By the time the Moto2 class made their way out onto track for their final Free Practice session ahead of Qualifying for the fifth round of the season at Le Mans, France, the track was practically dry and therefore lap times tumbled compared to previous sessions.
Bad crash at the beginning of FP3
At the start of the session, a bad crash led to two of the 600cc riders picking up serious injuries. Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) suffered a huge highside at the sixth turn of the circuit. As he accelerated out of the corner the rear spun and threw him up and over the bike. He was slammed down on the ground and both he and his bike slid into the gravel trap.
Both Iker Lecuona (Garage Plus Interwetten) and another rider got caught up in the wreckage. Whilst the other rider was able to run on into the gravel and avoid being hit, Lecuona was brought down by Marquez’s Kalex that knocked the Spaniard off and left him a heap beside Marquez. Both required medical attention and as Lecuona was able to get back to his feet whilst supporting his right arm, Marquez was left lying on the floor where he received assistance from a Marshall; both were protected by the Doctor airbag.
Although a stretcher was initially brought out to assist Marquez to the safety area beside the track, the Spaniard who won his first Moto2 race at the last round in Jerez was able to get back up to his feet and walk himself.
Both Spaniards incurred serious injuries
Both the Spanish riders went to the medical centre after they returned to the pits. Unfortunately for Lecuona he suffered a broken right collarbone during the crash and has been ruled out of further action in France. Marquez fractured the fifth metatarsal on his left foot, but he was declared fit and able to continue on with the days’ proceedings; although he was in pain.
Battle commenced for the top spot
Fast laps starting coming in from everyone as the track conditions were the best so far for the Moto2 class meaning many were able to improve. Rookie, Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) ended up on top of the timesheets initially around 10 minutes into the final Free Practice session with a time of 1:38.739 with 32 minutes remaining, almost matching the pace set in FP1 set by Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team).
Flurry of crashes followed
A flurry of crashes followed as the riders adjusted to track time on slick tyres instead of the full wet setup previously ran. Takaaki Nagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) crashed out at turn 14 when he touched the painted white line and slid off; his bike hit the wall after the run off area. Already injured, Remy Gardner (Tech3 Racing) came off at turn seven, and Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) fell at turn six; it appeared that all the riders were not seriously hurt and managed to carry on with the day.
Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) did not crash but did end up running into the gravel when completing a personal best time. Almost finding the limit, he quickly recovered and was able to return to the track safely.
Morbidelli claims the top spot
Along came Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) later on to knock the rookie off the top spot when he managed to lap 0.66 seconds faster than the Italian’s previous time. Another Italian, Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) was also riding aggressively around the French endurance circuit and in the final 15 minutes of the session was managed to beat Morbidelli’s time that had stood for a while untouched.
Then it was Thomas Luthi’s turn to spice things up a little as the CarXpert Interwetten rider forced Marini down the timeshets when he too, like Marini, managed to lap under 1:38 minutes. Morbidelli responded with six minutes remaining and returned to the top, a few minutes later despite a poor first half of the lap as he displayed grey sectors, he managed to set a lap time of 1:37.477 as he managed to make up for the pace in the second half of the lap.
Pawi has third crash of the weekend
The difficulties continued for Moto2 rookie, Khairul Idham Pawi (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) who had his third crash of the weekend. He became a victim of turn three, narrowly missing the rear of Hafizh Syahrin’s Petronas Raceline Malaysia Kalex; the Malaysian was cruising ahead of him on the run-of area but had he stalled any more he would more than likely have been tagged.
Then, Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) came off at another notorious turn, the penultimate corner turn 13. The front of his Kalex folded and he and the bike slid into the gravel; fortunately both riders appeared to be unhurt.
Rookie Bagnaia makes his way back to the top
Determined to do well, Bagnaia returned to the top of the timesheets as the session drew to a close. He had managed to shave another 0.039 seconds off Morbidelli’s time, and he managed to cross the line in time to complete one last lap. Then, despite a poor first half of the lap, he improved on his own time by a further 0.052 seconds finishing the session on top with a time of 1:37.386; fantastic from the rookie on the rookie team’s machinery.
