2012 Le Mans Moto2 and Moto3 Saturday Press Releases

Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Le Mans:


Grand Prix of France
Le Mans, May 19th, 2012
Qualifying

Mixed feelings in the Ambrogio Next Racing's garage. With the nineteenth position got this afternoon, Giulian Pedone marked his best qualifying performance so far this year. His team mate, Simone Grotzkyj, was not lucky: his session ended with ten minutes to go, when he was in the top-ten, because of a technical glitch.

Giulian Pedone (1'58 "932 - 19th)" The weekend started in a great curiosity, for the many new things that we are to manage. The feeling with the bike was just very good, I tried to ride it as much flowing as possible, and the result has been satisfactory: to be back in the top twenty is already a satisfaction, and there is still room for significant improvement".

Simone Grotzkyj (1'59 "335 - 24th )" Up to ten minutes to the end, a pretty good session. I was constantly in the top ten, and often in the first five. The bike is worth. Then, when I was preparing the decisive laps, I heard an unusual noise. I pulled the clutch, and turned off the engine. No point in taking risks. We are checking to see what happened".

Fiorenzo Caponera (Team Principal) "We are working with a tight schedule: the bikes were assembled on Thursday night, and ready Friday morning. We need time to understand them exactly and see what the real potential is, but it seems good. Too bad for Simone, who would otherwise have brought home an important result. However, Giulian's achievement makes it clear that the quality is there


Viñales carries dry form into wet qualifying for pole position

Repsol rider leads the way in qualifying session. Oliveira gets front row start despite a crash, whilst Rins picks up injury after fall and places twenty-sixth.

Repsol Media Service France, Le Mans Circuit Saturday 19/05/2012

The weather forecast proved to be correct on Saturday at Le Mans, with the expected rainfall coming down just before Moto3 qualifying. The conditions failed to hinder Maverick Viñales, who took pole position ahead of Efrén Vázquez and fellow Repsol rider Miguel Oliveira —who took third on the grid despite a crash. Álex Rins was not so fortunate, as he crashed when in the top ten and suffered a small fracture to his right little finger.

Morning spots of rain still allowed for a dry practice session, in which Miguel Oliveira was fastest with a time of 1’44.381. Maverick Viñales —yesterday’s— top rider was second quickest at little over a tenth of a second behind the Portuguese. Álex Rins was fourth as he opened up his second day of riding at Le Mans.

In a twist, just before the qualifying session start, a brief shower left the track damp and requiring wet tyres for the Moto3 bikes. Viñales again showed that he was just as strong in the wet as in the dry, claiming pole position by almost a second over nearest rival, Efrén Vázquez.

Miguel Oliveira took a tumble 21 minutes from the end of the session, when he was in a provisional pole position. Accelerating out of turn nine, Oliveira lost grip on the rear and was unable to avoid a crash. Despite spending almost the entirity of the remainder of the session in the pits (he reemerged with less than a minute on the clock), the Repsol rider nonetheless earned a front row start.

Álex Rins had impressed in the dry and was riding with confidence in the wet, until a big crash in qualifying threw him off his bike when accelerating out of turn three. The Spaniard suffered a fracture to the little finger of his right hand in the incident, was unable to get back on track and will start from twenty-sixth at Le Mans if cleared by doctors tomorrow.

A visit to the circuit medical centre provided the diagnosis of trauma to his hand and identified the fracture. The Repsol rider later received treatment at the Clinica Mobile.

Maverick Viñales

FP3 - 1:44.483, 18 Laps, 75 km.

QP - 1:55.865, 18 laps, 75 km.

"I felt comfortable in the practice sessions, both in the dry and in the wet. We were able to go fast under both sets of conditions. Tomorrow's race will be a difficult one. We will have to wait on the weather, but we have a gameplan to push hard from the start and establish a gap. It will be a difficult race, because it just as easily be soaking wet as it could be sunny."

Miguel Oliveira

FP3 - 1:44.381, 18 laps, 75 km.

QP - 1:57.114, 9 laps, 38 km.

“We did a good job in the morning, mostly due to the hard work of the team. We didn't ride so much in the afternoon. We were only able to complete seven laps, although in that short time I felt comfortable on the bike. We still have some problems with the rear, which we should look at with the mechanics to solve for tomorrow.

My crash came about precisely because I didn't feel at ease with the rear, but the positive is that I was able to put in a fast lap beforehand and not too many riders were able to go faster because of all the crashes. The track was very slippery and made things hard for us all. We have the pace to be up at the front and it will be very important not to make mistakes. Our aim is to pick up points".

Álex Rins

FP3 - 1:44.872, 19 lap, 89 km.

QP - 1:59.888, 5 lap, 21 km.

“I was exiting turn 3, opened the throttle a little earlier than normal and it didn't work out. It was an unfortunate crash and we will have to wait to find out if we can take the start tomorrow. If it is possible, then I will be riding for enjoyment".


MAHINDRA FACE STEEP CLIMB AFTER QUALIFYING PLAYS A BAD HAND

Le Mans – Saturday, 19 May, 2012: A wet qualifying session after three dry free practices went wrong for the Mahindra riders at Le Mans today, leaving them with a back-of-the-grid start and a big task for tomorrow’s French GP.

