured for its increased stability under braking, which is important with the many braking points at Le Mans, and our new soft rear for the extra grip and feeling it gives riders. I am pleased with the performance from this new rear tyre and from rider feedback I can say it is a feasible option for tomorrow's race with sufficient durability for 28 laps. Some riders started this morning's running using soft tyres they had used yesterday, with more than race distance, and still consistency and pace were good so I am very happy about this. This afternoon, the track was cooler than yesterday during FP2 yet still the medium compound slicks worked well so I am pleased with our compound selection."
ELIAS CONFIDENT AHEAD TOMORROW'S RACE DESPITE DIFFICULT QUALIFYING SESSION
Le Mans, 14 May: LCR Honda MotoGP rider Toni Elias crashed in the last part of today's qualifying session at Le Mans circuit loosing the chance to improve his performance in readiness for the tomorrow's 28-lap race. Cooler conditions marked the third free session this morning at the 4.815 Km race track making difficult for riders to the match their pace from yesterday afternoon.
The 60-minute qualifying session took place under cloudy skies but asphalt temperature rose up to 33 degrees and the Spaniard aboard the RCV but Elias made big changes to his Honda machinery lapping with more confidence at the stop-and-go track where he already experienced the podium in smaller classes. At 10 minutes to go Elias lost the front on turn six but was able to rejoin the session unharmed.
Elias – 17th: "I believe we have made a step forward on bike set up because my feeling was better than yesterday. I have lapped on used tyres for the most of the session this afternoon posting decent lap times and then I have moved to new rear tyre. Unfortunately in my last run I lost the front on turn six loosing the chance to improve my lap time and my spot on the grid. Honestly I believe we could have jumped few places and not being in the back of the grid this week end but the base set up we have got now is pretty good and I usually take good starts".
Karel Abraham will start from the sixth row on the grid
Riding on board his Ducati Desmosedici GP11, Karel Abraham defeated Toni Elias by 0,423 seconds and finished 16th in the qualifying session. The Czech motorcycle rider will start from the sixth row on the grid of the Grand Prix of France.
Trying to find the right set-up of his Ducati Desmosedici GP11, the Cardion AB Motoracing rider set a best time of 1.35,010 which was faster by 0,789 than his best time in the free practice.
"This race weekend isn't ideal for us," said disappointed Karel Abraham, who finished just 1,857 seconds behind the fastest rider.
"I tried to improve my time, but in the left-handed turn front tire slipped and I crashed," said the Czech motorcycle rider after the fall from which he escaped uninjured.
"I will do my best in the race and then we will see," added Karel Abraham.
Challenging Qualification at Le Mans for Yamaha
Today's qualifying session at Le Mans for tomorrow's Grand Prix of France was a tough session for Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies. Despite the threat of rain this morning the sun did finally break out, allowing the riders to make the best possible use of the softer tyres on track.
Lorenzo made another step forward in set-up, going nearly a second faster than yesterday's free practice. The Mallorcan spent the session hunting for further grip and less wheelie from his Yamaha YZR-M1 as he battled for third position. A front row start was looking possible before dropping to fifth at the end of the heat and a second row start for the race.
Spies was also making improvements from yesterday, the American finding an extra 0.7 of a second in qualifying today. A flying lap at the end of the session was unfortunately interrupted by another rider obstructing him, leaving him in eighth place on the third row of the grid for the race.
Jorge Lorenzo Position : 5th Time: 1'33.706 Laps: 30
"We start on the second row for tomorrow; we will try to keep our pace of 34.0 or 34.1 seconds. If we can do this then maybe we can fight for the podium. If other riders make some mistakes and are not fast enough and we are a little bit faster then it's possible to fight for more. It's our goal and this is what we are going to try for the race. I am optimistic though, I think we are not very far from Pedrosa or Dovizioso and if I can improve my riding and be a bit faster on the race and they struggle a little bit we can be with them."
Ben Spies Position : 8th Time: 1'34.206 Laps: 30
"it was an ok session for us; we got held up a bit on our quick lap but in all actuality I've been building up more confidence through the weekend and feeling better with the bike. We're going to make a change for tomorrow and hopefully we can find something. We have pretty good pace for the race and I'm quite confident we can get some decent points."
Wilco Zeelenberg - Team Manager
"We are still running a bit behind. We improved our lap time in qualification but fifth position at the moment is the worst we have been in over a year. We need to find more grip on the track and less wheelie for Jorge. We will discuss now what to do and try for tomorrow, there are always possibilities."
Massimo Meregalli - Team Director
"We are still working to make Ben more comfortable on the bike; hopefully we can find something more for him tonight for his race set-up so he can ride to his full potential. We know he will continue to give 100% tomorrow and fight as hard as he can. On Jorge's side he has already shown us that he can deliver in race conditions. We will continue to put all of our efforts in for the best possible Yamaha result."
Stoner storms to pole with Dovizioso 3rd and Pedrosa 4th
Four factory Honda riders will start of the Grand Prix of France in the first four positions of the grid, with Repsol Honda riders Casey Stoner, Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa 1st, 3rd and 4th respectively.
