The sun was out and the newly resurfaced Le Mans circuit was practically completely dry as the 600cc class took to the track for their opening session, Free Practice 1, ahead of the fifth round of the Moto2 season.
Replacement riders again part of the Moto2 pack
After a damp morning, the riders took a cautious approach as they familiarised themselves with the endurance track. The class would once again be without the 2016 Moto3 champion Brad Binder who continues to recover with his arm injury. He is again being replaced at the Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto2 team by Ricky Cardus.
As British rider, Danny Kent recently parted ways with Kiefer Racing therefore unfortunately temporarily ending his Moto2 career, he is to be replaced for the remainder of the season by Tarran Mackenzie who is making his debut in Le Mans where Kent is making a wildcard appearance with Red Bull KTM Ajo in the Moto3 class following a test ride in Jerez.
Luthi one to watch in Le Mans
One of the key riders to watch at Le Mans, is Garage Plus Interwetten rider, Thomas Luthi who owns the lap records at the French Circuit. In 2015 he claimed the Circuit Record Lap, during the race with a time of 1:37.281. He set the best ever lap time when he claimed pole however during Qualifying in 2016. With a time of 1:37.281, he is the fastest man to have lapped the French endurance circuit on 600cc Moto2 machinery aboard his Kalex.
The lap times were an indication of track conditions, as although there were still damp patches with 30 minutes of the opening session to go, Swiss rider Luthi had managed to lap under 1:40 minutes, and was continuing to improve as he continued on, on track.
Successful season so far for the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Moto2 team
So far throughout the 2017 Moto2 season, the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Team are dominating the ranks after winning the four opening rounds.
Franco Morbidelli leads the championship with 75 points after he claimed his fist Moto2 victory, and the next two successive ones in the three opening rounds, but a mistake led to him crashing out in Jerez and Alex Marquez went on to claim his debut Moto2 victory on home turf.
After taking a relaxed start to the session, Morbidelli was seen running wide at turn 13. The Italian had his lap cancelled as he exceeded the limits when he ran over the kerb which forced his left foot to come off the peg at the right hand turn.
Rookie Nagashima crashes out
The first incident of the season came with just over 20 minutes of the session to go when rookie Tetsuta Nagashima (Telurua SAG Team) crashed out at turn seven. He was slammed hard on the tarmac before he and his bike slid into the gravel. He was fortunately straight back up to his feet and able to recover his Kalex.
With just over 14 minutes remaining, Morbidelli crashed at turn eight of the track. He slid out at the turn after running wide and remained on the tarmac so he was able to quickly recover with little damage to both him and the bike.
The top spot inhabited by several riders
After the halfway point of the opening session for the 600cc class, Dominique Aegerter was leading the way at the top of the timesheets with a time of 1:38.752.
His success with the Kiefer Racing team in a way proves that the Suter machinery is rideable, despite the concerns that Kent had before he left. Along came Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) to knock him of the top spot however as he improved the quickest lap time of the session to 1:38.640 with just over 10 minutes to go.
Along came second place man in Jerez, Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) who is completing his rookie year in the Moto2 class for both the rider and the team. He slotted into third behind the others as he shaved just 0.03 seconds off Morbidelli’s time which pushed the Italian down to fourth.
Riders began to push as session drew to a close
Things heated up in the closing stages however as many riders began to display all red sectors on the timing sheets. Nakagami improved his time further extending his lead over Aegerter, and then Morbidelli lost time on the final sector which meant he had to settle for second with under six minutes to go.
Both Bagnaia and Marque were looking promising during the first hard of the lap, but then both lost time in sectors three and four which meant they were not yet able to properly contend for the top spot.
Rookie, Khairul Idham Pawi (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) crashed out at the end of the track and session. Fortunately, the Malaysian who thrives in the wet was able to get up and walk away from his incident but the session ended early for him.
Rain about to hit at any time
Dark clouds were looming over the French circuit and it looked like rain threatened any moment, still it did not stop riders from making further improvements. Again Morbidelli claimed the top spot with a time of 1:38.169, and then Bagnaia set a personal best time to put him in second.
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) knocked improved on Morbidelli’s time however, placing top temporarily however Bagnaia looked threatening as he completed his last lap after the flag. Again unfortunately he lost time in the final sector and could not improve on his own time any further.
Baldassarri ends Free Practice 1 on top of the timesheets
Free Practice 1 for the Moto2 class finished with Baldassarri on top with his time of 1:38.158. Morbidelli was second quickest, and the higest placed rookie, Baganaia had to settle for third. Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) was fourth ahead of Nakagami who had to settle for fifth after his crash.
