Just .166 of a second separates the top four riders after the first day of practice for Sunday’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans with just a tick over a second between pace setter Dani Pedrosa and 10th-placed Aleix Espargaro after a tight second session at the historic circuit.
The top three in the series all took turns at the top of the timesheets as the session was held in dry conditions, despite the earlier Moto3 session ending with a rain and hail storm. First it was Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, then it was Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo. But finally it was Pedrosa, the Repsol Honda rider moving to the top for the first time with a bit over 10 minutes to go with a 1:34.155. From there the Spaniard continued to improve, posting a 1:34.079 on his penultimate lap before throwing down a 1:34.035 on his final lap.
"In today's practice sessions it was important to test the tires and make the most of the dry track time, because here you usually don't have that opportunity,” Pedrosa said. “So I tried to stay out on track for as long as possible and gather the best information, because maybe tomorrow it will rain - and you don't have that chance again. Luckily, the weather held up and we were able to make some positive steps, which we hope to capitalize on for the race on Sunday."
With rain expected tomorrow, the top 10 from today’s afternoon session could very well make up the top 10 for the Qualifying 2 session tomorrow afternoon.
Marquez ended up moving to second on is final lap, the young phenom just .134 of a second behind Pedrosa with his 1:34.169. When he did so he displaced an on-form Valentino Rossi, the Italian legend moving to second with just under six minutes left in the session and staying there before Marquez’ late effort.
Still, Rossi ended up third and just .138 of a second off the top spot and ahead of his teammate Lorenzo, the defending World Champion ending up fourth and only .004 behind Rossi.
Stefan Bradl had a good session on his satellite Honda, the German doing his best lap while chasing Rossi. Sixth fastest today was Cal Crutchlow, the Brit still only less than half a second off Pedrosa’s best.
Then came the two factory Ducatis with Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden seventh and eighth, respectively, and happy to be just half a second from the top.
Fun & Go Honda’s Alvaro Bautista and top CRT man Espargaro rounded out the top 10.
The only crasher of note was Andrea Iannone, the Italian falling from the Pramac Ducati mid-session in the final corner.
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:34.035
2. Marc Marquez (Honda) 1:34.169
3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:34.173
4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:34.201
5. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:34.299
6. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:34.512
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 1:34.512
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:34.590
9. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:34.739
10. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 1:35.045