Round 05 France

  • Marquez Takes 55th Pole Position At Tricky Le Mans

    Marc Marquez produced another magical performance at Le Mans, making the most of the treacherous damp weather to score his 55th MotoGP pole position.


Report

Marquez Takes 55th Pole Position At Tricky Le Mans

LE MANS, France, May 18, 2019

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) produced another magical performance at Le Mans today, making the most of the treacherous damp weather to score his 55th MotoGP pole position.

Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez

Rain fell on and off throughout the day, with track temperatures very low and little grip to be had. Marquez found this to his cost at the beginning of the FP4 session, when he slid off at slow speed. Conditions continued to change, further complicating matters for riders and teams. By the start of the first Q1 qualifying session a dry line had appeared around much of the circuit, encouraging some riders to run slicks, but by the time Marquez went out for Q2 the rain had returned, requiring rain tires.

Marquez suspected the rain would intensify, so he seized his chance and took pole position on his second lap, pushing hard from the moment he left pit lane. He continued to force his pace, trying to go even faster, only to slide off at turn six. Indomitable as always, the 26-year-old Spaniard never even let go of his sliding bike, then hopped back on and continued riding, trying to further understand track conditions in advance of tomorrow’s race, which may take place in similarly changeable weather.

The performance was typical of the talent and resolve of the reigning MotoGP World Champion, who has won five of the last six titles aboard Honda RC213V machines.

Tomorrow Marquez and his fellow RC213V riders will aim to score Honda’s landmark 300th premier-class Grand Prix victory. Honda won its first premier-class GP at its first attempt, at Hockenheim, West Germany, on May 22, 1966, with Jim Redman riding the factory’s four-cylinder RC181 500cc machine.

The company’s 100th success with 500cc machinery was achieved by Spaniard Carlos Checa at Catalunya-Barcelona in 1996. Ten years later Nicky Hayden took Honda’s 200th victory in the premier class at Assen, on his way to winning the 2006 world title aboard his Repsol Honda Team RC211V. This year Honda is also working towards achieving its 21st premier-class riders crown and 25th constructors’ prize. Both are records.

Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) also rode an impressive Q2 session, coming so close to achieving his first second-row start in MotoGP. The 27-year-old from Chiba worked his way up to sixth fastest with a few minutes to go, but in the final moments of the session another rider pushed him into seventh, which means Nakagami will start the race from the head of the third row. This still counts as the former Moto2 winner’s best grid position since he graduated to the premier-class last year.

Right next to Nakagami on the grid will be Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V), who made an excellent start to the French Grand Prix, placing fourth fastest after yesterday’s first two practice sessions, less than three tenths of a second behind the fastest man. This suggests the three-times MotoGP World Champion is making progress with his RC213V, following some further ergonomic refinements to his machines.

However, Lorenzo didn’t feel so much at home in the difficult-to-judge conditions of the Q2 session. The 32-year-old Spaniard ended the outing eighth fastest, just eight thousandths of a second behind Nakagami. If tomorrow’s race is run in the dry, expect Lorenzo to show his speed on his RC213V.

Today’s rain was a bigger problem for Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V). He slid off in yesterday afternoon’s FP2 session, which left him outside the top ten. When the rain arrived this morning he was unable to improve his position in FP3, so he had to qualify in Q1, which he completed in fifth place, which means he will start tomorrow’s race from 15th on the grid, his lowliest grid position since 2017. Nevertheless, the 33-year-old Briton is a tough racer, who will do everything in his power to fight his way through the pack tomorrow afternoon.

Moto2 pole position went to Jorge Navarro (Lightech Speed Up), just ahead of Thomas Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex), who both underlined the slippery conditions by sliding off after riding their fastest laps. This was Navarro’s second pole of his Moto2 career, following his first at Jerez two weeks ago. In other words, the 23-year-old Spaniard is coming good on his Italian Speed Up machine and will surely challenge for his first win in the class tomorrow.

Both Navarro and Luthi had the advantage of coming through from Q1, after both had a difficult Friday. This allowed them to assess track conditions, so that when they went into Q2 they had the pace on their rivals. While Navarro had struggled with settings issues yesterday, Luthi crashed in FP2. The 32-year-old Swiss star, who has won 12 races in Moto2, bounced back superbly today and will be a strong rival to Navarro tomorrow. Luthi has already won a race this year, at COTA last month.

