Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) has taken Friday honours at the Shark helmets Grand Prix de France after setting a 1:31.428 in the second Free Practice session, the Spaniard going almost two tenths quicker than second place Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as FP1 leader and home hero Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) completes the top three.
After sunshine met the riders for FP1, the Le Mans clouds loomed at the start of the second session of the day with all the riders knowing FP2 could prove to be a vital session in terms of an automatic Q2 place.
But it wasn’t the start to the session two of the top seven from FP1 would have been looking for. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) had a strange crash on the exit of Turn 8, the front of his GP19 folding on the curb as the Italian and his bike slid down the road. Thankfully, Petrucci was ok and soon after, fellow Ducati man Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) crashed at Turn 3 – rider ok.
⏱️ @mvkoficial12 fastest from @marcmarquez93, @FabioQ20 in crucial FP2— MotoGP™ 🇫🇷 (@MotoGP) May 17, 2019
With the weather set to play a part in FP3, the second Free Practice session was vital as big-name riders finish outside the top ten#MotoGP | #FrenchGP 📰 https://t.co/TldnuVMUGh pic.twitter.com/4SmgLDS9l7
There weren’t many overall improvements in the first half of the session but as the clock ticked towards the final 15 minutes, quicker times started to be posted. The Hondas of Marquez and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) were looking good at the top of the times but as the soft rear tyres came out to play with just under ten minutes to go, it was another Honda rider who shot to the top of the times.
Repsol Honda Team’s Jorge Lorenzo went fastest overall as red sectors lit up the timing screens, with Crutchlow crashing out unhurt at Turn 6 – at this point, he was on the brink of losing a top ten place. And sure enough, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro improved to push the British rider out, with Viñales then moving the goal posts to go top by 0.167.
FP1’s second fastest man Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) then looked set to take over the number one spot, but the Italian lost time in the last sector to go to third. Just like he did in FP1, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was impressing inside the top ten despite a crash at the final corner midway through the session. But then, just after brother Aleix has crashed at Turn 3, Pol hit the deck again, this time at Turn 11. Miller also went into the Turn 11 gravel trap shortly after the KTM rider, both were ok.
Back on track and Viñales went quicker again and it would be the Spaniard who ended FP2 at the top of the times after finishing FP1 in fourth, with Marquez jumping from fifth to second across the two sessions. Quartararo will be happy with his day on home turf, a P3 and less than a tenth of Marquez is a good sign for the Frenchman heading into Saturday. Lorenzo finishes fourth on Day 1 in France after ending FP1 down in 14th, Dovi closes out the top five.
Petrucci recovered from his early crash to finish sixth, 0.471 off Viñales, with Pol Espargaro heading Aleix Espargaro in seventh and eighth. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) gets himself a top ten slot in ninth, the Japanese rider recovering from a P15 in the morning, with Miller holding on to P10 by a whisker – the Australian didn’t improve in FP2 as he edges out Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) by 0.001. How crucial could that thousandth of a second prove to be?
Some big names are missing out on a top ten currently, which could mean we see a barnstorming FP3 if the weather holds off. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) left it incredibly late to put in a soft rear tyre to finish 14th on the combined times, with second in the Championship Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) having a below-par day in P16. Crutchlow ended up in P12.
Five manufacturers are inside the top ten in Le Mans, with Suzuki the ones currently missing out. With a second also covering the top 16, a dry FP3 will be welcomed by plenty of the riders – but it remains to be seen what the weather will bring. Tune into Saturday morning’s action at 09:55 local time (GMT+2).
Top 10 Combined:
1. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) 1:31.428
2. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.190
3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.285
4. Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.288
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 0.308
6. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) + 0.471
7. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.495
8. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) +0.704
9. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) +0.775
10. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) +0.810