Both riders fell victim to very treacherous track conditions, slipping off on the ice-rink surface ... and as a result neither rider made the qualifying cut – 107 percent of pole time. Danny Webb (21, from England) fell in the early stages after completing only three laps, and was not able to go out again. German team-mate Marcel Schrötter (19) also fell, but was able to rejoin after repairs, completing eight laps.

Because each had achieved respectable positions in free practice, they will be able to start the race. But it will be from the back of the 30-plus grid, even though Danny was a promising 18th on Friday. They face a hard job, as they try to claw back positions and move into the top 15 to score the first points for the new Mahindra MGP-30.

The problems are all part of growing pains for the all-new all-independent Mahindra, pursuing its own technological goals with an independent engine and chassis in a field dominated by well-developed over-the-counter production racers. The white-and-red machine is still at the beginning of its development, although already in at the deep end of the new-this-year Moto3™ class which replaced the traditional 125 two-strokes with 250cc single-cylinder four-strokes.

“This is a difficult moment. We have technical problems that we need to solve, and I don’t know how much time we need. But if we all work together – engineers, riders, technicians and the whole team – we will do it,” said Mahindra Racing COO, Mufaddal Choonia.

DANNY WEBB – 32nd Position

I had a problem this morning and it seems to have come again in the afternoon. Unfortunately, after the crash I couldn’t go out again. I’d only done three laps, so I’m pretty gutted. Starting from the back means a tough race ... I hope it isn’t raining.

MARCEL SCHRÖTTER – 33rd Position

I missed a session yesterday with an engine problem, but went quite well this morning. It rained this afternoon and I am usually quite good in the wet, but I couldn’t get the right feel from the bike, and the power was a bit too aggressive. I crashed early on, but I’m okay and I could go out again. I’ll do my best tomorrow.


MotoGP Moto3: weather spoils qualifying session for Team Italia

After three dry sessions of free practice, the rain and wet track hindered the qualifiers for Fenati (21st) and Tonucci (23rd)

The work done until the morning session, which was helping Team Italia clinch good positions, was washed away by an afternoon rain that changed track conditions completely. Fenati, who was confident and in front on a fully wet track, struggled as the circuit dried up. He finished in 7th row with a 1'58"978 (+3.113 behind Viñales) that granted him the 21st place on the grid.

Tonucci also had problems with the setup and qualified in 8th row, 23rd with a 1'59"251.

The pair faces a tough race ahead to make up for the lost ground. The pace shown during free practice leaves them hopeful, but the rain may come again and mix things up.

Romano Fenati (Team Italia FMI FTR Honda#5) 17 lap with 1'58"978

"The qualifying session didn't go well, unfortunately. I couldn't find the right setup and feeling with the bike, and struggled to lap fast. Tomorrow it'll be crucial to start well, as I'm far behind on the grid, and show everyone what I'm capable of. The warm-up will be very important."

Alessandro Tonucci (Team Italia FMI FTR Honda#19) 18 lap with 1'59"251

"The rain made it difficult for us. We used a setup similar to what we tried in the past in similar conditions on different tracks, but it didn't work here in Le Mans. I hope it stays dry tomorrow, so that I can have a good race."

Roberto Locatelli (Coordinatore Tecnico FMI)

"It was tough this afternoon. A wet track is our toughest opponent. Viñales is our frame of reference, and he was fast both in dry and wet conditions. In the warm-up, we will try different setups both with weight distribution and suspensions. We'll try our best tomorrow."


SURPRISE CRASH CATCHES OUT ANTONELLI AT LE MANS

Team San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Niccolò Antonelli was dealt a bad hand in this afternoon's qualifying gamble at Le Mans, where rain showers made for unpredictable conditions that led to a crash for the Italian youngster. Niccolò will start the race from way down the grid in 27th place, with local weather forecasters predicting more rain tomorrow.

Niccolo’ Antonelli (27th 2’ 00” 129) “I still don't know what happened with the crash! I was trying to get comfortable with the bike and hadn't even started to push but as I opened the throttle it threw me over the bars. I was improving my pace but still wasn't completely comfortable and I think without the crash I'd have gradually improved further lap after lap. Unfortunately there wasn't enough time left for us to get back out there so it's a shame. It looks like the weather could be a major factor again tomorrow so anything could happen but I'd prefer not to make predictions.”

Fausto Gresini “Crashing in wet conditions is all part of the process of picking up experience that every rider goes through, but especially one as young as Niccolò. It was a shame because even though he still wasn't completely comfortable with the bike he was improving his times and could have moved up to the middle part of the grid. The race could turn out to be another lottery with the weather forecasting rain.”


HONDA RACING INFORMATION

2012 FIM MotoGP/Moto2/Moto3 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

ROUND 04, SATURDAY, MAY 19, LE MANS, FRANCE

Weather: Cool and damp

Temperature: Ambient 16 degrees C / Track 19 degrees C

PEDROSA ON POLE AT LE MANS, STONER SECOND

Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) and Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V) scored a brilliant one-two in this afternoon’s qualifying session for tomorrow’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans.

