Jorge Lorenzo was certainly not expecting to end up 7th at Le Mans, which was considered a Yamaha friendly track, especially since the reigning world champion has never been this far down on a finishing grid since Assen 2011 when he finished 6th, but there he got caught up in the late Marco Simoncelli’s crash, but he remounted and sliced through the field.
The rain at the start of the French GP race threw a wrench in his plans even though he was fastest in a wet warm-up, but his usually obedient M1 decided to that it didn’t like the rear tire or the new set-up and started spinning, and he couldn’t get it to work and slowly started to fade.
There was also some talk that his rear tire was defective (Rossi also got one this weekend), but Bridgestone promptly denied it. There were also rumors from the Spanish press that Lorenzo had problems with the visor of HJC helmet.
A rather depressed Lorenzo said he needs a bike that can give him 4 or 5 tenths more per lap, and both Yamaha riders are hoping that they’ll soon receive the much wanted seemless gearbox but apparently they’ll only get it for the Barcelona or Aragon post race tests.
“In the beginning of the race the bike was not the same as warm up but not so bad and I could follow Andrea and Dani. I was losing a lot in some areas of the track but recovering in others. Then after three or four laps the bike got worse and I got problems everywhere. In the braking because in the middle of the corner I didn’t trust the rear tyre and in acceleration because the rear was spinning so much I lost nearly half a second compared to the others. Races are like this sometimes; last year I won by 20 seconds with a very good bike and this year was completely the opposite. I couldn’t do much more without crashing,” said Lorenzo.
If Lorenzo left Le Mans losing precious points against Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez, it was even more terrible for Valentino Rossi. The Italian was riding in fourth and controlling Cal Crutchlow at a certain distance, because the visor of his AGV Pista GP was fogging up - Stefan Bradl who also crashed, but finished 10th lamented the same problem - when he hit a bump at turn 6 on lap 17 and lowsided out. Rossi was able to remount his damaged bike - his front brake lever was bent - but couldn’t do better then 12 which dropped him to fifth in the standings.
Even if Jorge Lorenzo didn’t take the pole position at Le Mans pipped by Marc Marquez by mere 0.030 seconds, the Yamaha rider is quietly confident that he can take on the two Repsol Honda riders.
“All weekend we’ve been working pretty much to improve the feeling on the front tyre, where we had some difficulties at Jerez, and trying to improve the bike to keep a more consistent pace. I think we’ve got it. I also concentrated on doing a very fast lap but unfortunately I couldn’t beat Marc today because he was really fast, but our main target was to improve the bike for the race and I think we’ve done that. We’ll see tomorrow,” said Lorenzo.
Valentino Rossi’s strong suit has never been qualifying. In 279 GP race starts he has had only 59 pole positions which we can compare to team mate Jorge Lorenzo who has 182 GP starts and already has 53 pole positions.
The new 15 minute qualifying format puts the Italian rider in a quandrary, unable to use, and above all trust a new soft tire right off, something that Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Marquez are able to do without batting an eye, so they almost always qualify on the front row, while he lingers more often than not on the third row.
Despite the brief rain shower during the last five minutes of Moto3’s second free practice that left a slightly damp Le Mans surface that quickly dried out as the sun broke through the cloud cover.
MotoGP’s last free practice of the day saw lap times drop but it was another tight session with nine riders were again in less than one second, but this time they were separated by just a little more than seven tenths.
Dani Pedrosa once again topped the timesheets and he posted a best lap of 1:34.035, six tenths faster than this morning, while his rookie team mate Marc Marquez was second fastest, that he managed with his last final flying lap and he was +0.134s from Pedrosa and he demoted Valentino Rossi to third by just 0.004s
Rossi is having issues with his brakes overheating, but he was able to post his best time on used tires and after his team raised the front end of his Yamaha M1. Team mate Jorge Lorenzo was fourth fastest and just 0.166s from Pedrosa.
It was sunny, but very cold this morning for the first MotoGP free practice at the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans. The fastest rider of the session was Dani Pedrosa who was immediately set the pace in what turned out to be a tight practice with nine riders in less than nine tenths of a second.
