It was a Saturday to write home about at Le Mans for Yamaha. In the afternoon qualifiers, the Japanese manufacturer monopolized the front row. In fact, there will be no less than three M1 machines opening up the starting grid for the race tomorrow afternoon at 2 PM.
Maverick Viñales was ahead of the rest, setting the bar at 1’31”994. The Spaniard did a perfect lap, the only one to drop below the 1’32” mark. The Spaniard left a few tenths on the track in the last sector, but no one was able to question his performance: “I think we can still take some steps forward – number 25 said – Maybe I still don’t feel competitive in the braking sections, but we have what we need to make some improvements.”
Behind him was Valentino Rossi (+0.106), once again on the front row after Jerez. The Doctor had to reckon with traffic, finding Miller in his line on the first lap after ending up on the ground, but then he pulled the lap out of his hat that gave him the second place time: “This afternoon was the first lap in the dry and I was able to be fast – the Doctor analysed – Plus, the changes proved to be positive. On the first attempt with Jack I lost time – he remembered – But on the next lap I was able to be fast.” The nine-time world champion is still struggling in T3, especially in the turn eight braking section. Therefore, there is work to be done for tomorrow.
The cherry on the top for Saturday at Le Mans was Johann Zarco (+0.235). The Frenchman managed to go through to Q2, beating Dani Pedrosa out for the last slot. Then, in qualifying, he went out on the track with a knife between his teeth, taking the third best time on his last assault to earn a spot on the first row in MotoGP: “This is definitely a nice satisfaction – the Tech3 rider said – I felt a lot of warmth from the fans. At first I thought it was for Rossi, but in the end it was for me. It’s a pity about the crash this morning, but I was still able to be competitive.”
The premiere class rookie dropped Cal Crutchlow (+0.306) from the top three, forcing him to settle for fourth place. Things certainly did not go better for Marc Marquez who even wound up in the gravel on his first attempt at turn three. The Spaniard finished behind the Brit by just 71 thousandths, ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (+0.732) who had the best time in Q1.
It was a different situation, on the other hand, for his teammate, since Lorenzo and Pedrosa did not manage to go through to Q2. The Majorcan was far from the best the whole time and he will start from the sixteenth spot tomorrow ahead of Iannone, whereas the Honda rider had his shot at making a play for the pole snatched from him by Zarco.
And so there is room on the third row for Redding’s Ducati, whereas Pol Espargaró’s KTM was a surprise with the eighth best time ahead of Karel Abraham’s Ducati. Another KTM is also in the top ten, the one ridden by Bradley Smith (tenth), ahead of Miller and Baz. It was anything but a tranquil Saturday for the Australian who ended up on the ground in every session. His crash in FP4 was quite frightening, but he came out unscathed.