Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took centre stage on Day 1 of the Shark Grand Prix de France, with the Australian topping both P1 and P2 to sail through to an automatic place in Q2. The day was full of headlines once again, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) and Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) making two to end the day in second and third, respectively, and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) already back in the limelight.
First, for getting through to Q2 as the number 93 was back on track and back on the pace. Second, for two crashes, one in P1 and one in P2, rider ok. Third, for a little on-track discussion with Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) as the eight-time World Champion followed the rider currently holding that throne. Both played it down but it made for some good spectating.
LAST DASH FOR Q2
As ever, the fight for a place in Q2 went to the wire, and it had to be all or nothing for Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), who was well aware of the importance of bagging a Q2 spot at his home Grand Prix. The Frenchman began to put on the afterburners in the final twenty minutes. Riding on the ragged edge, Quartararo’s first flyer ended early with a big moment onboard his Yamaha, seeing him make a dramatic save to regroup and put the hammer down once again.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the first to reshuffle the order as the South African hit the top of the timesheets to beat his teammates P1 time to make it a KTM one-two, however, until the final 10 minutes came and Miller retook the top spot. But then came Bezzecchi as he grabbed P1, with Miller nearly able to reply but not quite.
Meanwhile, Aleix Espargaro was on a flyer as the Spaniard set red sectors to slot himself into P2, and with two and half minutes remaining the timing screens really began to light up.
Espargaro, Bezzecchi, Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) was the order with just one minute left, and the fans were on their feet as their home hero Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) began to put down red sectors as he chased down the flying Miller. Miller wasn’t to be caught though, going top to set the first and only 1:30, but Zarco put himself into P5 to push Aleix Espargaro and Bezzecchi down a spot each… and push Bagnaia out of Q2 as it stood.
With Espargaro and Bezzecchi holding strong in 2nd and 3rd, Martin consolidated P4 just ahead of his teammate, as Aprilia Racing’s Maverick Viñales then bagged P6 ahead of Binder in P7. The South African crashed in the latter stages and couldn’t quite get his teeth into the shootout.
PECCO VS MARQUEZ
It was, in some ways, a familiar sight for Bagnaia as he looked behind with eleven minutes to go to see Marc Marquez right on his rear wheel. The Repsol Honda rider was looking to use the reigning World Champion to tow him into a Q2 position, but Bagnaia wasn’t giving into the mind games as the Italian rode back into pitlane to shake off the Spaniard.
That left Pecco with a final push and as Bagnaia headed back out onto the circuit, it was a last-chance saloon scenario for the Ducati man as he was sat outside of Q2 contention in P12. A swarm of riders followed him with just six minutes left on the clock, but this time Marquez slotted himself behind Martin, who in turn was shadowing Bagnaia. That did the trick.
Bagnaia just bagged a Q2 spot to put himself into P9, whilst Marc Marquez then has different dramas to worry about. He took a second tumble of the day, rider perfectly ok if looking encouragingly angry at the error, but makes it into Q2 on his return to competition. Need we remind what he achieved last time he competed in that session…
ALL EYES ON Q1
Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) just made it into the top ten, leaving some fellow fast faces in Q1. Quartararo is the headline act, certainly for the home fans, as the Frenchman looks to find a way through. After deciding to go back to the same chassis as raced in Jerez and those fast lap woes continuing, he’ll have to fight it out against the likes of Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), COTA winner Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) and Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team). Mir had a solid morning in France and then suffered an adventurous afternoon session with a crash and a run off.
Both KTMs are through. Bagnaia seems a little more on the back foot than some venues. Marc Marquez is through, although after two tip offs. Quartararo is looking to move forward… Friday set us up for another super Saturday of MotoGP™ action. The stage is dressed for Qualifying and the Tissot Sprint, and here’s when it all gets underway in GMT+2:
Bagnaia ends free practice for French GP at Le Mans in ninth place with Petrucci 19th
Francesco Bagnaia closes with the ninth time overall on Day 1 of the French GP, the fifth round of the MotoGP World Championship held this weekend at the Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans. On a first day which saw dry asphalt conditions all day and low temperatures, the 2022 World Champion still failed to find a good feeling with the soft tyre closing in 1:31.467 in his last time attack attempt. Bagnaia still secured a spot directly in Q2 tomorrow.
On the other side of the garage, Danilo Petrucci, who returned to wear the colours of the factory team as a replacement for the still-injured Enea Bastianini, closed nineteenth. The rider from Terni spent the day working on regaining confidence with the Desmosedici GP, which he has not ridden since 2020. After finishing Practice 1 in 1:33.168, Danilo managed to take a few more tenths off his best time in the afternoon, despite being slowed by a crash in the second half of the session.
Petrucci will therefore have to take part in tomorrow’s Q1, scheduled at 10:50am local time, before tackling his first Sprint (13 laps) at 3pm.
Francesco Bagnaia (#1, Ducati Lenovo Team) – 9th (1:31.467)
“My pace was one of the best this morning, and I immediately felt comfortable. We tried the time attack, but I didn’t find a good feeling with the rear tyre. We also used the same tyre at the beginning of the afternoon session and had some difficulties. Fortunately, by changing the tyre for the last time attack, everything went back to normal, and we realized what the problem had been. Overall, it was still a positive day. We are in the top ten, and the feeling with the bike is also good. We still have to improve a little bit, but I would say we are there.”