The Repsol Honda rider is on a high after his first victory of the season at Jerez stopped the clock in 1.34.645, but Jorge Lorenzo was right on his tail and just 0.040s adrift.
Valentino Rossi was third fastest followed by Ducati duo Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso, who were 4th and 5th respectively, and just 0.327 and 0.427 from the top of the timesheets and effectively Le Mans seems to work for the Desmosedici, even in the dry.
MotoGP followers know that Valentino Rossi, Andrea Iannone, Danilo Petrucci, Lukas Pesek and Stefan Bradl all wear AGV’s ultra modern Pista GP.
The AGV Pista GP was born on the racetrack and designed according to AGV’s own ‘Extreme Standards Helmets‘ and these above MotoGP riders talk about the improved features and virtues of using this helmet, from its lightness, the ventilation air takes that radically improves cooling, the visor that has been enlarged and extended upwards, which allows them to see better when they are tucked in behind the fairing or heading towards a turn.
Check out what four of the riders had to say about this helmet.
Even if the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans is considered a stop-and-go track, Yamaha usually performs well and the team is hoping to capitalize on the historically friendly circuit, after what turned out to be a suprisingly demanding Jerez GP for the two factory riders.
Yamaha has won four of out of five last French GPs, and both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have each recorded three MotoGP wins at Le Mans.
The team will be displaying special logo on Lorenzo’s and Rossi’s Yamahas’ during the weekend in tribute to Yamaha legend Jean Claude Olivier who passed away tragically earlier this year in a road traffic accident.
Known to all as ‘JCO’, Olivier was a Yamaha icon and loyal employee for 45 years until his retirement in 2010. JCO competed in the Dakar Rally for Yamaha from 1979 to 1989, finishing second in 1985. There will also be a display of images inside Yamaha’s Hospitality depicting highlights of Yamaha Motor France’s story in road racing.
Lorenzo who had a rough Jerez GP after bashing fairings with Marc Marquez. The Spaniard has made peace with the Honda rider - shaking his hand during the flight home - but has vowed to improve even more and warned that if it’s necessary he’ll revert back to being as aggressive as he was in the 250cc class.
There were mixed fortunes for Yamaha’s factory team during today’s qualifying session at Jerez de la Frontera.
Reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo celebrated a very happy 26th birthday with another pole position to add to his growing record (he has 27 in MotoGP) and on the track where he debuted for the first time in GP racing the circuit officially unveiled Lorenzo’s corner.
Despite the hot (about 20° more than yesterday) and slippery surface conditions, Lorenzo rode to his second pole position of the season with a by 0.247s margin over Dani Pedrosa, but as usual it is his race pace that is enviable, and he doesn’t look like he will have tire wear issues, despite concerns raised by all the riders regarding the durability of the soft compound.
I’m happy with this pole position, it’s a good present for my birthday! I knew the track was not perfect, it’s very warm and there were a lot of crashes in Moto2 and the previous qualifying. I just tried to make the perfect lap, unfortunately I couldn’t; I made a mistake in two braking zones and went wide and lost some tenths. Anyway, in the other corners I was really quick and at the limit so it was enough to make it. It’s going to be tough tomorrow, normally the lap time you make for qualifying you can’t repeat in another time because the tyre drops. We hope to improve the bike a little bit to get more comfortable with pace. Anyway I think we can fight for the win or at least for the podium tomorrow,” said the birthday boy.
Valentino Rossi will start 5th in tomorrow’s Spanish GP and you have to go back to Valencia 2010 to find him in a better qualifying position. The Italian rider crashed at the Criville corner after losing the front of his Yamaha, but walked away with no consequences.
Rossi said, “Today the practices were not so bad. The position is the best qualifying for us this year. The second row is quite good; we can also do better. Unfortunately at the end I had a crash but I’m ok, I don’t have any problems so we are more or less ready for tomorrow. The bigger issue is how high the rhythm will be with the used tyre. Especially with the hot conditions the rear tyre slides a lot so it is important to see how high the rhythm is after seven or eight laps. Now we try to make the best setting and we will see tomorrow.”
