As 100th Grand Prix beckons
The Repsol Honda Team had a positive first day at the Le Mans circuit on Friday which saw the completion of the first two practice sessions ahead of Sunday's Grand Prix of France.
Dani Pedrosa finished at the top of the timesheets in the
morning with teammate and World Champion Nicky Hayden just 0.2s behind in third place. The afternoon saw Pedrosa edged off top spot by Marco Melandri's Honda, while Hayden ended a rain-shortened session in ninth place overall and unhurt after a slow speed fall in one of the 4.180km (2.597 miles) French circuit's many hairpin corners. Though Hayden didn't improve his lap-time in the afternoon, the 25-year-old American remains confident for tomorrow.
Pedrosa's strong Friday performance at a circuit he likes bodes well as he prepares to start his 100th Grand Prix on Sunday. At 21 years and 233 days old, he will be the youngest rider to reach this landmark, a record to add to the three-time World Champion's already glittering Grand Prix career so far. The Spaniard will go into tomorrow afternoon's one-hour qualifying session with the intention of repeating his pole position from last year at a circuit where he's already taken three victories in the smaller Grand Prix classes.
“Today we began the set-up work with the new 800cc machine at this circuit and the practice sessions went quite well. I was able to set the fastest time this morning and was second fastest in the afternoon which is not so bad, and I also put in some longer runs with a reasonably consistent pace. The rain cut short the afternoon session but I think we were lucky to get nearly two dry hours and this has helped us to work towards a good dry set-up. So we'll just hope that the weather stays fine for the next two days as well. I've tried a modified exhaust system today which helps with the noise from the bike and also alters the engine character, and we'll continue to evaluate this tomorrow. I hope to get a good qualifying position to give me the best chance of a clean start in the race.”
“This morning went well and the feeling from the machine was pretty good. Coming out of the gate the bike was reasonably close to where we need it to be and the Michelin tyres were working really well too. I was able to put in some consistent laps and third was a fairly good place to finish the session. The afternoon was a blip on the radar we didn't really need though. I went out with the same tyres as the morning to try to get some more laps on them and just lost the front in the slow corner at Turn 6 – the front just let go and I was down with no big warning.
After that I was just getting the feeling back at the front when it started to rain at the end of the session. It was a really easy fall though, and I don't think I've caused the boys too much work on the bike. I quite enjoyed the morning session so we'll come back in here tomorrow and aim to get right back on the pace.”
“The morning went well for the Repsol Honda Team and I think this is a circuit which better suits the RC212V. It's good to see three Hondas in the top three places. Dani was fastest this morning and very close in the afternoon too so he's looking strong for tomorrow. Nicky went very well in the morning, though the fall in the afternoon meant he couldn't repeat that performance this afternoon. He can bounce back tomorrow though and it should be an exciting qualifying session.”