The session started on a slightly damp track, with most riders making a cautious start to proceedings on rain tyres. As the circuit dried the pace quickened and pole position changed hands time and again as rider after rider pushed the pace higher and higher.

Two days after announcing that he will retire at the end of this season Stoner led the way for much of the outing, twice heading the rest of the pack by more than two seconds. But with just two minutes to go Pedrosa moved ahead to claim his first pole of the year, by 0.303s. With the track fully dry during the final stages the Spaniard came within 0.021s of matching his 2011 French GP pole time, but afterwards he admitted that it had been a difficult qualifying because it had been tricky to judge whether the track was dry or damp. Stoner’s plans to regain pole from his team-mate went awry when he was baulked on several occasions by slower riders.

Despite this afternoon’s inconsistent conditions both Repsol Honda men are confident that they are well prepared for tomorrow’s race, round four in this year’s 18-round MotoGP World Championship. Both Pedrosa and Stoner have qualified on the front row at all four races so far. Earlier today Stoner had topped free practice, despite sliding off this morning when he rode over a damp section of kerbing.

Honda’s other two RC213V riders had a more challenging time at Le Mans this afternoon, with Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V) and Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V) falling victim to the treacherous track. Bradl suffered a nasty highside at the Musee left-hander, while Bautista’s tumble prevented him from repeating his fine performance during free practice, which he ended in fourth place. Despite their crashes both men were able to continue on their spare machines, ending the session eighth and 13th quickest.

Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR-Honda) was second best CRT rider in 14th position, just behind Bradl.

Marc Marquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol-Suter) took the Moto2 pole position despite sliding off midway through the 45-minute session. His tumble required some repair work in the pits, but the Spanish teenager never relinquished first place. It was his third consecutive pole, following on from similar performances at Jerez and Estoril.

Towards the end of the 45-minute outing rain began to fall over some parts of the track, making it impossible for Marquez’s rivals to put in a last-gasp bid for pole. The damp conditions claimed Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team-Kalex) who tumbled without injury at Musee while trying to improve on his second-row start.

Marquez – who won his first Moto2 race here last year – will be joined on the front row by Thomas Luthi (Interwetten-Paddock-Suter) and Pol Espargaro (Pons 40 HP Tuenti-Kalex). Luthi was just 0.029s seconds slower than Marquez, while Espargaro was a further 0.451s down.

Other top performers in the Honda-powered series were Andrea Iannone (Speed Master – Speed Up) who was fifth quickest, just behind Redding, and Redding’s team-mate Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex) who took the last second-row position in sixth.

Honda dominated Moto3 qualifying, filling the first five positions with Maverick Vinales (Blusens Avintia – FTR Honda) taking pole at the end of a tricky, rain-affected qualifying session. It was the Spanish teenager’s first pole of the season.

A rain shower soaked the track at the start of the session and the slippery surface caught out many riders, including Estoril winner Sandro Cortese (KTM). Vinales reigned supreme on the damp track, upping his pace as the tarmac began to dry out. He ended the session almost a full second ahead of Efren Vazquez (JHK T-Shirt Laglisse – FTR Honda). Last spot on the front row went to Miguel Oliveira (Estrella Galicia 0.0 – Suter Honda). Vinales’ best lap was a full ten seconds slower than he had managed in dry free practice.

The second row of the Moto3 grid is led by another two Honda riders – Jakub Kornfeil (Thomas Sabo GP Team – Honda) and local star Alexis Masbou (Caretta Technology – Honda).

Following today’s wet and dry weather, more rain is forecast for tomorrow.

MotoGP rider quotes

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: pole position – 1m 33.638s

“I’m not a pole man, so I’m happy to be here for the first time this season. The front row is always good and the team has done a great job with the bike. It’s been a difficult session, quite similar to Jerez, the track was drying, but we had some more drops of rain in the last five minutes. So it was key to choose the right moment to push and to not to go off-line. Let’s see what the weather does tomorrow, but we have to be ready to go fast in any conditions. The race is very long here, 28 laps, and everything can change during the race, so I hope to make a good start and to be able to keep a good pace until the end.”

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: 2nd – 1m 33.941s

“We’re really happy to be on the front row, but qualifying definitely didn’t go to plan. The track was drying out and we knew we had the pace – you just had to be a little cautious in some areas that were still holding water. We felt we were fast enough to be on pole position, but every time I was on a good lap or building up to one, I got held up. I tried to drop back and give myself some space, but I still managed to catch up to a CRT bike in front of me which ruined that lap. Then the next lap we were doing pretty well, but I saw yellow flags and rain so I backed off. Unfortunately the rain wasn’t heavy enough to upset my lap and I could have continued it, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I think we’re looking good for the race, we’re pretty comfortable in dry conditions, but we still have warm-up and a chance for the others to find something extra, so we’re going to have to improve our bike a little and wait for the race as the weather conditions are still unpredictable.”