After dominating the timing sheets throughout the free practice sessions and securing a new Circuit Record Lap yesterday, Stoner shaved a further six tenths off that time with a 1'33.153, securing his 29th career pole position and third of the season.
Team mate Andrea Dovizioso scored his first front row of the season, capping a positive weekend so far. Session after session he improved his feeling with the front and has the race pace to fight for the podium. Dani Pedrosa starts from fourth position after finding it difficult to get maximum grip from his RC212V.
CASEY STONER – 1st - 1'33.153
"We're very happy with this pole, we focused a lot on race set up this afternoon going from one bike to the another making small adjustments to improve the bike a little. The conditions aren't perfect at the moment, it's quite windy so hard to see if you've improved or not, but my Honda was working really well and I never found myself pushing to the limit too much which is always good. This is our third pole of the season but we've only converted one of them into a victory so we hope to have a little more luck this week here in Le Mans and fight for the win."
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO – 3rd - 1'33.621
"I'm very happy to start from the first row, even though this was our target, I didn't expect it. I was behind Simoncelli for two laps and this helped me because I followed his lines. This afternoon we did some small changes to the set up and my feeling with the front improved. We arrive to the race very confident, I think we can fight for the podium. Tomorrow the race will be tough, Casey is very fast and he may try to run away, I have a good pace and I think I will fight with Simoncelli and Dani. I want to thank my team for all their hard work and hope we can get a good result tomorrow".
DANI PEDROSA – 4th - 1'33.683
"We improved quite a lot compared to yesterday, but we still feel lack of traction in the rear and good grip to have the tyre working as we would like. At the beginning of this afternoon's session we managed to find a good rhythm with the soft tyre, but these are not qualifying tyres anymore and in my last round of the session, with only five laps to push, I could not make the most of the tyre. In the warm up tomorrow we have to improve the bike a little and for the race it's important to get a good start. Here the first chicane is delicate and we need to avoid any trouble. The first laps will be crucial because the tyres are cold and it's important to stay in front. Besides Casey, other rivals are closer here, such as Simoncelli and Dovi, Lorenzo has also improved, so we must be prepared to fight because the race will be demanding and long, but as in Estoril, we will try".
SIMONCELLI JUST 0.059 SECONDS FROM POLE POSITION
Team San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli covered himself in glory once again today, the Italian youngster coming within a hair's breadth of his first pole position in MotoGP. "Super Sic" continues to prove his pedigree amongst the world's elite motorcycle racers, today mounting the strongest challenge to the dominant Casey Stoner. The excellent relationship he has built with his team and the engineers from HRC is bearing fruit and now Marco wants to take the definite step in a race, following the disappointment of crashes at Jerez and Estoril in the last two rounds. Hiroshi Aoyama struggled to make significant improvements on his free practice pace when switching to a soft tyre in this afternoon's qualifying session and the Japanese rider will start from thirteenth on the grid tomorrow.
Marco Simoncelli (2nd 1'33.212) "I got really close to my first ever pole today - 0.059 seconds is hardly anything! Strangely it is the same gap that I missed out on the podium by last year at Estoril. In any case I am happy and we are not in bad shape for the race. We have improved from session to session so I am confident. We have improved under braking today but I still don't feel 100% secure. My objective tomorrow is to get to the end of the race and bring some important points home. I won't be pushing over the limit to get a result at all costs, I want to manage the race well."
Hiroshi Aoyama (13th 1'34.612 ) "I am not too happy with the result today. I haven't improved much on my best lap from yesterday afternoon and for that reason I have dropped positions. Hopefully tomorrow I can recover those positions in the race and first of all find some set-up solutions in the morning that will help us have a good race."
Fausto Gresini "So far it has been a perfect weekend. Marco and his team, alongside the engineers from HRC, have worked extremely well. They have come up with a good package and so we are extremely confident about Sunday's race. He has been strong all weekend and shown that he can be a rider fighting regularly for podiums and even wins. Marco deserves a bike as competitive as this and HRC have laid one on for him. We are all really happy to be working with Marco and we really want a top result for him. It is a team effort. Aoyama unfortunately wasn't able to be decisive on his fast lap today so he will have to work hard to make up positions tomorrow. His race pace isn't bad so he should manage it."
BARBERÁ LOOKS TO WARM-UP FOR IMPROVEMENTS BEFORE RACE
MAPFRE Aspar rider hoping to repeat last year's Le Mans charge
The lap times could barely have been closer throughout the MotoGP field today as qualifying practice took place for the Grand Prix de France at Le Mans, with no more than 2.5 seconds separating the entire grid. The battle for pole position took place for much of the session between Stoner and Pedrosa before Simoncelli staked a late claim, eventually missing out to the dominant Australian. After topping every practice session here so far Stoner is a clear favourite for the win tomorrow although this circuit has traditionally been kind to Spanish riders.
