Dani Pedrosa topped the first day of Free Practice at the Le Mans Circuit with the Repsol Honda rider stamping his authority at the famous French track ahead of this Sunday’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France. Pedrosa was followed into second place by his teammate Marc Marquez and the Yamaha Factory Racing machine of Valentino Rossi in third place.
We were able to make some positive steps, which we hope to capitalize on for the race on Sunday.
Jorge Lorenzo continue his strong form from the morning session and sits just behind the top three finishing this afternoon with a best lap of 1m 34.201s while LCR Honda rider Stefan Bradl set the 5th best time with a 1m 34.299s lap. Cal Crutchlow continued to improve his lap times this afternoon but the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider remained in 6th place with a best time of 1m 34.512s while Ducati Team riders Andrea Dovizioso (1m 34.578s) and Nicky Hayden (1m 34.590s) ended day one in 7th and 8th respectively. The final two riders in all-important top ten were Alvaro Bautista (GO&Fun Honda Gresini) with a 1m 34.739s lap and top CRT man Aleix Espargaro (Power Electronics Aspar) setting a best time of 1m 35.045s.
Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) ended day one in 11th with a best lap time of 1m 35.362s and one place ahead of Andrea Iannone and the Energy TI Pramac Racing team (1m 35.433s). Michele Pirro is deputizing for an injured Ben Spies and the Italian rider finished his first day in 14th place for the Ignite Pramac Racing team with a best lap of 1m 35.864s. Finishing day one in 15th was Hector Babera on the Avintia Blusens machine with a best time of 1m 35.940s while Colin Edwards finished in 16th for the NGM Forward Racing outfit with a best time of 1m 36.449s.
Pedrosa was happy to get some dry time in on his RCV213V with the weather forecast not looking good for the remainder of the weekend. He said, “In today's practice sessions it was important to test the tyres and make the most of the dry track time, because here you usually don't have that opportunity. So I tried to stay out on track for as long as possible and gather the best information, because maybe tomorrow it will rain - and you don't have that chance again. Luckily the weather held up and we were able to make some positive steps, which we hope to capitalise on for the race on Sunday.”
Marquez was in an upbeat mood after his first time out at the French circuit on a MotoGP bike and said, "Le Mans has always been a good track for me in the other classes. I was fast today right out of the box and felt comfortable. In the first session I got a bit overwhelmed, because I could tell that the track was not allowing much space for me between the corners with this bigger bike and faster pace. I didn't have much time to think. I was calmer in the afternoon and things went much better.
This track is all about accelerating and then braking, although the final sector is more twisty and has some longer corners. It is only Friday, and we still have work to do. Tomorrow, if the track is dry, we will improve our times - but the forecast predicts rain. With a little luck, on Sunday we will have a dry track and be able to have a good race,” Marquez added.
Rossi was very happy with setting the third fastest time and a number changes has the seven-time MotoGP World Champion in a very upbeat humour. He said, “Today we were good in braking because we modified the settings and we tried two different settings to understand which way to follow to improve the braking, that was the main problem. This morning was not too bad and this afternoon especially I made the comparison one more time. I took the setting I preferred with some small modifications and the last run was very good. I could brake hard, which was the main problem in Austin and also in Jerez so it's a good day.