Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi immediately displayed a solid pace today. He used the two sunny free practice sessions to the fullest to prepare for Sunday’s Grand Prix de France, and secured third place in the combined results. Maverick Viñales carried out his usual strategy, gradually building up his speed throughout the free practice sessions. At the end of FP1 he made it clear he is set on being a strong contender this weekend when he posted a provisional fastest lap on used tyres, and kept up the good work in the afternoon when he took fourth place in the combined timings.
Rossi was quick to get into the swing of things during the morning. He topped the provisional standings just a few minutes into FP1, before he put his attention to working on his YZR-M1’s set-up. He went on to look for a good tyre combination and booked progress throughout the session. He finished in sixth place with a 1’32.777s lap, 0.301s from the front.
The Italian duplicated his strong form in the afternoon. Just ten minutes into the session he was flashing red sectors in the first half of his lap, but wasn’t able to complete the time attack as he ran into traffic. However, it wasn’t until the last ten minutes that the pace really heated up. After tweaking the balance of his bike, the Doctor climbed up to third in the ranking order with a 1’32.179s lap, 0.243s from first.
Viñales was looking strong in the cooler first free practice. Having found a good basis for his bike at the start of FP1, it only took him four minutes to put his Yamaha on the number one spot. After spending most of the remainder of the session trying further setting options, he successfully put the final result to the test at the end. The young gun set the provisional fastest time in fourfold in the final few minutes to ultimately take over at the top of the timesheets with a best lap of 1’32.543s. This time was strong enough to secure him third place, 0.067s from the leader, when the chequered flag came out.
The Spaniard kept chipping away at his provisional fastest lap time from FP1 in the afternoon. He first put in some testing labour again, preferring to use the start of the session to try new set-up changes for his Yamaha, before putting his head down in the later stages. Like clockwork, he went into the pits with ten minutes remaining, to make a quick tyre change before setting his best lap of the day, a 1’32.204s, for fourth place, 0.268s from the top of the timesheets.
As nearly all MotoGP riders improved their times in the afternoon session, Rossi and Viñales hold their third and fourth place respectively in the combined free practice timesheets.
Position: 3rd – Time: 1’32.179 – Laps: 42
“We started the French GP in a good way. I was quite strong in FP1 and I also had a good pace in the afternoon with the hotter temperatures. I tried some different setting options and some different tyres and at the end I did a good lap. It’s very positive to stay within the top-3, even if it’s just Friday. At this track the bike works very well, so you can push and it looks like our pace is not too bad on a used tyre. It’s still early on in the weekend, we still have to decide on different things – especially the tyres, but also the balance of the bike – but it was a good start.”
Position: 4th – Time: 1’32.204 – Laps – 42
“This afternoon we tried some new things that didn’t work, so we lost a lot of time in the box. I couldn’t get into the rhythm, especially with the medium front tyre, because I need to do a couple of laps on it to trust it. However, at the end I felt good and did a good two laps, it was consistent. For tomorrow, I think we still have things to improve on, but the bike is working well all around the track and I feel comfortable on it. I’m quite confident that I can fight for a good place in qualifying tomorrow. In FP2 the bike was working quite good, I just don’t think we used the best tyre option. Overall I’m happy, because the rhythm is there when I push, so I can make a good lap time. Let’s see what happens tomorrow, but so far I feel good.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“Today’s two FP sessions were a good start to the weekend. Even though we knew Le Mans could be a good track for us, we still had some reservations before we started FP1. Both Valentino and Maverick have good pace and speed and feel very comfortable on their bikes. Despite the fact that Maverick spent too much time in the garage during FP2, we have been able to compare different bike settings and tyre specs with both riders, finding good information. The track temperatures changed considerably from FP1 to FP2, but we managed the situation. We expect it to be a very challenging weekend and we are confident that we can make further improvements on the bikes’ balance for tomorrow’s FP3.”
Strong Start for Monster Yamaha Tech3 Duo on Home Soil
With high motivation Johann Zarco initiated his and the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team’s home Grand Prix at the Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans in great form. The French star pleased his numerous fans with the fifth fastest time in FP1 and FP2 on Friday as the best independent team rider of the MotoGP World Championship.
Meanwhile, Hafizh Syahrin was learning the French track on the big machine in the course of the first day of action and improved impressively with each run to eventually finish in P19, just 1.499 seconds off the top. Both, Syahrin and Zarco are thrilled about the support of the French crowd and can’t wait to be back on track tomorrow morning at 9.55 local time for the third Free Practice of the fifth round in 2018.
Position: 5th – Time: 1’32.279 – Laps: 40
“This was a good first day here in France, the weather was really nice, although it was a long time ago, that we had such fresh condition, which were even there with the sun. Therefore, I needed to take care with the tyres, because you feel that you have less grip, but the Yamaha is usually working well here and my feeling was coming good quickly. We did a solid job trough out the day. In the afternoon we were competitive but were still missing something. We hope to have good conditions tomorrow again to find this step, which will for sure help me a lot and then I think, we will be able to be fast on every lap.”
Position: 19th – Time: 1’33.667 – Laps: 40
“We’ve done the first day in a good way, also my confidence is coming back after the crash from Texas and also the condition of my body is a lot better like in the beginning of the season. Now I try to find some extra confidence on the brakes, because I always have a strange feeling at the exit of the first corner and I don’t know why. But step by step we are getting closer and we’re also not far from the best rookie and I think I just need to do more laps, trying to understand the bike better and change my riding style a bit. On the M1 we did just small things with the setup, so it’s up to me now to find a good compromise with my riding while getting used to the bike more and more.”