The front row is completed by Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex). Row two is led by Mattia Pasini (Petronas Sprinta Racing Kalex), who is substituting for Khairul Idham Pawi who crashed heavily during Spanish GP practice. The 33-year-old Italian just bettered Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) and Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex).

Moto2 World Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (FLEXBOX HP 40 Kalex), who won three of the first four races of 2019, could only manage seventh fastest today, so the 22-year-old Italian will lead the third row here.

The constantly changing weather has made this a particularly challenging weekend for team-mates Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia, Kalex) and Dimas Ekky Pratama (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex), who are both learning their way around Le Mans on Moto2 machines.

Twenty-year-old Thai rider Chantra finished an excellent fourth in last year’s FIM CEV Moto3™ Junior World Championship race at Le Mans, but without a full two days of practice he hasn’t had an easy time adapting to a Moto2 machine here and also suffered a fall in qualifying. The 2017 Asia Talent Cup Champion qualified 23rd quickest this afternoon.

Ekky Pratama had never ridden Le Mans before yesterday’s FP1 session, so the 26-year-old Indonesian rider is still learning the layout and ended qualifying in 28th position.

Moto3 was the first category to qualify today, when a narrow dry line following earlier rain allowed lap times just one second slower than yesterday’s FP2 session, the last fully dry outing.

Honda’s NSF250RW worked superbly in the tricky conditions, which required rider-friendly engine performance and perfectly accurate chassis behaviour.  Thus Honda riders filled the top eight positions, with a clean sweep of the first two rows and then two men on the third row.

John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) took pole position for the first time this year, going fastest at the very end of Q2, just 25 minutes after he had been fastest in the Q1 session. The 24-year-old Briton ended the outing 0.190 seconds in front of Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers Honda NSF250RW) who will start from the front row for the first time since last month’s Argentine GP.

Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) completes the Le Mans Moto3 front row, just 0.048 seconds behind Arbolino, for his first front row. The 18-year-old rookie from Saitama also had an excellent start to the weekend, ending yesterday’s first two sessions fastest, ahead of Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW), who scored a famous team one-two at the Spanish GP two Sundays ago. Ogura scored his first-ever Grand Prix top ten at Jerez and will be hoping to be even closer to the front at Le Mans, where he finished third in last year’s FIM CEV Moto3™ Junior World Championship race.

The second row comprises Suzuki, Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) and Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW), the three of them separated by just over two tenths of a second. Antonelli leads row three, a fraction ahead of Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW), who had a rousing ride from 24th sixth place at Jerez. The 19-year-old from Fukuoka was less than seven tenths of a second off pole position, so the 2014 Asia Talent Cup Champion will be gunning for his first podium finish since he won the season-opening Qatar GP.

Honda’s next rider is ten-times Moto3 race winner Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers Honda NSF250RW) in 13th. Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW), who started the last race from pole, lost his chance to repeat that performance when he fell on his final lap. The 21-year-old Italian will start tomorrow’s race from 13th on the grid.

Tomorrow’s races are the fifth round of this year’s 19-event MotoGP series, which concludes at Valencia, Spain, in November. Next stop is Mugello, for the Italian Grand Prix on June 2.

Takaaki Nakagami

Cal Crutchlow

Comments

MotoGP

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team: 1st, 1m 40.952s

“Today was one of those days! The conditions meant you didn’t know if a slick or a wet tire would be best with the light rain, it was really difficulty. In qualifying we knew we had to push on the first lap when there was the least water on track. Then with more water on track it got more difficult. I’m happy with this pole because it was a day where you could easily start from the back if you weren’t careful. Now we see what the weather does tomorrow!”

Takaaki Nakagami, LCR Honda IDEMITSU: 7th, 1m 42.059s

“Overall today, all sessions were quite tricky, especially FP4 and qualifying. I saw that Q1 was really tough, but also in Q2 it was really difficult to make the right tire choice. Some people went for the slicks, but for us it was too risky and we used two wet tires. But even for us it was confusing, we went out with a medium rear but at the end changed to a soft and it was the wrong choice as I had a crash at the last moment. But it was okay, I’m really happy with the result, seventh is my personal best on the grid, so that’s good. Tomorrow it’s difficult to know about the track condition with the weather, if it’s like this then the first priority will be to finish the race. We have to think about improving the set-up of the bike and the grip, but I’m happy with the result.”

Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol Honda Team: 8th, 1m 42.067s

“Very tricky conditions, especially in Qualifying today. There was one sector where it was full wet with no grip and then the others were almost dry – it was tough to stay on the bike. We could have made the front two rows I think but I chose to use the soft tire first and the medium second, with the medium first I think we could have achieved more. But we have achieved our best position of the year, that’s the positive.”

Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL: 15th, 1m 40.114s

“The mistake was yesterday, I crashed in FP2 and had to go into Q1 and then didn’t make it through to Q2. Obviously I’m disappointed, it’s a bad day. I was actually pleased with my lap at the end, it was just too wet. It’s easy to say go out on slicks at the start of the session, but I felt I could go quicker with the medium rain tires than with the slicks. I went out with a soft rear, thinking that if I then came in I could change to a medium and go faster, but then when I came in Valentino was on the slicks and putting red sectors everywhere, so I took the slick when I should have taken the medium and I would have been able to go fast. It was too late for slicks when I went back out and it was impossible to generate any heat. It’s a bad day, I qualified 15th, but my race pace isn’t 15th, that’s for sure. I’m not too optimistic in these wet conditions, I would prefer a dry race and then I have the pace.”

Moto2

Jorge Navarro, Lightech Speed Up: 1st, 1m 49.055s

“Yesterday I didn’t feel good on the bike, so when we fitted a new tire in FP2 I couldn’t make it into Q2. But because of the weather I knew this could be a good thing, because by riding in Q1 we could be in better shape for Q2. There wasn’t a lot of grip out there in Q1 – even before I touched the throttle I was having some slides – but in Q2 the track felt better and I knew I had a chance at pole position.”

Thomas Luthi, Dynavolt Intact GP: 2nd, 1m 49.133s

“We had a crash yesterday that made things tough for us. Anyway, we learned about the track in Q1 and in Q2 I pushed hard and set a good lap time, then crashed again! The team has done a great job here and I always like this place, so we hope for good conditions tomorrow and a great race.”

Alex Marquez, EG 0,0 Marc VDS: 3rd, 1m 49.585s

“Navarro and Luthi had a small advantage because they knew the track from Q1. The first few laps of qualifying the track surface was like ice, so I just tried to focus and do my best in the conditions. I made a small mistake on my last lap, just because the track was so tricky.”

Somkiat Chantra, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia: 23rd, 1m 50.981s

“I had bad luck because I crashed on my very last lap in Q1. I felt that everything was coming together for a lap time that could permit to me to go to the Q2. Finally, I will start 23rd. It’s not what I expected but tomorrow I will attack from the first lap. In warm-up we will adjust some setting of the suspension that will try to help me become more comfortable and ride within my limit.”

Dimas Ekky Pratama, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia: 28th, 1m 52.355s

“A hard day today. I had a big highside in FP3, when I was getting better every lap. In Q1 I had a problem with the front on the entry of the fast corners. Solving this problem and getting more confidence I will be ready for tomorrow.”

Moto3

John McPhee, Petronas Sprinta Racing: 1st, 1m 42.227s

“I knew it would be beneficial going through Q1 today, because in Q1 I was able to get up to speed and I knew what the track conditions would be like in Q2. In fact Q1 was more tricky, because the track was more patchy, so my best lap in Q1 was tougher than my pole lap in Q2. The bike is working well and I feel good, so I’m really looking forward to the race."

Tony Arbolino, VNE Snipers: 2nd, 1m 42.467s

“I am happy for this P2. The pole would be even better but the first row is important here as, in the race, we can avoid some overtakes and preserve our tires. We worked well with the team and everything is ready in view of the race. We'll see how the weather will be tomorrow and, in the wet, I am feeling good with the bike, the grip and the feeling at the front.”

Ai Ogura, Honda Team Asia: 3rd, 1m 42.515s

“I’m happy but still nervous for my first front row in the World Championships. From Friday I have had a good feeling with the bike. During the practice I was improving and getting better in every condition, that means we are ready for the race. I never had good feeling with this track, but after the test in Jerez we’ve changed some setting that permits me to ride very well, this is the real reason I’m going fast in this track.”

Kaito Toba, Honda Team Asia: 8th, 1m 42.969s

“Eighth position is not bad, compared to the last two races where we have struggled in qualifying. It’s positive because I feel strong and confident like in Qatar, trying to push every lap. We will see tomorrow how the weather is, rain or dry. I don’t care because I’m fast in both conditions. Of course, I prefer a dry race, but we are ready for a big fight.”