Morbidelli was second ahead of Luthi in third. Marini finished fourth ahead of Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing), Axel Pons, Xavier Simeon (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2), Ricky Cardus stepping in for injured Brad Binder with Red Bull KTM Ajo, former MotoGP rider Yonny Hernandez (AGR Team) and Simone Corsi as the highest Tech3 bike with Tech3 Racing.
Warm conditions for Qualifying saw crashes in opening stages
All that, and it was only Free Practice! By the time Qualifying came, the track was probably the warmest that it had been throughout the weekend so far. Rain showers had threatened again but seemed to pass and it looked like a record was about to be broken as the riders continued to push hard for their last session of the day.
Within moments of the session getting underway, another flurry of crashes occurred; something that especially isn’t great for the Moto2 class as they all only have the one machine. Moto2 rookie, Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) was the first to go down getting caught out at turn three, the bike hit the wall hard meaning the team had their work cut out.
Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) then came off at turn nine of the race circuit, and moments later, Marquez had a second crash of the day at turn 12. All riders appeared unhurt, although Marquez was understandably limping as he ran to recover his bike that had reached the wall.
Luthi straight to the top of the timesheets
Luthi initially claimed the top spot as immediately he set a low 1:37 minute lap. His success was shortl-ived however as Morbidelli reduced his time by 0.089 seconds. Luthi was then displaying three red sectors indicating he was fastest on his next lap, but then he fell off at turn 13 after the front chatter, dipped and caused the rear to come around and the two slid out.
Rookie, Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) also came off at turn 13 when the front of his Kalex folded up underneath him. Moments later, Axel Pons came off at turn eight but he was quickly able to recover his bike. Then, Marshalls began to wave the white flag with the red diagonal cross that indicated that it had begun to rain in that sector. Rookie, Tetsuta Nagashima (Teluru SAG Team) also came off at turn 13 ran he wide and touched the white line.
The battle for pole position continued
As they began the final 15 minutes of the Moto2 Qualifying session, Bagnaia once again made himself up to a potential pole position when he lapped at 1:37.002. On his next lap, he managed to break through the 1:37 minute barrier, when he reduced his time by 0.042 seconds making things tougher for the others.
But they responded… it was not long until Luthi improved on Bagnaia’s time, and on his next attempt, the German rider broke the Fastest Lap Record set by himself the previous year. He and the three Italians (Bagnaia, Morbidelli and Marini) battled on however and not quite being able to match the pace of Luthi, they continued switching places behind him. Six minutes remained and Luthi has improved his time even further to make it that bit harder for them.
More crashes in the closing stages
Another bout of crashes occurred in the closing stages of the session. Xavi Vierge (Tech3 Racing) went down at turn three after the front end tucked like with the other crashes that had occurred there; he was able to recover and continue. Axel Pons came off again, this time at turn nine. Although he did not crash, Morbidelli had to run on into the gravel to avoid joining the Spaniard.
Corsi then came off at the final turns of the circuit. And then a disappointing end to the session for Bagnaia saw him come off at the same place as Corsi. Fortunately it seemed that no riders were seriously hurt, and Bagnaia’s team didn’t mind the damage to much as he had qualified so well.
Luthi claims Le Mans pole with record breaking pace
Luthi is on pole ahead of the HTC Helmets Grand Prix de France Moto2 race at Le Mans. His time of 1:36.548 is now the new 600cc lap record at the French Circuit. He will be joined on the front row by rookie, Bagnaia in a fantastic second on the grid, and Morbidelli will start from third.
Marini leads the fourth row ahead of Aegerter and the battered and bruised Marquez who collected a heroic sixth on the grid. Pasini is seventh ahead of Baldassarri and Schrotter, and Cortese completes the top 10.