|A second pole position for the rookie
Photo: Repsol Honda
The MotoGP qualifying practice sessions at a cold, breezy but importantly dry Le Mans Bugatti circuit got off to a delayed start after the red flag came out in the half hour FP4 session following a heavy fall for Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow. Medics attended to Crutchlow, who took a while to get back on his feet. He managed to get himself swiftly to the medical centre via bicycle, was declared fit by the medical team and made it out on track again toward the end of the session. Marquez and Corti were also fallers in FP4, but walked away unscathed.
The 15 minute Q1 session then proceeded, which saw the Aspar ART riders de Puniet and Espargaró manage to promote themselves into Q2 and battle it out with the full prototype machines. This was the first time under the new qualifying format that two CRT riders went on to participate in the second session.
In the final Q2 session, it was Lorenzo to complete the first flying lap, heading straight to the top of the leader board. With ten minutes to go a limping Crutchlow stormed to second place, losing only a tenth to Lorenzo in the final sector.
Dani Pedrosa tipped in to the first chicane relatively early in the session, trailing the brake and low siding into the gravel; similar to falls many riders have also endured throughout the weekend.
Shortly after Pedrosa’s team mate Marc Marquez put in a blisteringly fast lap to the top of the timings, 4 tenths ahead of Lorenzo. This was to be the pole lap as Marquez failed to better this time in the latter stages of the session. The lap by Marquez pushed Crutchlow down to third, as he found himself again struggling with the final sector despite being on pole position pace throughout the other parts of the circuit.
With 7 minutes left on the clock most riders pitted for a set of fresh rubber. Rossi, Hayden, Bradl, Marquez and Lorenzo all headed out of their boxes one after the other to begin their final stints of the session. Pedrosa also headed out; fresh bike, fresh tyres and some added colour and scuffing to his Alpinestars.
Bradley Smith was still out on track and following a brief off-piste excursion for the Oxfordshireman, he put his satellite M1 Yamaha into 8th, ahead of Bautista and Hayden.
In the final minute, Bradl posted a time good enough to head the second row of the grid, but was swiftly relegated to 5th by a seemingly possessed Dovizioso who firmly placed his Desmosedici on the front row of the grid. Dovizioso’s lap saw Crutchlow dropped off the front row, nevertheless a solid performance from someone who looked to be a lot of pain shortly before qualifying…
Lorenzo posted a personal best time also in the final seconds in an attempt to better his new rival’s time, however despite being closer than he had been all session he just missed out by three hundredths. Valentino Rossi, despite looking promising on Friday will start tomorrow’s race from 8th as Bautista edged him out of a 7th place grid start in the closing moments of the session. This also pushed Britain’s Bradley Smith back to 9th on the grid, a respectable qualifying for the rookie.
Notably, Lorenzo and Marquez are ahead of the rest by nearly 4 tenths but don’t rule out anyone else yet, the weather forecast for tomorrow is poor, a wet race could throw anything in the air.
Times and details can be found here.