Alvaro Bautista, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 8th – 1m 34.922s

“It was a shame about the crash because we worked well again this morning and my pace was good. Unfortunately the session this afternoon was affected by the weather. At the start the track was wet and then when we were able to go out on slicks I was trying to get comfortable but the conditions were less than perfect. Eventually I crashed in turn nine and it ruined qualifying for us because we had another couple of laps in us and the potential to go half a second quicker. These things happen in racing, but tomorrow we will aim to make up for it because we have a good setting for the dry and wet.”

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: 13th – 1m 35.862s “Today was a day to forget as soon as possible! This morning wasn’t so bad because we were using a different strategy from the other guys. Honestly the cooler conditions caused me some problems because it took me a long time to feel the bike on new tyres. In general at the beginning of the session it was quite dangerous – not really wet and not really dry – but I felt pretty good. We were the first to go out on slick tyres because we expected some rain through the session so it was the right decision from our side. Unfortunately I was attacking too much and had a big crash but I am okay. I am still looking forward for tomorrow because I think we will still be able to perform well.”

Michel Pirro, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 14th - 1m 36.646s

“Qualifying took place in tricky conditions, but this morning we had found a good balance for the bike and perhaps we could have done even better this afternoon if it wasn’t for the conditions and some ongoing back pain that I am suffering. Now we are just hoping for dry conditions tomorrow because it is always difficult to ride in the wet. My thoughts today are also with the family of the sixteen-year-old girl who has been killed today in Brindisi, Italy, which is very sad news indeed.”

Moto2 rider quotes

Marc Marquez, Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol-Suter: pole position – 1m 37.710s

“Qualifying was a little strange because it was raining on and off and there was always the possibility that it would rain even more heavily. That is why I was trying to push at the beginning of the session. It was my mistake – I braked too late for the corner and although I knew I was going too fast I tried to get through the corner. Now I know that I won’t be able to push any harder there during the race! Anyway, we are ready. We worked our way through free practice always thinking about our race settings. Now we have to wait and see what the weather will bring.”

Thomas Luthi, Interwetten-Paddock-Suter: 2nd – 1m 37.739s

“That was difficult – we had to take a lot of risks to get in a good lap this afternoon. I think the race will be close, with some nice battles going on. Like everyone else, I don’t know what to expect from the weather, so we will just have to take it as it comes.”

Pol Espargaro, Pons 40 HP Tuenti-Kalex: 3rd – 1m 38.190s

“It was so difficult to know what was going to happen next with the weather. We started the session with the softer rear tyre, which we would normally keep to the end, because we thought it might rain later on. I wasn’t able to make a perfect lap but third fastest is good. It will be a hard race – we hope for dry weather and then we will see who is running up front.”

Moto3 Rider Quotes

Maverick Vinales, Blusens Avintia – FTR Honda: pole position – 1m 55.865s

“I felt comfortable in the practice sessions, both in the dry and in the wet. We were able to go fast in both conditions. Tomorrow’s race will be a difficult one. We will have to wait on the weather, but we have a game plan to push hard from the start and establish a gap. It will be a difficult race, because it could just as easily be soaking wet as it could be sunny.”

Efren Vazquez, JHK T-Shirt Laglisse – FTR Honda: 2nd – 1m 56.847s

“I’m very happy with the front row and I’m very pleased with the work we’ve done this weekend. I think this is the most productive race for us since the start of the championship. We are now getting to where we thought we could be. My thanks to the team who are full of enthusiasm and working hard. I hope this is just the beginning of some good results. We have a tough race ahead of us – we will see what the weather brings and I will give 100 per cent.”

Miguel Oliveira, Estrella Galicia 0.0 – Suter-Honda: 3rd – 1m 57.114s

“Thanks to my team we did a good job in the morning session. But in the afternoon we could only do eight laps, though despite so little track time I did feel comfortable on the bike. We still have some problems with the rear of the bike, which we will try to resolve for the race. Anyway, we were lucky to get in a good lap, especially because there were a lot of riders falling due to the tricky conditions. The track was very slippery and that complicated matters. We need to regain our confidence for tomorrow, step by step. If it rains the main thing will be to make no mistakes – our objective is to score points.”


GREAT QUALIFYING SESSION FOR ANDREA IANNONE, DI MEGLIO LAGGING BEHIND

For the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, the qualifying session to define the starting grid for the Moto2 class was held today.

During the free practice of the morning, Andrea Iannone was among the fastest riders out on track, improving his time lap after lap and working on the pace with a view to the race. In the afternoon, the Italian proved his determination on the track: Andrea worked to confirm a consistent rhythm and ended the session with an outstanding fifth time, which gives him a spot within the second row for tomorrow.

Mike di Meglio didn’t have the chance to take advantage of most of the morning because of a crash, staying out of sight in the last free practice session. Also the qualifying session was complicated for the Frenchman, who has to start from the eighth row on the grid tomorrow.

Andrea Iannone #29 - 5th with 1'38.399

“Today things went quite well. As usual we tried some modifications to the Speed Up machine, which, in this case, helped us to improve a little and to be faster. As a whole, it all went well, we put together some useful data and we took as much advantage as possible of the time at disposal. Tomorrow’s race is going to be difficult, in particular with this changeable weather. We’ll see what the situation is like and may the best man win!”