Another great run from Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) left him as the top Tech3 rider in sixth ahead of Aegerter, Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) as the top Speed Up rider, Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) and Marquez who completed the top 10 at the end of Free Practice 1. The top 17 riders were covered by less than one second at the French circuit.
Moto2 gear up for a wet Free Practice 2
The Moto2 class were greeted by a wet track when they returned for their second session of the day. Rain had fell during the lunch break, and then again at the end of the MotoGP’s second session. It meant that the riders had to switch to the full wet setup on the one bike they have available, and quickly they took to the track keen to gain the data that could prove vital although the wet weather is not expected as of yet on race day.
Pawi has second crash of the opening day
Within minutes of the session beginning, many riders had made their way out on track. Unfortunately for Pawi, who is good in the wet, he crashed out of the session again early on at turn 11 of the track. He appeared unhurt but it meant he had much less track time than others because of the repairs that had to be done.
He was no the only rider to be caught out, as the clouds appeared to pass, the sun came out in parts and the track conditions began to change. Further crashes came from new rookie, Mackenzie who came off after trail braking into a later turn of the circuit, before he slid out after finding the limit the hard way; he was unhurt and able to return to the pits on his bike. Iker Lecuona (CarXpert Interwetten) also crashed out at turn nine and appeared hurt as he walked to the safety area in what were now dirty leathers.
Several riders contending for top spot in the wet
Many riders had pushed early on in the session and although they were 10 seconds off the pace set earlier on in the day, several were able to take their place at the top of the timesheets; this included Yonny Hernandez (AGR Team), Nakagami, Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia), Marquez and Luthi. When things settled down it was the former MotoGP rider, Hernandez who remained on top with the quickest time so far throughout the second session of 1:48.299.
Navarro crashes out
Unfortunately for rookie Jorge Navarro on the Federal Oil Gresini Racing Moto2, he came off at turn nine that was proving to be quite notorious throughout the day. As he passed through the left hander, he came off and slid out and then both he and the bike tumbled through the gravel. Although he appeared unhurt, he did not help the Marshalls in recovering his bike and instead returned to the pits where it looked like he had called it a day early on (15 minutes earlier than previously planned).
Syahrin thriving in the wet in Le Mans
On track the sun was out and the rain had cleared which meant that some riders felt more confident to push harder for the final 10 minutes. Syahrin was working hard and after displaying red sectors on the opening parts of the laps, he would lose time in the final sectors and have to settle for a place further down the ranks.
Hernandez returns to the top of the ranks
Just as he had worked his way up to second behind Hernandez, a group of riders had begun flying laps. With eight minutes remaining, Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) went top with a time of 1:48.125; and many more oozed the potential to improve. He was soon knocked down the ranks by Marini and Corsi who pushed the Portuguese rider down to third. Marini now led in Le Mans during the second Free Practice session as he was the only rider to yet lap under 1:48 minutes with a time of 1:47.943.]
Then Vierge, on the French Moto2 machine was displaying red on the timing screens during sectors one, two and three. However, on the final sector he too lost time and had to settle for second. Hernandez then returned to the top spot again pushing the rider down to third.
With two minutes left Hernandez was on top with a time of 1:47.786. The Columbian then came across Baldassarri on track and had to bravely make his way past the Italian to ensure he had clear track ahead of him ready for his final lap of the session.
Late fast lap from Marquez sees him finish FP2 on top
On his last lap, Morbidelli managed to lap quickest but his teammate, Marquez was flying. Rookie, Bagnaia, briefly claimed the top spot but when Marquez crossed the line he finished 0.785 seconds quicker than the Italian with a fastest time of the session of 1:46.931. Despite his efforts however, he had still not superseded the times from earlier on in the day.
Bagnaia finished the second session in second on the timesheets ahead of former MotoGP rider, Hernandez in third. Morbidelli was fourth ahead of Marini, Vierge in sixth as the top Tech 3 rider, Corsi, Syahrin, Oliveira and Luthi who completed the top 10.
Baldassarri on top at the end of day one
Because of the rain, when the times from the opening day were combined it was Baldassarri who remained the quickest on track in the Moto2 class. Morbidelli was second quickest ahead of rookie Bagnaia in third. Pasini and Nakagami completed the top five. Vierge was sixth overall ahead of Aegerter, Corsi, Marini and quickest from FP2, Marquez who completed the top 10.