Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Viñales swung into action at the Le Mans Bugatti Grand Prix race circuit, trying to find the limit in cold and mixed conditions. The teammates used all the available track time of FP1 and FP2 to try their YZR-M1s’ wet and dry set-up options, ending the session in 2nd and 3rd place respectively in the combined results.
Quartararo aimed to use FP1 to get back up to speed, following last week’s surgery for Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CECS or ‘arm pump’). But with the track conditions being treacherous this morning, he had to steadily build up speed. Though the drizzle stopped and started throughout the session, he worked diligently on his bike’s wet set-up. He set a 1’41.641s on lap 21/21 to finish the session in 16th place, 3.634s from the front
The home hero set out in the dry FP2 session on slick tyres, keen to get in a solid banker lap and secure a spot inside the combined FP top 10. In his element, he continued to perfect the dry set-up of his YZR-M1. He suffered a small crash in Turn 3, but he was soon back on his way. Though he already topped the timesheets, he gave another push in the last minutes of the session. His best time of 1’31.842s, set on lap 14/16, put him in second place in the FP2 and the combined timesheets, 0.095s from the top.
Viñales had a good start to FP1 and wasted no time to get familiar with the wet track conditions. He showed great confidence and gradually improved his lap times, all the while featuring inside the top 10. However, the Spaniard suffered a low-speed crash coming out of pit lane, due to cold tyres as he was about to start his last run. This lost him valuable time, so he ended the session in 12th place, 3.292s from first, with a 1’41.299s best time, set on lap 12/14.
Top Gun wanted to optimise his chances for a place in Q2 and made full use of the drier FP2, keeping in mind that the riding conditions for tomorrow’s FP3 remain uncertain. The number-12 rider spent most of the session tweaking his bike’s dry settings whilst making sure to maintain a top-10 position at all times. He wrapped up FP2 with a 1’32.136s, set on lap 22/22. The time earned him third place in both the FP2 and the combined free practice rankings, 0.389s from first.
We arrived in Le Mans already knowing that the weather will be changeable. Like we thought, it was key to be ready to make the most of the dry session time in FP2. But even then, this track remains tricky. It’s very cold, and the Bugatti track isn’t forgiving when it comes to small rider mistakes. Second and third are good results after a day with mixed conditions. Fabio and Maverick are both feeling confident on their bikes in both the wet and dry, and they have secured a provisional spot for Q2 should it rain tomorrow morning in FP3. The low temperatures are making everything more difficult, especially on the first laps, so this is something the riders need to be careful about.
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
This morning I was feeling good, but I wasn’t able to set a good time, so later today we will need to see what we can improve. Wet conditions are not my strong point, and I need to improve it. Still, the feeling was great, but we need to improve in a few corners to be inside the top 10 in the wet. In FP2, I could have done a better time, but there was a yellow flag on my fast lap. But I’m feeling happy about the fastest time I set today. The arm feels slightly different, but it feels great. I lost the front at one point. I thought I could save it, but I lost it anyway. We saw many riders crash on cold tyres. We all crashed for the same reason, I think. The conditions are tricky and it’s tough to get heat into the tyres. Especially coming out of pit lane, we stay on 60 km/h for too long. We need to see if it can be done slightly different.
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
Today has been positive. We found many good things on the bike in this morning’s wet session. Actually, it wasn’t fully wet, there were some dry parts. You have to go fast in those mixed conditions, which isn’t easy because the tyre tends to overheat too much and then you slide a lot. But, anyway, in FP2 I felt good straight away, and we have a good rhythm. In the first run I was just trying not to make too many mistakes and set some good laps in case it rains tomorrow morning, and then we started to push. Overall, I feel that we have a good opportunity here. We need to try to understand how we can improve on track a bit more, and then we’ll see. But I think this could be a really good weekend for us.