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Results

MotoGP World Championship 2019
Round 05: France Qualifying

MotoGP Class

Rank Rider (Team)
1 Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)
2 Danilo PETRUCCI (Ducati Team)
3 Jack MILLER (Pramac Racing)
4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)
5 Valentino ROSSI (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)
6 Franco MORBIDELLI (Petronas Yamaha SRT)
7 Takaaki NAKAGAMI (LCR Honda IDEMITSU)
8 Jorge LORENZO (Repsol Honda Team)
9 Aleix ESPARGARO (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)
10 Fabio QUARTARARO (Petronas Yamaha SRT)
11 Maverick VIÑALES (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP)
12 Pol ESPARGARO (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
13 Francesco BAGNAIA (Pramac Racing)
14 Johann ZARCO (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
15 Cal CRUTCHLOW (LCR Honda CASTROL)
16 Miguel OLIVEIRA (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)
17 Karel ABRAHAM (Reale Avintia Racing)
18 Joan MIR (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR)
19 Alex RINS (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR)
20 Tito RABAT (Reale Avintia Racing)
21 Hafizh SYAHRIN (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)
22 Andrea IANNONE (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)

Moto2 Class

Rank Rider (Team)
1 Jorge NAVARRO (Lightech Speed Up)
2 Thomas LUTHI (Dynavolt Intact GP)
3 Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)
4 Mattia PASINI (Petronas Sprinta Racing)
5 Xavi VIERGE (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)
6 Andrea LOCATELLI (Italtrans Racing Team)
7 Lorenzo BALDASSARRI (Flexbox HP 40)
8 Brad BINDER (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
9 Lukas TULOVIC (Kiefer Racing)
10 Marcel SCHROTTER (Dynavolt Intact GP)
11 Jake DIXON (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)
12 Remy GARDNER (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team)
13 Jorge MARTIN (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
14 Augusto FERNANDEZ (Flexbox HP 40)
15 Nicolo BULEGA (SKY Racing Team VR46)
16 Enea BASTIANINI (Italtrans Racing Team)
17 Bo BENDSNEYDER (NTS RW Racing GP)
18 Simone CORSI (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2)
19 Luca MARINI (SKY Racing Team VR46)
20 Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO (Lightech Speed Up)
21 Steven ODENDAAL (NTS RW Racing GP)
22 Iker LECUONA (American Racing KTM)
23 Somkiat CHANTRA (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)
24 Stefano MANZI (MV Agusta Idealavoro Forward)
25 Dominique AEGERTER (MV Agusta Idealavoro Forward)
26 Sam LOWES (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2)
27 Marco BEZZECCHI (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)
28 Dimas EKKY PRATAMA (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)
29 Joe ROBERTS (American Racing KTM)
30 Xavi CARDELUS (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)
31 Tetsuta NAGASHIMA (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team)
32 Philipp OETTL (Red Bull KTM Tech 3)

Moto3 Class

Rank Rider (Team)
1 John MCPHEE (Petronas Sprinta Racing)
2 Tony ARBOLINO (VNE Snipers)
3 Ai OGURA (Honda Team Asia)
4 Tatsuki SUZUKI (SIC58 Squadra Corse)
5 Gabriel RODRIGO (Kommerling Gresini Moto3)
6 Marcos RAMIREZ (Leopard Racing)
7 Niccolò ANTONELLI (SIC58 Squadra Corse)
8 Raul FERNANDEZ (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)
9 Kaito TOBA (Honda Team Asia)
10 Sergio GARCIA (Estrella Galicia 0,0)
11 Andrea MIGNO (Bester Capital Dubai)
12 Makar YURCHENKO (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race)
13 Romano FENATI (VNE Snipers)
14 Aron CANET (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team)
15 Lorenzo DALLA PORTA (Leopard Racing)
16 Albert ARENAS (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team)
17 Kazuki MASAKI (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race)
18 Dennis FOGGIA (SKY Racing Team VR46)
19 Alonso LOPEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)
20 Filip SALAC (Redox PruestelGP)
21 Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46)
22 Jakub KORNFEIL (Redox PruestelGP)
23 Jaume MASIA (Bester Capital Dubai)
24 Ayumu SASAKI (Petronas Sprinta Racing)
25 Vicente PEREZ (Reale Avintia Arizona 77)
26 Riccardo ROSSI (Kommerling Gresini Moto3)
27 Darryn BINDER (CIP Green Power)
28 Can ONCU (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
29 Tom BOOTH-AMOS (CIP Green Power)

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