MotoGP Le Mans, France, May 2011

Stoner completes the deal in Le Mans

Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner secured victory for the first time in his career at the Le Mans circuit in Sunday’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France. It was a close battle until the very end between two Italians for second place but it was the second Repsol Honda of Andrea Dovizioso who clinched the 20 points, ahead of Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) who achieved his first rostrum riding the Desmosedici.

Stoner took his 25th premier class career win after a dominant ride to pull away at the front and win by a margin of over 14 seconds. With his second win of the season, the Australian has now jumped up to second place in the standings, 12 points behind Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing).

It was a record-breaking attendance for the French GP with 88,400 fans attending the Le Mans circuit on Sunday. The rain managed to stay away and an eventful race was enjoyed by the large and enthusiastic crowd. There was action throughout the field but at the end all eyes were on the dice between Dovizioso and Rossi. As in the previous race in Portugal, the Honda rider managed to deny the advances of the nine-time World Champion and record his best finish of this year’s campaign so far, whilst Rossi scored his best result of the season four rounds in.

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), who had made one his trademark rocket starts, led Stoner for the first lap until his team-mate came through on the next lap to take control of the race. The Spaniard stayed with the race leader for the first half of the 28-lap race, until he fell into the clutches of Simoncelli. The Italian passed the Repsol Honda rider on lap 17 but then a controversial incident occurred between the two when Pedrosa attempted to reclaim his second position and the two touched, sending Pedrosa crashing out.

It was later confirmed that Pedrosa had broken his right collarbone, whilst Race Direction declared during the course of the race that Simoncelli had made an illegal manoeuvre, and served him with a ride through penalty. The 24 year-old eventually finished in fifth position and lost his opportunity of scoring his first ever podium in MotoGP.

Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing), making his 150th Grand Prix start and becoming the youngest rider ever to do so, had a bad start to his preparations on Sunday after a crash in warm up which wrecked his bike and left the Spaniard with an injured finger. After barging through on Dovizioso early on in the race for a top four place, the 2010 MotoGP World Champion slipped down the order after being re-passed by the Repsol Honda rider and by his fierce rivals, Simoncelli and Rossi, but eventually placed fourth.

Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) equalled his best result of 2011 with sixth place, the American lost out to Simoncelli after the Italian got the better of him despite his ride through penalty. Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) was seventh, ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) who had a lonely race in eighth.

Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) won the race-long battle to finish in ninth. The Spaniard had been involved in a very exciting tussle with Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) who finished tenth, Toni Elías (LCR Honda), 11th and Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) 12th. After a difficult start to the season upon his return to MotoGP, Elías was showing signs of the ability which took him to the 2010 Moto2 World Championship and was up to 11th place in a five-rider battle in the early part of the race, but had a massive moment and was lucky to keep hold of his Honda as he dropped to the back of the group. The 28 year-old did manage to pick his way through a number of the riders after a difficult four rounds of the season.

Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) who had qualified an impressive sixth on his first visit to the Le Mans circuit, suffered a lowside when in ninth place on lap five and had to return his machine back to the pits for his first non finish in his rookie campaign. It was not a good day for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 in their home race in France after Colin Edwards also crashed mid way through the race but managed to get back out to pick up three points in 13th place.

It was not a happy day for the French fans who had hoped to see Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) pick up his best result of the season. The French rider crashed into the gravel on lap two and walked back to the pits dejectedly. Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing) suffered a similar fate as he crashed out towards the end of the race.

Stoner interview

Marc Márquez

In his 50th Grand Prix start, Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) celebrated his first victory in the Moto2 category in his rookie season. The Spaniard grabbed victory after a fierce battle throughout the race, having started from sixth on the grid. Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) held off Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) for second place after a titanic tussle on the final lap.

The Spaniard took the first Suter victory of the season as three different motorcycles finished inside the top three, with Takahashi on the Moriwaki and Bradl on the Kalex. Márquez, who had failed to finish the first two races of the year and had zero points to his name prior to Round 4, fought through a gaggle of riders to take the leading spot from Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) in the final laps. As drops of rain began to fall in the final six laps the reigning 125cc World Champion quickly pulled an advantage and crossed the line just under two seconds ahead of Takahashi to secure his 11th win in Grand Prix racing.

Gresini Racing’s Takahashi claimed his first back to back rostrum finishes in his career with second place, after he had snuck past Bradl towards the end of the race and then began his dice with the eventual race winner. Championship leader and pole sitter Bradl had led from the start of the race but after Lüthi had overtaken him on lap 15, Takahashi then sent the German rider wide which allowed Márquez through into a rostrum position. The Kalex rider maintains his lead at the top of the Championship standings, with a 28-point gap over his nearest rival, Julián Simón.