Danilo Petrucci (#9, Ducati Lenovo Team) – 19th (1:33.022)
“It was a challenging day but mostly exciting. I expected to struggle more, but it went well, and I am satisfied. This morning I was less distant from the top of the timesheet, and I think I could still have improved if it hadn’t been for the crash this afternoon, which made me lose some confidence. Riding this bike is fantastic! Now my goal will be to continue to improve without making any more mistakes.”
Marquez heads straight to Q2 on MotoGP return
Positive steps forward for Repsol Honda Team duo on opening day of track action at the French GP, Marc Marquez returning inside the top ten with Joan Mir making strides forward in the morning.
With the positive news of Marc Marquez’s return confirmed, the Repsol Honda Team started a busy day in France. Both Marquez and Mir spent much of the first day of the French GP testing a new chassis for the Honda RC213V, assessing its performance during the intense schedule of a Grand Prix weekend. Their task was aided by a completely dry day at the 4.19 kilometre-long Le Mans circuit.
All eyes were on the #93 as Marquez returned to competition after suffering an injury at Round One in Portugal. He was immediately able to get back up to speed and began challenging for the top ten. His return did present a few challenges as 15 minutes into the first session, Marquez suffered a fall at Turn 11 but walked away unharmed before quickly returning to the track. A second fall, this time at Turn 9 during Practice 2, would end Marquez’s second session of the day but a time of 1’31.432 would see the eight-time World Champion hold onto a spot in the combined top ten. A positive first day back for Marquez.
Cooler morning conditions saw a motivated Mir immediately lapping inside the top positions of the morning session. Eventually ending in sixth place and only 0.351s from the top of the time sheets, Mir immediately feeling improvements on the Honda RC213V. His 1’31.800 from the morning session would stand as the double-World Champion’s best lap time of the day and had him end the day in 13th overall. Just 0.3s split the #36 from the top ten, Mir certain to be in contention for a transfer spot come Q1.
Forecasts suggest a dry Saturday in Le Mans with temperatures steadily working towards 20°C as the day progresses. This stability will be crucial as the Repsol Honda Team continue to work on improving the RC213V.
“Today I am very happy overall; it was a good day. I crashed two times; the second time was an ‘acceptable’ crash because I was pushing at the limit on a hot lap – it can happen. After a month and a half at home, it’s not easy to go out and straight away start pushing so we have to be content with what we have done today as we made it to Q2. The objective for tomorrow is to maintain this position in the front three rows of the grid. Of course, the weather could change things here a lot, but we will keep working and adapting to whatever happens. I still need to work a bit to keep improving my feeling and also to improve the performance overall.”
“We tried a new chassis today in the morning and I was able to improve my feeling, riding more comfortably but we still need to adapt the setting and myself to take the maximum from it. Everything in the morning was very easy, then in the afternoon it was a little more complicated and we need to analyse tonight what changed from practice to practice. We will keep working tomorrow in a similar way, looking for those last few tenths to fight for Q2.”
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli started the Grand Prix de France weekend today. The teammates were keen to secure a place in the top 10, but ultimately ranked 12th and 17th respectively in the combined Friday results. Both riders will participate in tomorrow‘s Q1.
Quartararo was fully motivated to start his home GP after the successful pre-event French GP Parade on Wednesday. He used the sunny but somewhat chilly P1 to get straight to work. He was featuring inside the top 6 for most of the session, but the pace quickened towards the end. He wrapped up the morning with a 1‘31.946s, set on lap 20/20 to finish in 11th place, 0.497s off the fastest time.
The home hero was determined to find a time improvement in the afternoon. He used the 60-minute P2 session to the fullest, leaving no stone unturned. He gave it his all on his final run, but he was gradually relegated to 12th place in the final results. His best time of 1‘31.650s, set on lap 25/29, also put him in 12th place in the combined timesheets, with a 0.700s margin to the number one spot.
Morbidelli started P1 with the objective to confirm the settings he tried at the IRTA Jerez Test almost two weeks ago. The Italian featured inside the top 10 early on in the session, but as the pace gradually quickened, he was pushed down the rankings. He responded by improving his time to a 1‘32.153s on lap 20/21, which put him in 13th place, 0.704s from the top.
Morbido didn‘t have the afternoon he had hoped for. An early crash in Turn 14 in the one-hour afternoon session lost the number-21 rider significant time. However, unhurt, the Italian spent the remainder of P2 tweaking his bike‘s setting. He was pushing once again in the final minutes of the session and completed the afternoon practice in 16th place with a 1‘32.143s, set on lap 16/18. The time puts him in 17th position in the combined practice classification, 1.193s from first.
We tried different things, but we need to find more time in various parts of the track, especially in Sector 3. In the end, both our riders were not able to secure a place in tomorrow‘s Q2. Franky also had a crash in P2, but he is okay. Being in Q1 makes the weekend more difficult. We have a lot of work to do for tomorrow, so we need to stay focused. It will be vital to do a good job in Q1 to secure a place more towards the front of the grid for the Sprint and the Race.
We are trying to find a base, and we are doing our best to make a step tomorrow. I‘m always giving my 100% on the bike, all the time. I‘m doing my best, trying to find a solution, and working hard. We miss performance. We‘re trying to improve the feeling. The fans are the most positive part of today. I will give my 100% to make them happy.