Mike di Meglio #63 - 23th with 1'39.520

“I’m sorry for how today went. In the qualifying practice we started off with a normal base, I didn’t have much rear grip and I crashed out. The track was colder than in the previous sessions. When I went out again, on the last run, we tried a choice that gave us more grip, but with the rain I couldn’t improve my lap time. I’m starting from a rear position and I’m sorry about that, this is my home Grand Prix and it meant a lot to be in the front. Tomorrow, in case it rains, it’ll be a long race. The important thing will be to have a decent start and get a good feeling with the bike.”


Third pole from four for Márquez

Repsol rider clocks fastest time of the weekend and takes third pole of 2012 season.

Repsol Media Service France, Le Mans Circuit Saturday 19/05/2012

Marc Márquez continued his steady progression in preparations for the French Grand Prix at Le Mans with pole position on Saturday afternoon. The work undertaken in the prior free practice sessions enabled the Repsol rider to have his Moto2 machine in top shape for the afternoon qualifying run, in which he recorded the best time despite suffering a small crash. The Spaniard will start from pole position for the third consecutive race.

In the final 45 minutes of the morning session, Márquez completed 18 laps of the French track with continuous improvements in his lap times. He went round the Le Mans circuit 18 times and was fourth at the end of the run, 0.242 down on leading rider Pol Espargaró. He spent a large part of the session experimenting with changes to the chassis and shock absorbers of his bike, preparing for the fight for pole position.

Rainfall at the end of the free practice session left a damp track in Moto3 and MotoGP, and the skies threatened to open with every passing minute. Thus, the Repsol rider decided to go for fast laps from the off, clocking a 1'37.710 that marked a new record for the class at Le Mans.

There were a couple of scares along the way, including a small crash from which Márquez escaped unscathed. That came on his ninth lap, when he lost the front on a slippery patch at the braking point for turn 8. A few knocks to the bike were smoothed out in the garage and the rider was able to get back on track with 15 minutes to go. However, there was no further opportunity for dry laps as rain made the provisional grid official.

Marc Márquez

FP3 - 1:38.058, 18 laps, 75 km.

QP - 1:37.710, 17 laps, 71 km.

"That was a strange pole, because it was raining at varying degrees of intensity throughout the session. It was always slightly spitting, which always leaves you guessing as to when to push. We got a fast lap out early, which was the important thing. I went out on new tyres around halfway through and could go even faster, but I was too late on the brakes on the corner —whilst I knew that I had run wide, I tried to keep the bike up and soon realised that I couldn't.

It was just a scare in the end. I was able to pick up the bike, get it repaired and go out again. I went at a fast pace again and am confident about tomorrow".


Márquez and Luthi first and second in Le Mans
New partners for Suter Racing Technology

In tricky and unpredictable weather conditions, Suter riders Marc Márquez and Tom Luthi stormed to first and second place in the Moto2 qualifying for the French Grand Prix. Spain’s hero Márquez was the first rider to put in an ultra-fast lap under an overcast sky, but on a dry track. Then a light drizzle started, that seemed to make it impossible for his Swiss rival to catch up, who was only in ninth position at that stage.

In tricky and unpredictable weather conditions, Suter riders Marc Márquez and Tom Luthi stormed to first and second place in the Moto2 qualifying for the French Grand Prix. Spain’s hero Márquez was the first rider to put in an ultra-fast lap under an overcast sky, but on a dry track. Then a light drizzle started, that seemed to make it impossible for his Swiss rival to catch up, who was only in ninth position at that stage.

But when it dried up again, another window of opportunity opened for Tom Luthi, who ended up just 29 thousandths of a second behind Márquez. Alex de Angelis in seventh, Toni Elias, Julián Simón and Dominique Aegerter in tenth, eleventh and twelfth place completed a successful practice for Suter Racing Technology in the Moto2 category.

In the new Moto3 class, Portugal’s young star Miguel Oliveira took third place and put his Suter Honda onto the front row of the starting grid. His Spanish team-mate Alex Rins ran into bad luck when he suffered a heavy crash in the damp qualifying session, fracturing the little finger of his right hand.

In the MotoGP category, injured Suter BMW rider Colin Edwards was replaced by Australian Chris Vermeulen. The former MotoGP and World Superbike star, who struggled to overcome a complicated knee injury over the course of last year but who now is back to full fitness, worked hard to understand the special characteristics and requirements of a CRT bike and managed to cut the gap to the top in the MotoGP class to five seconds.

The French Grand Prix also marks the beginning of two new partnerships. In the Moto2 category, Italian Team Gresini with riders Gino Rea and Ratthapark Wilairoth decided to swap their previous machines for Suter MMX2 bikes, a move that will give young Briton and his experienced Thai team-mate Wilairoth a chance to fight closer to the front positions. “The Suter MMX2 is a fully competitive top-level bike and therefor exactly what we need”, said team owner Fausto Gresini. The only technical difference to the other Suter riders in the Moto2 field is on the suspension side where Team Gresini doesn’t use Öhlins but instead continues the successful partnership with Showa.

