Yamaha: Action begins in Le Mans for the French GP

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Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were back on track today at the historic Le Mans circuit in France.

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were back on track today at the historic Le Mans circuit in France, working through their first free practice sessions ahead of Sunday’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France.

Lorenzo was able to make a half second improvement from the morning to the afternoon session as he focused on his set up. He led the second practice for most of the session, only dropping in the last ten minutes as his rivals switched to new rubber. He finished the day in seventh in the combined times, 0.6 seconds from first.

Teammate Rossi had a less fortunate day, the nine time world champion struggling in several set up areas on the notoriously unpredictable French track. Rossi ended the day in 10th place in the combined times, just over a second from the front.

Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider Bradley Smith completed a fantastic first day rout at the legendary Le Mans circuit to cement himself as the leading Yamaha in the team’s home country of France. Having bounced back impeccably this afternoon from a crash in FP1, the young British rider remained resolute and after undertaking some key alterations to his Yamaha YZR-M1, he established a comfortable setup which gave him the confidence to push and post a best lap of 1:33,920. Smith’s time was a colossal improvement from this morning, and less than half a second from the leading bike of Marc Marquez. His top four result on the opening day sees his confidence sky high and well prepared for a full speed assault in tomorrow’s qualifying session, in view to the 28-lap sprint on Sunday.

Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Yamaha MotoGP

Rookie Pol Espargaro proceeded to gather more valuable experience in only his fifth race in the premier class, and shaved off four tenths of a second from the initial time set in FP1 this morning. The reigning Moto2 World champion guided his Yamaha YZR-M1 around the stop and go Le Mans circuit, as he undertook a relentless effort to learn the track on a MotoGP bike. The 22-year-old Catalan finished in 11th with a time of 1.34,506, which was only 0.008 of a second behind multiple world champion Valentino Rossi, as he continues to stride forward in his inaugural MotoGP season. Tomorrow he assertively intends to seize a competitive grid position for race day at the Monster Energy sponsored Grand Prix.

The first day of the French GP saw the NGM Forward Racing riders finishing in the top 15 on the historic track of Le Mans.

Aleix Espargaro set a lap time of 1’34.134, closing in 9th position in the combined classification, just +0.682 from the provisional pole scored by Marc Marquez. The Spaniard is confident to improve his lap times, aiming at finishing in the first rows in the qualifying.

It was day of work also for Colin Edwards who finished in 15th position with a best lap time of 1’35.089. Tomorrow the Texan rider will keep on working on the set up and the electronics of this Forward Yamaha and he is confident to improve his lap times.

Jorge Lorenzo (7th / 1'34.054 / 21 laps): “I’m satisfied with the pace which is constant and with my riding. We are not in a position that reflects our performance in the time sheets; we were the only one with the same tyre the whole session instead of putting a new tyre on at the end or running an open tyre. I think with a new tyre we could have improved half a second at the end.”

Valentino Rossi (10th / 1'34.498 / 21 laps): “I’m not happy about today, especially this afternoon. I wasn’t able to be strong and near the top. I have a lot of problems with the bike especially in acceleration, I have a big problem to open the throttle because the bike is very nervous. We tried to modify something during the practice but we didn’t fix the problem. I’m too far from the front so for tomorrow we have to check the data and improve to be more competitive; it is important to start in the top five here. The difference between Jerez and here for the settings is unbelievable so we have to change a lot of things. Le Mans is always like this!”

Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director: “We started today’s first practice with a base set up from our Jerez test last week. The first impressions from the morning were quite good. We then didn't make big changes between the sessions because we were expecting track conditions to improve in the afternoon to suit the setting of the bike better. Unfortunately the track did not improve for us that much. We made a change from the soft front to the medium for the afternoon and adjusted the electronics but we still need to make some steps forward for tomorrow. Jorge was very consistent; his place in the timings doesn’t necessarily reflect his performance. Vale is having more issues with his set up than Jorge so we have some work to do with his set up to be ready to step up for the third practice in the morning.”

Bradley Smith (4th / 1'33.920 / 37 laps): "After starting the day in a less than ideal way, I am really pleased with what we managed to achieve this afternoon. I am feeling very happy with the bike now, as due to some of the issues we have experienced recently we decided to divert back to the what I was using in Qatar. Therefore, I am confident and I know that I can go fast with it. At the same time, I am slightly disappointed that we couldn’t succeed with our experimentation, but I am excited to continue in this manner during the next sessions. Tomorrow the plan is to fine-tune the setup and then try my best in qualifying to get as high up the grid as I can. Again, I feel confident, am back on the road to completeness and can’t wait to put on a good show for the fans. ”

Pol Espargaro (11th / 1'34.506 / 45 laps): “All in all it has been a positive day. This morning we had a really good start and after FP2, I have to say that I’m satisfied with our rhythm as we used the same front tyre for the whole session, and were still able to improve our lap time at the end. We tried different geometric modification on the bike, but not everything went according to plan. So therefore, we went back to our setting from this morning and were able to improve again. This also gives me a lot of confidence for tomorrow and I think we are in better situation than in Jerez.”

Aleix Espargaro (9th / 1'34.134): “I’m quite satisfied even though I expected to be more competitive with the soft tyre. We are in the top 10 and the gap from the front riders and the other Yamahas is not so big, so I’m quite confident for tomorrow and the race. We will keep on working aiming at finishing in the first 2 rows tomorrow in the qualifying."

Colin Edwards (15th / 1'35.089): “Today we focused on working on the set up of the machine. I struggled a bit to be consistent. In the afternoon we tried some solutions and we improved and tomorrow we will keep on working. My priority is to focus on the electronics and to be consistent lap after lap."

Yamaha Racing

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About this article
Series MOTOGP
Event French GP
Sub-event Friday practice
Article type Practice report
Tags french gp, le mans, motogp, yamaha