2011 MotoGP : After their strong performances in Portugal, the Repsol Honda Team (trio) maintained momentum and rhythm in the first free practice sessions of the Grand Prix of France at Le Mans. The team returned to work with a similar set up used two weeks ago in Estoril, a comparable track layout wise, and after the first two sessions the riders are confident in improving their pace and performance looking for good qualifying results.
Casey Stoner topped the time sheets in both free practice sessions, with Dani Pedrosa the third fastest rider of the day and Andrea Dovizioso sixth.
Stoner's fastest lap time of 1'33.782 in his first outing with the RC212V in Le Mans was just a fraction off Valentino Rossi's pole position last season (1'33.408) and almost half a second quicker than the existing Circuit Lap Record of 1'34.215 set by Rossi in 2008.
Stoner kept a similar set up to Portugal and focused on improving traction in the rear of his machine. Pedrosa, after missing the majority of the post race test in Portugal due to his physical condition, took his time this afternoon to try the new Ohlins front fork and also both hard and soft tyres to compare.
Dovizioso spent the sessions trying to improve stability under braking and working on set up for tomorrow's qualifying session.
CASEY STONER – 1st - 1'33.782
FP1 - 1:34.133, 20 laps, 84 km.
FP2 - 1:33.782, 20 laps, 84 km.
"The track has quite good grip and we have a better feeling than in the past few years in this track and we are very happy, we went out this morning and didn't change so much from Portugal as the tracks are pretty similar for us, we felt good immediately and then changed a few things and tried something we haven't tested before on the Honda which seemed to give us more traction in the rear without affecting anything else.
"The weather is fantastic here and I hope it stays this way! We're happy to be where we are and we'll continue to work tomorrow morning to ensure we have the best set up for qualifying. Every session we do we're trying to modify something to improve the bike, I don't know if this is good enough to get pole at the moment as people are able to pull out a very good lap on the soft tyre, today we are fast but I'm sure tomorrow the others will also be fast, at this moment we feel comfortable with the settings with just a few more adjustments to make tomorrow, hopefully we can stay ahead of the rest".
DANI PEDROSA – 3rd - 1'34.431
FP1 - 1:34.431, 22 laps, 92 km.
FP2 - 1:34.478, 23 laps, 96 km.
"In the morning it was difficult with the cold conditions to find some grip and then in the afternoon the grip got better but we couldn't improve as much as we expected. Anyway we have some ideas and I hope to make a step forward tomorrow. We need to work on the front and rear suspension to get a better feeling, the bike was moving a lot this afternoon entering and at the exit of the corners. We have to keep the momentum and bounce back again because we are doing well, the bike is going very strong and we have to keep focused and work hard".
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO – 6th - 1'34.705
FP1 - 1:34.808, 22 laps, 92 km.
FP2 - 1:34.705, 21 laps, 88 km.
“This morning we started well and we continued working on the set up of the bike in the afternoon. We tried a different setting on the other bike to improve the stability under braking but we didn’t get the results we expected. Tomorrow we will continue to fine tune the set up and the electronics.
"I feel I have margin to improve so I’m not too worried, I have always had good results on this track and the feeling with the machine is good. I’m not happy of the nine tenths gap from Casey, he is very fast, but apart from him we are closer to the first riders. We need to keep on working and improve the race pace."
MARC MARQUEZ - Moto2
FP1 - 1'39.764, 23 laps, 96 km.
FP2 - 1'39.236, 21 laps, 88 km.
"We are happy with the work we did today, as each time we took the track we improved our times. In the first Free Session, it was a bit difficult because we arrive to a circuit hat is new for me, although I know it from 125cc, but the lines and the references are different. We have to go slowly to avoid any mistakes.
"I crashed due to an oil spill on track. I did not see the flag, or maybe they had not time to show it, but it was nothing serious. In the second Practice Session, we followed the same line, improving with each step. It is clear that we need to improve a bit in some aspects, but we will be again near the fastest in no time and that is always positive."