Pramac Ducati rider Johann Zarco proved quickest in a changeable Friday in MotoGP with lap times proving crucial with predicted weather tomorrow.
MotoGP was out for FP1 in the wet at Le Mans. It was not raining when the session began, so riders were expected to go out and put a banker lap in because there was ever the threat of it raining again. The cold dampness would make it difficult to dial into the bike and track, which would be more important today after the Jerez test two weeks ago, the spec of the bike may be slightly different.
Fabio Quartararo was injured after his arm pump surgery, and will just be trying to get a feel for his limit after the problem. Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia was on the bike that won here last year in the wet, and that would be weighing on his mind.
The session went green, and a steady stream of riders left the pitlane to feel out the conditions. Jack Miller, Jerez winner, was ahead early on as riders got into a groove and put lap times in. World champion Joan Mir had an engine issue and pulled off at Garage Vert, becoming the first incident of the day.
The sun was out, and there was a dry line beginning to appear. This was expected to be the driest it would be all weekend, which Jack Miller decided to try slick tires for.
It was beginning to darken up again, and it seemed as though now was the time to put a lap on the board. It felt like a true qualifying session, there was a dry line, but black clouds. Alex Marquez put slicks on too, while everyone was praying to the gods for it not to rain. It was getting very dark, and it was beginning to spit. Miller smashed a lap in to go second. He was half a second up halfway through his second hot lap. It was obvious slicks were the tire to be on.
Alex Marquez crashed and his slick tire run was over. Then Miller put a time in that threw everyone else down the drain. 2.3 seconds up on anyone else, and then it started to rain properly. Maverick Vinales crashed on wets. It was a tire temperature problem, as he fell coming out of the pit lane. It was back to wet conditions now, but P2-10 was still up for grabs.
In the end, best of the rest went to Johann Zarco, but he was still over two seconds away from Miller, who led FP1 thanks to an inspired decision to put slick tires on at the perfect time.
In the afternoon, the expected rain did not arrive, but the clouds were still threatening. It was slick tire track conditions, but a mad scramble for fast times could be expected as in Le Mans, it could pour any minute.
Indeed, when the green flag dropped, everyone went out on soft front-soft rear combinations to ensure an early banker if it began to rain. It was incredibly tricky, these riders had no prior dry running at Le Mans, and they needed to hit the limit immediately.
The early leader was Quartararo, who was already in the 1:33s laps. Aleix Espargaro crashed at turn 3, as did Bagnaia. Both had the typical turn 3 tumbles, but were ok and went back to the pitlane. Then Espargaro did it again, down at turn 3 due to lack of temperature. Marc Marquez was the next to have problems. He kept it upright, but fell off the track at Garage Vert and rode through the gravel. Then Quartararo did it, he was down at turn 3 as well. It was the most expensive Friday in recent memory as Jack Miller then went down as well, this time at turn 7.
In the final five minutes, the lap times were rolling in again. Franco Morbidelli went up into third, Pol Espargaro went to second, Miller to fifth. Alex Rins crashed and was done for the day. Joan Mir did the same thing meaning both Suzuki’s were down at the end of FP2.
Red sectors were incoming from about five riders. Zarco was the best of them and finished FP2 on top. Quartararo made it a French 1-2 in second, followed by Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales. It was a good session for Honda, with both factory riders in the top 10, and Nakagami’s LCR machine. Not so for Suzuki, who had no bikes in the top 10, which may prove crucial if FP3 is washed out as well as for Bagnaia, who was out of the top 10 thanks to his crash at turn 3.
The top 10 of the combined sessions is as follows:
|1||J. Zarco||Pramac Ducati||1.31.747|
|2||F. Quartararo||Monster Energy Yamaha||+0.095|
|3||M. Vinales||Monster Energy Yamaha||+0.389|
|4||P. Espargaro||Repsol Honda||+0.390|
|5||F. Morbidelli||Petronas Yamaha||+0.532|
|6||M. Oliveira||Red Bull KTM||+0.549|
|8||M. Marquez||Repsol Honda||+0.885|
|9||V. Rossi||Petronas Yamaha||+0.922|
|10||T. Nakagami||LCR Honda||+0.964|