In the Moto3 class, the Italian Ambrogio Next Racing Team with riders Simone Grotzky and Giulian Pedone made a similar change and swapped their previous prototypes for more competitive Suter Honda machines. “We had to make a move because our previous bikes were not fast and reliable enough”, confirmed team director Fiorenzo Caponera. “Both our riders said immediately that their new bikes were better. Of course, it will take a little bit of time to establish the right base set-up and to evaluate the true potential of the Suter Honda. But so far, so good!”

With Team Gresini and Team Ambrogio, the new Suter line-up involves four riders in Moto3, twelve riders in Moto2 and one MotoGP entry for a total of 17 Suter riders in Grand Prix racing. “We are currently closing another deal, bringing the number of our Moto2 entries up to 13”, said Andreas Leuthe, marketing and sales manager of Suter Racing Technology. “With then 18 Suter riders, we will definitely be booked out. The company in Switzerland is running at full capacity!”


Difficult qualifying for Tech 3 Racing at Le Mans

The Tech 3 Racing Team experienced a difficult qualifying session at the Le Mans circuit this afternoon, with Bradley Smith finishing 19th quickest and Xavier Simeon ruled out of tomorrow's race through injury.

Smith will start his landmark 100th Grand Prix from the front of the seventh row of the grid after the Moto2 field served up another closely contested qualifying session at a cool and cloudy Le Mans track.

Smith clocked a best time of 1.39.301, which left him less than 0.5s away from the third row, but as he was poised to try and improve his lap time in the final five minutes, rain spots started to fall on the legendary Bugatti circuit to deny the 21-year-old.

Xavier Simeon will not start the 26-lap race after he suffered fractures to his left hand and foot in a heavy crash on his 12th lap.

Simeon has been transferred to a Le Mans hospital where he will undergo further assessment after also suffering a heavy blow his to pelvis.

Bradley Smith 19th 139.301 – 21 laps:

“Starting from 19th place on the grid is not where I anticipated being for my 100th Grand Prix. Obviously it is a special weekend reaching that milestone and this being the Tech 3 Racing Team's home race, but it was another frustrating qualifying session. I had quite good pace this morning and then we made some changes to the Mistral 610 machine and unfortunately we didn't make it better. The weather didn't help when it started to rain at the end and to be honest I won't be too sorry if it is a wet race. If it rains then we have a chance of being able to fight through the pack, but in the dry it will definitely be a tough race. We'll analyse where it wrong today and be ready to come out fighting tomorrow. I also want to wish Xavier a quick recovery and hope to see him back on the other side of the Tech 3 Racing garage soon.”


Marc VDS confident of podium challenge in Le Mans

Le Mans, France - 19 May 2012: The Marc VDS Racing Team will start tomorrow's French Moto2 round at Le Mans confident of mounting a double podium challenge after Scott Redding and Mika Kallio qualified inside the top six this afternoon.

British rider Redding heads the second row of the grid in fourth position after he posted a best time of 1.38.369, which saw him denied a second consecutive front row start by just 0.179s.

The 19-year-old excelled in practice to finish second fastest overall and he was confident he could have pushed for the front row only for late rain and a small crash to thwart his bid.

This afternoon's session was building up to a typically exciting climax when rain that had affected the earlier MotoGP and Moto3 sessions began to fall with just five minutes left on the clock.

Small spots of rain were falling at almost every corner and pushing to try and improve his pace, Redding ran off track in the final two minutes and despite a valiant attempt to keep control of his Kalex machine he toppled over in the gravel trap.

Kallio is also optimistic he will be challenging at the front in tomorrow's 26-lap race having joined Redding on the second row in sixth position.

He set a best time of 1.38.574 to finish just over 0.2s behind Redding, but it could have been a better outcome had the Finnish rider not been called upon to produce a heroic save at the final corner on his last flying lap.

He had set personal best splits in the first three sectors of the historic Bugatti circuit, but lost the front-end at the final corner, Kallio expertly keeping his Kalex machine upright.

Scott Redding #45: 4th Position - 1'38.369

"It was a decent session and I can't complain to be fourth on the grid but the rain spots right at the end probably cost me a front row. I've been fast and competitive and inside the top three all weekend, so it would have been nice to be on the front row. It was hard to judge where the grip was at the end and to be honest I should have cracked on a bit earlier. It took me a bit too long to get into a rhythm but I'm not a million miles away, so I'm confident I will be battling at the front in the race tomorrow. The crash at the end was a shame but I just couldn't keep it on two wheels in the gravel. I'd rather that happen today though than in the race!"

Mika Kallio #36: 6th Position - 1'38.574

"Starting from the second row always give you a good chance to go away with the leading group in the race, so I am happy about that. The goal is always to be higher but my pace has been consistent and fast, though the gap to the top two is bigger than I would have liked. It was strange because when I got to my best lap time I felt very comfortable and felt I had some margin to improve. But when I started to push to improve it felt like something was holding me back and I'm not sure what was causing this feeling. I'm disappointed about that but we will check the data tonight to see if we can understand more. I might have been a bit higher up though because the lap before the rain spots started to fall, I was faster in the first three sectors and in the last corner I lost the front. I was really close to crashing and without that maybe I would have been fourth instead of Scott. But I'm confident for the race and sure I will be fighting for the podium."

Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal

"When we look at how Scott has been so fast and competitive throughout practice yesterday and this morning, we were pretty confident that he would be starting the race from the front row. The conditions were a little bit tricky and that didn't make it easy but the good thing is Scott was still fast and consistent and able to qualify just off the front row. It is a good starting position to make a good race and the important thing is that he has demonstrated all weekend that he has the pace. Mika has also been challenging inside the top six all weekend too, so we are really looking forward to seeing both our riders battling for the podium tomorrow. That would be a perfect situation to reward the support of our loyal and valued sponsor Elf in the French Grand Prix."


BANKIA ASPAR PAIR SECURE BEST GRID POSITIONS OF THE SEASON

Kalex-KTM machines show improved performance in both wet and dry conditions

After enjoying three dry free practice sessions here at Le Mans despite cool conditions and heavy clouds the teams and riders finally ran out of luck this afternoon as the heavens opened for qualifying. BANKIA Aspar riders Hector Faubel and Alberto Moncayo continued working in different directions with the set-up of their machines but thankfully both routes led them closer to the front of the pack as they qualified as the highest Kalex-KTM machines on the grid for the first time this season on the third row.

7th Alberto Moncayo (1.57.846, +1.801s, 18 laps): "We managed to put some things right with the bike this morning, altering the angle of the handlebars which helped me out on the straights and in the direction changes. We also changed the angle of the front fork to give us a bit more stability and already the Kalex feels less edgy so I am quite happy. I took things carefully in the wet this afternoon and we were running third with just a couple of minutes left, with a decent pace lapping on my own. Whether it is wet or dry tomorrow I will give my best and hopefully we can make the most of a third row start."

8th Héctor Faubel (1.57.899, +2.034s, 17 laps): "After trying different things all weekend and working in particular on the engine braking I felt very comfortable in the wet and I was able to run at the front. As the track tried a lost a few positions but I am optimistic. The new engine braking setting makes a big difference in the dry and even though it is difficult to make conclusions with just forty minutes of track time I am happy that this is the way forward. To be honest I feel better in the wet at the moment so if it rains tomorrow then all the better for me."


Lundh keeps improving – Finsterbusch falls and breaks right collarbone

MZ Moto2 rider Alexander Lundh kept improving on the second day of practice for the French motorcycle Grand Prix and secured 26th place on the starting grid for the race on Sunday.

His MZ team-mate Toni Finsterbusch on the other hand ran into bad luck: The 18-year-old from Krostitz, Germany was a little too hard on the throttle on a partly damp track in Moto3 qualifying and was highsided on his ninth lap in the last corner of the Bugatti circuit. Finsterbusch fell on his right shoulder and suffered a broken collarbone.

Toni Finsterbusch (Moto3) – 30th position in 2.03,240 min:

“It happened at the exit of the double right-hand corner leading onto the main straight. The rear of the bike stepped out, I tried to save it but didn’t manage to re-gain control and crashed. I fell on my right shoulder and knew immediately that my collarbone was broken, because I had a similar experience one year ago. Due to the tricky track conditions, quite a number of riders went down in this qualifying session and just walked away. It’s extremely bad luck that I suffered an injury.”

Alexander Lundh (Moto2) – 26th position in 1.39,924 min:

“All in all, we went better than yesterday. My only problem was a small crash in the morning, which made us lose a little bit of time. It also forced us to use a different exhaust system that produced less horsepower. But otherwise, qualifying was good. I was really focused and I also had a chance to ride behind Esteve Rabat which helped me to get a better time. Now I’m looking forward to the race.”


MAPFRE ASPAR TEAM EXPECTING TOUGH RACE AT LE MANS

Elias and Terol to start from fourth and sixth rows respectively

Toni Elias contests his 200th Grand Prix at Le Mans tomorrow and the aim for the MAPFRE ASPAR rider is to celebrate it with a good result come what may. However, with weather forecasts predicting more rain after a lunchtime shower today and a torrential downpour later in the afternoon it promises to be a lottery of a race, with the veteran Spaniard hoping to make the most of his experience from tenth on the grid with his young team-mate Nico Terol seven places behind him.

10th Toni Elias (1.38.826, 19 laps): "I'm not where I want to be and we are struggling to get there. There is nothing we can do but keep working hard. I am starting from the fourth row so I'll need to get away well if I want to run with the leaders. The main thing now though is to solve the problems we are having and if we can do that we'll be at the front. If it rains here you're a hero if you can stay on two wheels so hopefully we can have a dry race and continue with our development programme."

17th Nico Terol (1.39.229, 25 laps): "I am happy that we are finding the right way forward in this extremely difficult category. This morning I was happy with my pace, having lapped sixth fastest, but this afternoon was a stop-start session and I am four tenths of a top twelve position, which is what I was hoping for. But I am satisfied and we have to keep going like this. If I can get a good start and get into my rhythm quickly I can have a good race and if it rains it will be particularly important to ride smoothly and not make mistaes. I want to score points and finish as high as possible to take that next step."


