There were a few things to enjoy today. The first is that Jack Miller walked away from a horrible crash that saw his Honda turn right as he braked for the Dunlop chicane and try and smear him all over a concrete wall. The bike had to be carried back to pitlane, its front wheel at 90 degrees to the direction of travel. The second thing was the way Johann Zarco went through Q1 to the front row, cooly sitting out the first five minutes of Q2 because he only had one tyre left. “When I saw my opponents weren’t on the lap record, I took my time.” It was very cool, it was very different, it was very Zarco. The crowd, already around 80,000, responded as only a Le Man crowd can, with raucous flag-waving approval. If he is on the rostrum tomorrow they will break noise records, if he wins then they will reenact the sack of Rome by the Visigoths with the paddock playing the part of Rome.
It’s an all-Yamaha front row for the first time since the opening race of 2010 (Lorenzo, Toseland, Edwards) but the Hondas have been quick. Pedrosa got marooned in Q1 but his time would have put him fourth in Q2. Cal Crutchlow has looked good all weekend, and Marquez has looked wild. No change there, then. The disappointment has been the Ducatis, especially the factory bikes. All those whispers about Lorenzo targeting a win here, which seemed prescient after Jerez, now seem hopelessly optimistic.
How are the riders feeling? Zarco goes all zen and ‘empties his mind’ before the race, Valentino Rossi has Nicky on his mind all the time but he will try and do a good race to dedicate it to the Haydens. ‘It won’t matter,’ said Vale, ‘but it is all we can do.’