Simón (Mapfre Aspar) demoted Lüthi to fifth position on the final lap. The Swiss rider, who has still yet to achieve his first victory in the Moto2 class, was unable to pull away at the front when he was originally leading and was caught and passed. Aleix Espargaró (Pons HP 40) achieved his best result of the season with sixth place. The Spaniard had been part of the leading group for the first half of the race but faded as the race went on.

Seventh went to Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project) who was involved in a fight with Bradley Smith (Tech 3) who finished eighth. The British rider made up many positions at the start to claim more points in his rookie Moto2 season. Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP) continued his good form from Estoril with ninth place, ahead of Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2) in tenth.

Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) who was second in the Championship going into this race, crashed out on lap one, the Italian rider was unhurt. Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing) retired in the early stages with a clutch problem.

Maverick Viñales leads Nicolás Terol across the line in 125s

Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing Team) claimed his first ever victory in the 125cc class in just his fourth race by beating Nicolás Terol (Bankia Aspar) on the final lap at in a thrilling race long battle. Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) was third.

Under ominous black clouds and in very cool conditions, the race was run without the predicted rain. Rookie Viñales who achieved his best qualifying result of his rookie campaign with third place on the front row, pressurised the championship leader from the start and was the only rider able to match his pace throughout the race.

The 16 year old had finished fourth in Portugal, passed Terol who appeared to let the youngster through mid way through the race. Mind games between the front two were deployed as Viñales then returned the favour to allow the Spaniard back through. A difference of 96 race starts separated the dice at the front, with the teenager only competing in his fourth race, compared to Terol making his 100th race start. The leading duo pulled a large advantage of six seconds over the next group of Vázquez and co. The 22 year old regained control of the lead of the race with four laps to go but Viñales had other ideas on the final lap of the race when he was able to get the better of the pole sitter and cross the line just five hundredths of a second in front of the Bankia Aspar rider.

After collecting 20 points, Terol still has a massive lead in the championship standings, with a 35 point advantage over Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany). Vázquez, fourth in Qatar and with two podiums to his name in the 125cc class, took the final spot on the rostrum and his first podium of the season after he had been involved in a six rider fight for the podium. Vázquez made it an all Spanish rostrum and the top four places at this race in Le Mans were all Spanish, with Terol’s Bankia Aspar team mate finishing in fourth position which was his best result of the year after several crashes in the previous races.

Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) flying the flag for his home fans, made a disastrous start which dropped him down the order, but the Frenchman climbed his way back up the order and narrowly missed out on achieving his third successive rostrum. Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) who has had two rostrums in his 125cc career was sixth after being involved in the group of riders contending for third place. After a decent start Cortese, the German rider had to settle for seventh place, but remains in second in the championship. Team mate to rookie victor Viñales, Sergio Gadea (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing Team) finished in eighth.

Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica) finished ninth after starting outside of the top ten and it was Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) who secured the final place in the top ten. Alexis Masbou (WTR-Ten10 Racing) who was replacing Sarath Kumar (WTR-Ten10 Racing) who is racing in the Spanish championship this weekend, produced a noteable performance by finishing 15th and scoring the last point on offer.

results and stats

Stoner edges Simoncelli for pole in Le Mans

Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner set pole position for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France by a margin of just 0.059s over Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team). Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) will join the duo on the front row.

Stoner continued his form from the weekend at Le Mans but has fierce competition from his Honda rivals as the RC212V dominated the top four places on the grid. The Australian’s lap time of 1’33.153 was just 0.059s faster than Simoncelli as the Repsol Honda rider took his 25th premier class pole at a circuit he has never won at.

Simoncelli split the Repsol Hondas, as he had done in the final practice session earlier in the day, and will start from the middle of the front row. Fellow Italian Dovizioso will start from the front row for the first time this season after timing in third fastest. The 25 year-old factory Honda rider finished third at the French circuit in 2010 after passing his team-mate Dani Pedrosa on the final lap, and Pedrosa will head the second row after recording the fourth best lap of the qualifying session. This will be the first time in the 2011 campaign that the Spaniard has not started the race from row one.

Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) will start from fifth, and like his compatriot Pedrosa will not start from the front row for the first time this season. The reigning MotoGP World Champion is scheduled to become the youngest rider to reach the milestone of 150 Grand Prix starts across all classes on Sunday, and along with his fellow Spaniard Pedrosa was over half a second off the pole position lap time set by Stoner.

Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) recorded his best ever qualifying result in MotoGP in his debut season with sixth place. The British rider will start from the second row having improved on his previous best grid spot of eighth, in only his fourth MotoGP race. Team-mate Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was just behind in seventh.

Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) will start from his lowest grid place of the 2011 season so far in eighth place, behind the satellite Yamaha machines, but ahead of the Ducati Team duo of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. The Italian just got the edge over his team-mate and will start on the third row in ninth. The nine-time World Champion finished second here last season after Lorenzo passed him to claim victory.

Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) had a tough qualifying hour after crashing into the gravel at Turn 12 in the first ten minutes but managed to finish just outside the top ten in 11th. Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) who missed the MotoGP race here last season due to injury and who is still recovering from his broken femur, finished a respectable 12th place, ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) and Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing).

Bringing up the rear in Sunday’s race will be rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) and Toni Elías (LCR Honda) who both crashed during the qualifying hour but were able to rejoin unharmed.

Stoner interview

Stefan Bradl

Championship leader Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) set pole position for this weekend’s Moto2 Monster Energy Grand Prix de France. Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) and Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) will join Bradl on the front row for Sunday’s race.

The German rider’s pole position lap time was 1’38.357 which was 0.045s quicker than Lüthi, meaning he will have started from pole in all four rounds of the 2011 Moto2 season to date. The predicted rain that had been feared did not arrive as the qualifying was run in dry, sunny conditions. Lüthi equalled his best qualifying in the Moto2 class with second in the middle of the front row. The Swiss rider has started from the front row on all four occasions this year. Takahashi on the Moriwaki will start from the front row and was 0.183s off the pole position lap.

Aleix Espargaró (Pons HP 40) whose highest grid spot so far this season had been eighth in Spain, will start the race from the second row in fourth spot after being knocked off the front row by the Japanese rider in the final minute. Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing) will start from fifth place on the second row and will be aiming for his first Championship points of 2011. Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) will be making his 50th Grand Prix start at the French GP from the second row in sixth position.

Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project), third in the Moto2 World Championship after finishing in the top six in the first three races will head the third row having placed seventh, one spot ahead of fellow Italian Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) who is nine points ahead of his fellow Italian in the standings.Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar) who has yet to win a race in the Moto2 class will start from ninth, ahead of Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP) in tenth, who had his best race finish in the intermediate category with fourth place at Estoril in the previous round.

Bradley Smith (Tech 3) had an early end to his qualifying after Axel Pons (Pons HP 40) crashed and caught him, sending him flying into the gravel. The Spaniard finished in 14th position as he had to helped away by the marshals. The British rider had to watch the final few minutes in the pit box but luckily was uninjured after the incident, and will start from 17th position on the grid.

Terol again the 125 terror

Bankia Aspar riders Nicolás Terol and Héctor Faubel will head a Spanish one-two-three on the front row for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, with Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing Team) in third.

Terol’s fastest lap of 1’43.578 was nearly fourth-tenths faster than that of his team-mate and close to breaking the pole record of Sergio Gadea. The Spaniard is set to start his 100th GP on Sunday, his third pole start of the 2011 campaign after a perfect beginning to the year with three victories from three rounds.

As the wind got up for the qualifying session, temperatures were not as warm as Friday afternoon. Faubel, whose last pole position came in Malaysia 2007, had to be content with second behind Terol. Sixteen year-old Viñales had an impressive qualifying session to join the Bankia Aspar duo on the front row for the Le Mans race, with his best ever qualifying result in his rookie year. His previous best qualifying position had been ninth in Qatar and he was 0.737s off Terol’s quickest time.

Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) has qualified either first or second in each of the first three GP races of the year but could not match that in qualifying in France. The German rider had two moments in the session, the latter cost him his chance of taking a front row start when he ended up in the gravel in the final three minutes. Cortese will start fourth and head the second row ahead of his compatriot Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) in fifth. Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) took the final spot on the second row in sixth place, for his home race.

The third row was an all Spanish affair with 18 year-old Adrián Martín (Bankia Aspar) recording his best every qualifying position in the 125cc class. Sergio Gadea (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing Team) was eighth, 1.177s off Terol’s pole position and ahead of Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) in ninth. Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) took the final spot in the top ten.

Stoner Leads Honda Throwdown at Le Mans

Frankie Stotz's wasn't the only Honda gettin' it on Friday, as Casey Stoner led a Honda trio on top at Le Mans

Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner dominated the first day of action at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, posting the fastest time in both free practice sessions.

Stoner topped the first session ahead of his teammate Dani Pedrosa and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and the same three were up front again in the second free practice session.

