French MotoGP: Zarco on top in crash-strewn second practice
Pramac Ducati’s Johann Zarco led compatriot Fabio Quartararo on the Yamaha in a dry but crash-strewn second practice for the MotoGP French Grand Prix.
Thick grey clouds enveloped the sky above Le Mans ahead of Friday’s second practice, prompting a rush out of pitlane at the start of FP2 from the field to get some banker laps in just in case rain did arrive.
Aleix Espargaro set the early pace with a 1m35.466s on his Aprilia in a session in which he would crash twice at the tricky Dunlop chicane at Turn 3.
Quartararo took over from Espargaro seconds later with a 1m34.221s, before Alex Rins moved the goal posts on his Suzuki with a 1m33.478s.
This wouldn’t stand for long, however, as Quartararo fired in a brace of session-topping laps culminating in a 1m32.689s just under 10 minutes into FP2.
Quartararo put 0.591 seconds between himself and the rest of the field a few minutes later when he guided his factory Yamaha to a 1m32.120s.
His session was briefly interrupted by a crash at the Dunlop chicane 21 minutes from the end, with Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia also taking a trip into that gravel trap earlier in the session.
Quartararo’s advantage at the head of the field was cut slightly by his Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales, whose 1m32.548s set just over 10 minutes from the chequered flag moved him 0.428s behind the Frenchman in second.
Honda’s Pol Espargaro gave Quartararo’s lap its biggest challenge with just under five minutes remaining when he shot up to second with a 1m32.137s.
A 1m31.842s in the final two minutes looked to cement Quartararo top spot in FP2, but Zarco found 0.095s on his final effort at the end of the session to steal the day away from the Yamaha rider.
Vinales trailed the home heroes in third, with Pol Espargaro provisionally securing direct passage into Q2 for the first time since the Qatar GP in March.
Franco Morbidelli completed the top five on his two-year-old Petronas SRT Yamaha, with Miguel Oliveira signalling a turnaround in KTM form in sixth ahead of Spanish GP winner Jack Miller – who fell from his Ducati at the Musee hairpin midway through the session.
Marc Marquez ensured both factory team Hondas were in the top 10 at the end of Friday’s running at Le Mans in eighth, with Valentino Rossi on his SRT Yamaha and LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami rounding out the top 10.
Crashes for Suzuki duo Alex Rins and Joan Mir late on left both outside of the top 10 in 11th and 13th respectively, while championship leader Bagnaia was only 12th on his Ducati.
Should FP3 prove to be too wet on Saturday morning for any lap time improvements, the Suzukis and Bagnaia will be joined by a frustrated Aleix Espargaro after his brace of tumbles left him 14th ahead of Tech3 rider Iker Lecuona.
Brad Binder was unable to match KTM team-mate Oliveira’s pace in FP2 in 16th ahead of Alex Marquez (LCR) and Jorge Martin’s stand-in Tito Rabat.
Last year’s French GP winner Danilo Petrucci was 2.7s off the pace in last on his Tech3 KTM, trailing a trio of rookies in Avintia’s Luca Marini, Aprilia’s Lorenzo Savadori and the other Avintia Ducati of Enea Bastianini.
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