Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider, Michael van der Mark, finished what was a damp and dismal opening day in France at the top of the timesheet, despite completing just 10 laps of the Magny-Cours circuit in FP1 and then sitting out a fully wet FP2. The same approach was adopted by teammate Alex Lowes, who ended the day eighth fastest.
The opening free practice this morning started on a fully wet track, although the rain had eased shortly before pit lane opened. With 15 minutes of the session remaining dry patches had started to appear around the 4.411km track, but not a continuous dry line. Van der Mark made the most of the slightly improved conditions to set the fastest time on his first run and then improving further on his second and final run.
With continuous rain and a fully wet track for this afternoon’s 50-minute free practice, van der Mark and Lowes knew that nobody was going to improve on their times from the morning and, with grip at the Magny-Cours track notoriously unpredictable, the two Pata Yamaha riders opted to err on the side of caution and sit out the session.
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Marco Melandri, was third fastest today, again with his time in the mixed conditions of this morning’s free practice. The veteran Italian did participate in the second session but limited himself to just five laps to get a feel for the track in the wet.
Sandro Cortese, making his debut aboard a Superbike here in Magny-Cours was hoping for dry weather in which to learn the track, but he was left disappointed. The reigning Supersport World Champion was caught out by the unpredictability of the Magny-Cours circuit in the wet this afternoon, losing the front on the brakes into Turn 8 and sliding off the bike. Cortese landed heavily on the shoulder injured in his Donington Park qualifying crash but was passed fit to continue after a precautionary check-up in the circuit medical centre.
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Loris Baz, was also one of the few to venture onto the circuit this afternoon, with the Frenchman completing nine laps in front of those spectators who’d braved the weather, before returning to the pit box. Baz ended the day fifth fastest overall with his time from this morning’s opening free practice.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P1 – 1’51.852
“It’s been a bit of a strange day. This morning the track was wet at the start but already starting to dry up a little, so we waited quite a long time before going out. At the end it wasn’t dry, it wasn’t wet, and the track conditions were less than perfect, but I had a good feeling with the bike straight away. I didn’t really push for a time, but ended up quickest, so it was a good start to the day. This afternoon it started to rain a lot before the session, and it continued throughout. We waited to see if the conditions would improve, but they didn’t so we decided to sit out the session as I have a good feeling with the bike already and, anyway, the forecast is for dry conditions from tomorrow onwards.”
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P8 – 1’52.945
“Magny-Cours is one of those places where it’s sometimes a bit hit and miss with the weather, so the conditions today weren’t unexpected. It was good to get out on the track again this morning, even if the mixed conditions meant we weren’t able to learn much. But the feeling with the bike was good, which is one of the reasons why we opted to sit out the second session this afternoon, the other being that the weather looks set to improve ahead of FP3. Despite the limited track time today, we’ll be ready for qualifying and the first race tomorrow.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P3 – 1’52.647
“Very difficult weather here today at Magny-Cours, a track that is already very tricky in the wet because the grip is so unpredictable. This morning it was starting to dry a bit towards the end of the session and the track wasn’t so bad. This afternoon, with the onset of the rain, it was difficult to see and the bike was aquaplaning a lot, even in places where there didn’t look to be a lot of water. Luckily it looks like we’re going to have better weather tomorrow and Sunday and I hope we’ll get three dry races. It’s never easy here but this afternoon I wasn’t fast, but I felt better on the bike and this morning the feeling was even a bit better. But while I’m still not completely confident when it’s fully wet, the feeling is definitely better than it was in Misano.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P19 – 1’56.616
“It’s not been the best of days. The weather hasn’t really helped because it’s my first time here on the Superbike and I was hoping for dry conditions in which to learn the track today. A big crash this afternoon in the second session meant the day pretty much finished as badly as it started, but the forecast is for better weather tomorrow and I hope to improve everything ahead of qualifying and the first race.”
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P5 – 1’52.820
“The rain seems to be following me around at the moment! The grip here at Magny-Cours has always been limited in the wet, but it seems to get worse every year. We did a pretty good job this morning. Maybe as the track dried towards the end a slick may have been an option, but it would have also been a risk, which we preferred not to take as it will be dry from tomorrow onwards. This afternoon I didn’t do so many laps but we tried a few things in the fully wet conditions that could stand us in good stead if the weather forecast proves to be wrong, which is a distinct possibility here. It was good to finish the opening day in the top five, but we have a lot to do if we’re going to prepare the bike for dry qualifying tomorrow morning in the final 20-minute practice session, which we hope will be run in good conditions.”