Fourteenth fastest but just 1.497 seconds off pole is MAPFRE Aspar rider Héctor Barberá, who again discovered to his cost that anything less than 100% from rider and bike in MotoGP is not enough. The Spaniard is again struggling with corner entry here at Le Mans although he has worked hard throughout the weekend to improve his set-up and despite starting some way down the order he is confident of further improvements in tomorrow's warm-up and the possibility of a strong race tomorrow. A repeat of last year, when he charged through the field in inclement conditions, would be ideal.
14th Héctor Barberá 1.34.650 (28 laps): "I am having quite a lot of difficulty on the way into the turns. I don't know why but I don't feel comforable. We have looked at the telemetry and I am losing a lot in turns four and five. In the other corners I am riding well but I lose it all in that one section. We are going to try and solve this in the morning and even though we haven't qualified well we will not give in. We have worked hard on used tyres but at the end of the session you always need a tow and plenty of rubber to set a good time. This category is so close that if you don't have everything just right then other guys pass you like you're standing still!"
NINTH AND TENTH PLACES IN LE MANS QUALIFYING FOR ROSSI AND HAYDEN
The qualifying session for the French Grand Prix saw Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden finish with the ninth- and tenth-best times, respectively. The Italian had a decent session, working well with his crew and steadily improving his bike's setup, as well as his pace with hard tyres. The final minutes, when it was time to mount the softer tyres, were less effective, however, because he wasn't able to mantain the second row despite improving his performance.
Nicky Hayden, who had posted the fourth-best time on Friday and was fifth-best this morning, went long in a corner during what had until then been a very fast lap, and he wasn't subsequently able to improve.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team) 9th, 1:34.206
"Naturally, we're not happy with our position: it's not good, because I had hoped to start from the second row. I'm pleased with the way we worked, though, as well as with how I rode, because I was finally able to ride well. We solved some problems, and we understood that other aspects of the setup weren't going in the right direction, so we changed them. I think this was our best qualifying session since I've been at Ducati, because with just a few minutes left, I was inside sixth place. Unfortunately, when the moment to use the softer tyre comes, we don't take a big enough step, so tomorrow I'll have to start from the third row, behind some riders who had a slower pace. We have a couple more ideas to try in the warm-up though, and if they work, we can do better in the race.
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro Team) 10th, 1:34.227
"This morning wasn't bad, but I hoped for more in qualifying, for sure. The bike was working quite well at the pace I've been running, but when I tried to cut those last couple of tenths, it was moving around a lot. It's unfortunate after being fourth yesterday and fifth this morning. I was hoping to be up a few spots, but I don't really have a lot of excuses. I had a couple of good, clear laps, but I just didn't put down the lap time I needed to. I'm starting tenth, and as bad as that sounds, it's my best grid spot of the year. Anyway, tomorrow is what counts."
DE PUNIET FALLS BUT REMOUNTS AND JUST MISSES THE TOP TEN. CAPIROSSI FIFTEENTH
The starting grid for the fourth round of the MotoGP World Championship at Le Mans took place this afternoon. There's some disappointment inside the Pramac Racing Team garage, with Randy De Puniet suffering a fall during the first part of the qualifying session. Despite a hard knock to his left shoulder, the Frenchman immediately remounted his Ducati, managing to complete the session in eleventh place, just a few thousandths behind factory Ducati riders Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi. As for his teammate Loris Capirossi, the Italian was disappointed with what has thus far been a forgettable weekend. He'll start from the fifth and penultimate row, ahead of Karel Abraham and Toni Elias.
Marco Rigamonti - Randy De Puniet's Track Engineer
"We threw away this morning's session because we started with the tire used during yesterday's free-practice sessions. In the afternoon, the crash certainly didn't help us, but Randy really did a great job by managing to do more than ten laps in a row with his qualifying tyre. He put the crash out of his head right away and his feeling with the bike wasn't affected. At the end of the session, he hit a little traffic and therefore wasn't able to take advantage of the final minutes. The numbers speak clearly, however: we're a tenth off Hayden's Ducati, which means we've done our best. We know what the problem is; in some conditions, the bike doesn't turn like it should. Now we'll analyze the data together with Ducati to see if we can solve the problem."
Randy De Puniet - Pramac Racing Team – 11th, 1'34.351
"I'm okay despite my crash at the beginning of qualifying. Looking at the pictures, I think I was lucky to make it back to the garage; I could have been serioiusly hurt, and instead I only have a little pain in my left shoulder. I don't remember a lot about the crash, just that my head hit my shoulder. In the end, the time wasn't so bad, especially because it's the best I could do. We're just behind the factory Ducati team, which means I gave everything I had. For tomorrow's race, I hope to get back into the top ten; that would be a good result for me and my fans."
Loris Capirossi - Pramac Racing Team – 15th, 1'34.866
"I'm still having a very hard time. Today I wasn't able to find traction on corner exits, and this problem cost me a few too many tenths. Tomorrow we have to change something. I tried today, and in the end we're all very close, within just a few tenths. Unfortunately, I can't manage to get the most out of my laps. I have to give it my best effort and hope that everything goes well."