Photography by Gold & Goose
The superlatives almost can’t describe the performance of Marc Marquez. Suffice it to say that the defending MotoGP World Champion was simply stunning Saturday on his factory Repsol Honda at the historic Le Mans circuit in France.
Marquez not only broke a six-year-old MotoGP track record, he also is the first rider to start from pole at six or more consecutive MotoGP races since Casey Stoner earned pole at seven successive races in 2008. Marquez was nearly 7-10ths of a second faster than the next rider, and was the only rider under the old track record of 1:32.647 set by Dani Pedrosa in 2008 on qualifying tires.
Coming a surprising second was Pol Espargaro, racing the Monster Energy Tec h 3 Yamaha at the team’s home event. It was perhaps an unanticipated performance considering Espargaro’s previous best grid position was eighth. Rounding out the front row is Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso. That made it three different manufacturers on the front row.
LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl will head up the second row ahead of Yamaha men Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.
The 15-minute Q2 determines the front four rows of the grid. From the very start Marquez established the benchmark with a 1:32.567, the fastest ever lap at Le Mans on a motorcycle, breaking a record that has held since 2008 and almost 4-10ths of a second faster than Lorenzo’s best early time. Marquez accomplished that outstanding feat on his first flying lap leaving the rest of the field in his wake.
And if his time set in the first half of the session wasn’t impressive enough, Marquez chopped another half-second off his own record time when he clocked a 1:32.042 in the closing minute of the session. It kept his string of pole positions perfect in 2014.
“I’m really happy for the new record of the circuit,” Marquez said. “I feel so good with the bike. We worked quite hard with the team. In the end we find better stability entering the corners, where yesterday I struggled a little bit and made a few mistakes. But today was much better, but for tomorrow I think the strongest guys will be not on the front row. For me it will be Jorge, Valentino and Dani who have a really good pace. But anyway, we will try to do our best and try to fight for the victory. If it’s not possible, try to finish on the podium.”
Pol Espargaro was thrilled with his first front-row start in only his fifth start in MotoGP.
“I’m so happy,” said the younger of the Espargaro brothers. ”For me this is my first small victory. We work so hard just not to be here, but to be a little competitive and to be in front. Finally this is amazing; we are here in five races and we are second on the grid. I know that it was just one lap. I know that on the rhythm we are not as the top guys, but starting from second position will give to me some power for tomorrow. At the beginning it will be important to take some meters from the other ones. It will be a good day tomorrow.”
For Dovi it also marks his first front-row start of 2014.
“We worked very well every practice,” Dovizioso said. “We were able to improve tenths by tenths every practice. So we arrived in the qualifying quite strong. Also our pace is quite good… I mean, it will be difficult to fight for the podium, but to start from the first row is really important. I’m happy with how the team worked.”
Americans Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards will both start on row five Sunday. Hayden, coming off an examination of a tender wrist, qualified just about where he has all season, 13th on his Honda-powered Drive M& Aspar. Edwards too was just about at par with his 15th-place starting spot aboard his NGM Forward Racing Yamaha.
In the U.S., live coverage of the MotoGP race at Le Mans begins at 8:00 a.m. Eastern on Fox Sports 1.
Le Mans MotoGP Qualifying – May 17, 2014
1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 32.042s [Lap 6/8] 304km/h (Top Speed)
2. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1)* 1m 32.734s +0.692s [8/9] 309km/h
3. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 1m 32.755s +0.713s [6/8] 308km/h
4. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 1m 32.846s +0.804s [8/9] 307km/h
5. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 1m 32.873s +0.831s [8/9] 307km/h
6. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 1m 32.899s +0.857s [8/9] 305km/h
7. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 1m 33.006s +0.964s [8/9] 308km/h
8. Aleix Espargaro ESP NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 1m 33.015s +0.973s [6/8] 301km/h
9. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 33.023s +0.981s [9/9] 310km/h
10. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 33.058s +1.016s [7/8] 305km/h
11. Andrea Iannone ITA Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 1m 33.102s +1.060s [3/8] 304km/h
12. Cal Crutchlow GBR Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 1m 33.315s +1.273s [2/8] 304km/h
13. Nicky Hayden USA Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) 1m 33.859s
14. Yonny Hernandez COL Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 1m 33.999s
15. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 1m 34.203s
16. Scott Redding GBR Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RCV1000R)* 1m 34.233s
17. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) 1m 34.457s
18. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing (RCV1000R) 1m 34.880s
19. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Avintia) 1m 35.499s
20. Broc Parkes AUS Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART)* 1m 35.795s
21. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART) 1m 35.932s
22. Mike Di Meglio FRA Avintia Racing (Avintia)* 1m 36.163s