Despite having finished on top of the timesheest in both Friday’s practices, Jorge Lorenzo was not completely satisfied. With four other riders behind him and separated by just 0.327s, the reigning World Champion isn’t feeling completely at ease with his race pace, and admits that he has to improve on it and needs to find an extra three or four tenths in order to keep his competition at bay, and is still pondering over which tire to use on Sunday.
“At the beginning of the second practice I felt better than this morning but with the warmer temperatures it has been difficult to keep the same pace. We will have to work on the settings to keep the same pace for tomorrow. We need to try to improve our pace by three or four tenths, to ride comfortably in the 39s will be a good feeling. I’m happy that we are first in today’s two sessions but I want more,” said Lorenzo who will turn 26 tomorrow.
Jerez is one of Valentino Rossi’s favorite tracks and even if he was fourth fastest and a little more than three tenths adrift, the Italian also isn’t satisfied after trying the set-up he used at the Jerez test in March and also the Austin one.
Rossi also seems stumped on which tire to use because with the hard spec his M1 starts to slip in full lean and heats up and loses its grip in acceleration, while he’s not sure that the softer option will last the distance.
“The first and second practices were not so bad. We tried to work and understand a good balance for the bike. We still haven’t found the perfect way yet. We also tried to understand the right tyre choice for the race because it is difficult with the soft and also with the hard so we need to make sure we make the right choice to go fast on Sunday. Anyway, we are in fourth place and not so far from pole position. Tomorrow we have to try to continue to work in this way because it will be important for the race to start at the maximum within the first five,” said Rossi.
When Kevin Schwantz announced that he was coming out of retirement to race in the Suzuka 8 Hours next July, there were rumors that MotoGP riders Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow could be joining him on the grid, however both Yamaha riders denied that they will be taking part in the iconic race.
“It’s a gruelling event. Of course I’d look at it but it’s not something that’s been openly discussed. My concentration is on MotoGP and to do the best job I can here for Monster Yamaha Tech 3. If an opening arises to go there I can at least go and battle with Kevin! We’ll see it may happen it may not. I’ve heard nothing so far,” commented Crutchlow during Thursday’s pre-race press conference at Jerez.
Valentino Rossi has already competed in the endurance race twice, but when he was much younger, and he and Colin Edwards won the 2001 edition aboard a Honda VTR 1000 branded Castrol.
“I think not. The schedule for the world championship is very difficult. It’s always one weekend on, one weekend off, we never have a longer break apart from when is the Eight-Hours. I like a lot to do the Eight-Hours with the Yamaha and to do it together with Cal would be a great feeling but to make it is very heavy. To do the test, you have to go in Japan and after the race you have a problem with your body for two or three months because it is like doing four grand prix in a row, pow, pow, pow, pow. I have the idea and I spoke with Cal but maybe when we are more old. Maybe me, Cal and Jorge!” laughed Rossi.
After the jump you take a look at highlight video - in Japanese - from the event.
The first MotoGP free practice at sunny Jerez saw the Honda and Yamaha factory bikes almost on equal footing with Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo fighting over the top of the timesheets.
It took Lorenzo his last flying hot lap in 1:39.701 to demote Pedrosa to second, but he was only be able to pip him by 0.003s and they were the only two riders to head under the 1.40 barrier.
Pedrosa was very effective in the fourth sector and already has a good pace, while Lorenzo was faster in the third and losing more time in the fourth - where the corner named after him is - as was his team mate Valentino Rossi finished in third and 0.366s adrift.
Cal Crutchlow was fourth fastest, and his lap times were more erratic and he also ran off track, but he was on Rossi’s tail and 0.046 from the Italian and he had been the fastest in the Jerez IRTA tests last March.
Marc Marquez who had never won at Jerez in none of the classes, was fifth, but he seemed to have more problems setting up his Honda this time and he was more than seven tenths adrift from the top of the timesheets.
Nicky Hayden was sixth and the fastest Ducati rider, and was one second adrift and ahead of the two satellite Honda riders Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista.
Aleix Espargaro broke into the top ten with his ART bike and was ninth, ahead of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Pramac’s Andrea Iannone who is still suffering from arm issues. Ducati’s wild card rider Michele Pirro who is riding a laboratory bike with a different frame was 12th and 1.625 from Lorenzo.