Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, Qualifying round-up: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Having secured MotoGP™ pole again at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France Marc Marquez will head the grid for Sunday’s fifth race of 2014, with the front row also featuring Pol Espargaro and Andrea Dovizioso.
After the first flying laps Marquez was immediately top with a 1’32.567, to set a new fastest ever lap of Le Mans, the World Champion then improving to a remarkable 1’32.042 time to maintain his 100% qualifying record in 2014.
Repsol Honda’s Marquez was 0.692s clear of rookie Espargaro with the latter securing his best MotoGP grid result to date. Espargaro’s performance at his team’s home round will fill him with confidence ahead of just his fifth premier class race.
Making good use of the extra soft tyre Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso qualified 0.713s behind Marquez to take the final spot on the front row.
The second row features Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP), who has recovered quickly from arm pump surgery since Jerez, with Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) reaching his personal target of qualifying in the top five as he slots in behind the German.
Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was 0.857s off pole in sixth place but he will still be confident of a good race at a venue where he has a strong record.
Making up an all Spanish the third row are Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini), top Open rider Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team).
The fourth row meanwhile comprises Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech3), Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing) and Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team), with Iannone briefly flashing up in second place provisionally before his lap time was cancelled as he exceeded the track limits.
The Moto2™ race on Sunday at Le Mans will start with rookie Jonas Folger at the head of the grid, in front of Tito Rabat and Luis Salom on row one.
Folger (AGR Team) secured the fifth Grand Prix pole of his career and his first since graduating to the intermediate class with a late 1’37.619s lap, as he looks to build on his Jerez podium result.
Behind the German on the grid are Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team) and Salom (Pons HP 40), with Rabat on provisional pole for a long period of a session which also brought a crash for the standings leader.
There will be plenty of experience on row two with Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team), Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) and Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing) qualifying fourth to sixth respectively.
Moto3™ World Champion Maverick Viñales (Pons HP 40) surged to seventh late on, with fellow Spaniard Ricard Cardus (Tech 3) and former Moto3 title winner Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) slotting in behind rookie Viñales, despite a crash for Cortese mid-session. Sam Lowes (Speed Up) rounds out the top ten.
There were also crashes for Johann Zarco (AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing), Lorenzo Baldassarri (Gresini Moto2) and Franco Morbidelli (Italtrans Racing Team) in the session, though none of that trio were injured.
Moto3™ qualifying in France saw Efren Vazquez (SAXOPRINT RTG) outpace the rest of the field in Le Mans with a new pole record of 1’42.491, with Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) joining him on the front row.
Vazquez has taken a step up this season in terms of his competitiveness and he achieved his first Grand Prix pole by a 0.025s margin from standings leader Miller, whilst Rins missed out on top spot by 0.227s as he was hindered on a late fast lap.
Local hero Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold) heads the second row and might have done better had he not crashed immediately after setting his best time. He was not seriously hurt in the incident and is joined on row two by Niklas Ajo (Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo) and Isaac Viñales (Calvo Team).
The third row will feature Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0), John McPhee (SAXOPRINT RTG) and Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia).
The winner of the last two races Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) just sneaked into the top ten at the end and therefore will get away from the head of the fourth row.
In addition to Masbou there were crashes without significant consequences for Luca Grünwald (Kiefer Racing) at Museum Corner and Hafiq Azmi (SIC-Ajo KTM) who walked away from nasty late spill on the final corner.