HISTORIC RESULT IN LE MANS

Rain plays an important role in today’s Moto 3 qualifying session in Le Mans although all the three practice sessions in the morning were held on a dry track.

Jonas Folger has reached a historic result for Iodaracing and its TR002 by placing himself in the eleventh position of the starting grid with 1’58.304 only 2.439 behind Maverick Vinales best lap. Iodaracing’ german rider is back to races after having missed two grand prix due to a long mononucleosis, and has soon found himself comfortable on his bike. Although today’s difficult grip conditions, Jonas has spent most of the practice session in the upper part of the standing. Jonas had been competitive this morning too on dry track conditions and had ended the morning session on the twenty third position only 2.830 behind the pole.

Luigi Morciano’s practice session lasted for seven laps only. In fact he has been forced to stay in the pit due to an engine valve with had broken . The Ioda Team Italia rider did not reach the qualifying time but he will take the start tomorrow from the thirty fouth place

"I am extremely happy with this result – Folger said – and wish to thank my team, the EMIR technicians and Iodaracing for the big effort they are doing to have things settled. My TR002 has grown so much with respect to the race in Doha that it is no longer the bike it was. The new solutions which have been brought to this race have come out as more than good. We were at a good stage this morning too. I dont feel my best yet, I havent been able to follow my training for two weeks, but I will face tomorrow’s race with strength and with the points area in mind”.

"Unfortunately these technical problems do not allow us to ride regularly – Morciano said- thus to grow and improve. I am happy with Jonas results, this is a positive thing overlooking Barcelona, because I will have the same technical solutions there too. I will do my best tomorrow, let’s hope we will be able to reach a good result”.


REA STRUGGLES TO MAKE PROGRESS ON THE SUTER

Unfortunately the change of chassis from Moriwaki to Suter has yet to reap any major rewards for Gino Rea, who struggled today to make significant progress up the Moto2 order in France. However, it was another important opportunity to gather data that will be useful for the race tomorrow.

Gino Rea. (24th 1’ 39” 796) “The position is still not where we want to be but we're improving the bike. I didn't manage to get an ideal lap in today because we used the new tyre at the start of the session and by the time we wanted to really push it was already worn. It's good that we've closed the gap to the leaders but it's a shame to start from so far back. Hopefully we can make a good start in the race and make up some more positions.”

Fausto Gresini “We knew this Grand Prix would be like a test for us and it has proved to be the case. It is not always easy to switch to a new bike and today was a case of working to find a set-up that allows Gino to contest a positive race.”


Difficult qualifying for RW Racing GP

Luis Salom and Brad Binder will need another good start. Qualifying for the French GP on the Le Mans circuit was a difficult one for both RW Racing GP riders. Actually it was difficult for everybody, with rain just before the start of the session. The average lap time was 12 to 15 seconds slower than in Fridays free practice on a dry track.

Salom had to settle for third row, together with Moncayo and Faubel. With 33 seconds before the checkered flag fell Salom moved to fourth on the grid, but he couldn’t hold on to that position in the final minute of the practice. In his last lap the Span iard had two big moments due to lack of grip and decided to close the gas.

Brad Binder was the very last Moto3 rider to cross the finish line. In his final lap he did 1.58.590 which brought him from 25th to 16th on the grid.

Luis Salom (9th): "In the beginning of the session I had no grip at all. It was too dangerous to put my head down and go for it. Later on it went better, but third row is not what I had hoped for. But if I could have done better, I would have. It’s not the first time I have to start a bit further behind than I should. It’s the same story again: I have 24 laps to make up as much as possible. As always the podium is my goal.’’

Brad Binder (16th) : "I’m not unsatisfied with my lap time and my position. Specially not considering I missed part of the session because I had a really big moment. Coming into one of the corners all of sudden I found out my brakes were not working properly. That is pretty scary! I rode the bike to the side, where it stopped. I had to walk back to the pits. After we fixed it, I need a few laps to get the confidence and the rhythm back but the last laps were pretty good.’’

Team manager Johan Stigefelt: "It was not ideal, but that was the same for everybody. We were a bit surprised by the lack of grip. The weather is very unpredictable. We know we are very fast and competitive in the dry. At least we have some data now for the setup in the wet, in case of a wet race.’’


WILAIROT STRUGGLES TO MAKE PROGRESS ON THE SUTER

Unfortunately the change of chassis from Moriwaki to Suter has yet to reap any major rewards for Ratthapark Wilairot, who struggled today to make significant progress up the Moto2 order in France. However, it was another important opportunity to gather data that will be useful for the race tomorrow.

Ratthapark Wilairot. (29th 1’ 40.784) “Unfortunately the position hasn't changed much although I can say that I felt better on the bike before the rain came. Now we need to work on the bike because I have a lot of problems in corner entry. Rear traction is perfect but I have some issues with the bike moving around when I try to tip it into the turn so this is the main area that needs working on. Tomorrow I will just have to get a good start and try my best to finish in the points.”

Fausto Gresini “We knew this Grand Prix would be like a test for us and it has proved to be the case. It is not always easy to switch to a new bike and today was a case of working to find a set-up that allows Feem to contest a positive race.”


 

2012

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