The Australian set the fastest lap of 1’33.782 in the afternoon session which was 0.404s faster than Simoncelli and nearly four-tenths quicker than his best time set in the free practice one. The Italian, who was second fastest, has twice finished on the podium in France when racing in the 250cc class, including a win in 2009.

Pedrosa was the only rider unable to improve on his time set in the morning practice, in a session which was much hotter than the conditions in the morning. The Spaniard’s lap time in FP1 was 1’34.431, compared to 1’34.478 set in FP2. The gap between Stoner and Pedrosa’s lap time was 0.696s. Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) produced a late effort to claim the fourth fastest time and finish the highest Ducati. The American secured his best ever finish at the French GP in 2010 when he came fourth as the first Ducati rider across the line. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) who has won back to back races here at Le Mans in 2009 and 2010, made a big improvement from his first session of the day, by finding half a second in his lap times to finish fifth.

Sixth was Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) who has finished on the podium six times at the Le Mans circuit. The Italian was third in this morning’s session. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was seventh and the second fastest Yamaha. The 37 year-old has had a good record at this circuit with two rostrum places here in both 2005 and 2008.

Japanese rider Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) was eighth in FP2, 1.177s off Stoner’s time, with Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) ninth. The final spot in the top ten went to Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing), whilst local favourite Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) was just outside the top ten in eleventh.

Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) making his racing debut at this circuit, as he did in Estoril, crashed at Turn 8 in the last five minutes of the session, but was able to remount. The British rider finished 12th.

Stoner practice interview

In a very competitive Moto2 second practice, it was Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) who led the way for this weekend’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, as he did in the morning. Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) was second ahead of Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project).

The German rider pulled out a last minute lap to rocket to the top of the timesheets with a time of 1’38.709 which was nearly three-tenths faster than Lüthi and four-tenths quicker than his own best lap from the morning. If Bradl records pole position tomorrow in qualifying, it will be his fourth successive pole of the 2011 campaign. The Kalex rider’s previous best finish here in Le Mans is a sixth place.

Lüthi who crashed in the final moments of FP1, was the nearest challenger to the dominat Bradl. Le Mans is the only circuit at which the Swiss rider has has two Grand Prix victories. Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project) who was third in Le Mans in the Moto2 class last season, looked set to achieve the quickest time in FP2 until the dying moments but finished half a second off Bradl’s quickest lap.

The riders between second and 20th on the grid were separated by just one second as they competed in very hot and sunny conditions in Northern France.

Jules Cluzel (Forward Racing) on the Suter was fourth fastest, ahead of Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) who progressed from 11th fastest in FP1. The Italian had his best ever result at Le Mans last season when he achieved fourth place. Sixth place went to Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) who secured his first pole position in the 125cc class at Le Mans in 2009.

Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2) was seventh quickest in the afternoon practice, whilst eighth went to Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing). The Japanese rider claimed his maiden victory in Grand Prix racing in the 250cc race at Le Mans in 2006.

Aleix Espargaró (Pons HP 40) was ninth ahead of Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar), who won the 125cc race French GP two years ago.

125

Current Championship leader Nicolás Terol Bankia (Aspar) grabbed the fastest time in the second practice session of the day, for this weekend’s Monster Energy Grand Prix de France, from fellow Spaniard Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo). Third fastest was Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany).

The Bankia Aspar rider’s time of 1’43.788 was nearly 1.5s quicker than his fastest time of FP1. Terol finished second here last season after qualifying on pole for the first time in his GP career and will be aiming for his fourth successive victory of the 2011 campaign. Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) who finished fourth at Le Mans in 2010 had topped the timesheets for most of the session until Terol snatched the quickest time in the final moments. The Avant-AirAsia-Ajo rider had a nasty highside on his last lap and was lucky to be able to ride back to the pits unharmed. Terol’s best lap was just over half a second ahead of his Spanish compatriot.

With warmer temperatures for FP2, compared to a very fresh start in the morning, it was Cortese who was the highest placed German rider. The 21 year-old finished in sixth place in France in 2010 and that has been his best result in six Grand Prix starts at the circuit. There was a gap of nearly another half a second to the next rider in fourth place, Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar). Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) had problems with his machine at the start of the session but the German finished fifth on the timesheet.

Sixth quickest was Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) who finished eighth in Portugal, with Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing Team) seventh, one spot ahead of Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo). Alberto Moncayo (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica) was ninth fastest with the third Bankia Aspar rider taking the final spot in the top ten, Adrián Martín. The 18 year-old equalled his best finish in Grand Prix racing in Portugal with a ninth place. Martín was 1.719s off his team mate Terol’s fastest time of the session.

courtesy of MotoGP