Showers previous to the second day of proceedings at the Le Mans Circuit in France where the Moto3 class were meeting for the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France meant that during the morning, the 250cc class were greeted by a damp track that took its time to dry out because of overcast and cool temperatures.
Rodrigo out of action in Le Mans
RBA ROE Racing Team rider Gabriel Rodrigo has been ruled out of proceedings after suffering a broken collarbone when he crashed out of Free Practice on the opening day. He was present at the track however to watch on although he was more than likely wishing he was out there instead. We hope you have a speedy recovery!
Mixed conditions bring surprise results
The damp conditions, especially with the Moto3 class, throw up loads of surprises. Earlier on in the session, it was the likes of Marco Bezzecchi (CIP), Albert Arenas (Aspar Mahindra Moto3), Manuel Pagliani (CIP), and Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) who were all giving a taste of their talents as the riders adapted to the drying track.
Bezzecchi initially was quickest during the beginning of the final Free Practice session but Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) soon knocked him down, and then to add to it, Antonell’s teammate Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) did so as well.
Dalla Porta crashes out after going top
The three were soon budged down another place by Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Aspar Mahindra Moto3), but the Italian was pushing just a little too hard as he became a victim to turn three on his next lap. He lost the front of his Mahindra and slid out at a corner that was to prove difficult for many throughout the day.
Bendsneyder soon got caught out there but he was able to recover quickly. Meanwhile his teammate, Antonelli continued to reduce his fastest lap time as he had once again acquired the top spot with his pace.
Only five riders improved during FP3 so far
Because of the conditions, there were only five riders who had managed to improve on combined times throughout the three Free Practice sessions. Atiratphuvapat, Arenas, Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate), 2016 Moto3 Le Mans race winner Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) and Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) were the only ones, and the likes of Del Conca Gresini Moto3 teammates Fabio Di Giannantonio and Jorge Martin, and Livio Loi (Leopard Racing) refrained from ventuing out at all.
In time for the final 15 minutes of the session parts of the track had begun to dry out making it patchy as the dry line formed. British Talent Team rider John McPhee ventured out briefly on his Honda but soon returned to his bits not willing to risk any further damage to his hand caused in Jerez during the previous round.
Bulega and Antonelli battle for the top spot
Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) looked to come close to stealing the top spot from Antonelli’s previous time. He had a strong first section, but then Jules Danilo (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) got in his way and spoiled his momentum and his time. Around five minutes and a couple of laps later however, Bulega was successful in reducing Antonelli’s time by 0.061 seconds.
The majority of the field were able to continue on setting personal best lap times. Kent for example made his way up to seventh on the timesheets, Atiratphuvapat shot into third, and Pagliani, Dalla Porta and Arenas made further attempts to claim the top spot.
Bulega quickest heading into Qualifying
But it was Bulega remained quickest after reducing his own time by 0.249 seconds and ended the final Free Practice session as the quickest man with a lap time of 1:50.175. Dalla Porta was second quickest ahead of Arenas, Pagliani and Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) in fifth. Temporary Red Bull KTM Ajo teammates Antonelli and Kent were sixth and seventh respectively ahead of Atiratphuvapat, Bezzecchi and quickest man on day one, Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team) who completed the top 10 heading into Qualifying.
Qualifying interrupted by rain
The main Qualifying session was interrupted by a rain shower that halted proceedings for a duration. Riders retreated to the pits before a mad last dash in an attempt to secure a reputable grid position. The session was eventful as usual.
Amazing save from Canet
Canet was almost sent into a high side when the rear of his Honda spun at turn 10 when he accelerated out of the corner. He was thrown up and out of his seat but managed to hold on. Although it didn’t look too graceful, he was unhurt after he was thrown up and then to the right hand side of his bike, his foot slamming on the ground before he got back in the saddle. He ran into the run off area, and was able to recover.
Busy track for Qualifying
The amount of riders in the 250 cc class meant that as usual, come Qualifying especially when the track conditions are so mixed, a dry track means a busy track. The riders ended up collected in groups steaming round the circuit like trains cornering on rails. At one point it was as if the riders were engaged in the race already as some seemed to create corners down the straight as they battled to be in front after benefiting from the slipstream provided ahead of them.
Bulega almost on pole position
In the closing sessions there were once again several contenders for pole position ahead of the Moto3 race in Le Mans. On his penultimate lap, Bulega once again went top of the timesheets with a fast time of 1:42.844. But then a last minute lap from Martin saw him briefly drop to second. The Italian responded perfectly however and on his final lap managed to pip Martin’s time to end the session in pole position… or so he thought.
Swift change in parc ferme
After celebrating he returned to parc ferme where he placed his KTM in the prime spot behind the number one. Word then came through however that he had been penalised for overuse of the track, as many riders appear to do throughout these sessions, and his pole position lap time was taken away. Mechanics swiftly changed the position of his bike with that of Martin who once again inherited pole position making it his third so far this season out of five rounds.
Joining pole position man, Martin and Bulega on the front row for the fifth round of the Moto3 season in Le Mans is Guevara in third. The 2016 winnder of the Jerez Moto3 race, Fenati leads the second row in fourth ahead of Arenas and Antonelli. Ramirez is seventh ahead of championship leader, Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) and Bendsneyder. Wildcard rider Kent is 10th and will be joined by old rival Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Canet on the fourth row.
The rest of the grid….