Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda RC213V) kept his amazing momentum going at Le Mans this afternoon, riding to his fifth pole position from the first five races of the season. The 21-year-old reigning MotoGP World Champion goes into tomorrow’s French Grand Prix with a full house points score of 100 points from the first four rounds and looking to extend his advantage over team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) who holds second place in the points chase.
The last time a rider took pole and race victory at the first five races was way back in 1971 when Giacomo Agostini – the most successful rider in history – dominated on the MV Agusta. Marquez started out yesterday with the same set-up he had used to win his home Grand Prix at Jerez two weeks ago and gradually honed the settings with his team to end the day fastest. This morning he was a close second fastest to Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and ready to up his pace for the crucial qualifying outing, thanks largely to improvements to corner-entry stability. As a result, he set a new qualifying lap record. Fourth-fastest Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V) was less than one hundredth of a second away from taking his second front-row start of the year, just 0.091 seconds behind Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati). The young German – who had post-Jerez surgery to fix an arm-pump problem – will start the race alongside factory Yamaha pairing Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo who were fifth and sixth quickest. Alvaro Bautista (Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini RC213V) will head the third row of the grid after qualifying seventh fastest, a mere 0.107 seconds behind Lorenzo. The Spaniard was third fastest at the end of day one but slipped down the order today, struggling more than his rivals as the circuit’s grip level improved. Pedrosa showed good pace in free practice but was unable to up his speed for qualifying, largely due to the surgery he underwent on his right arm to reduce arm pump following the Spanish Grand Prix. Ninth fastest and on the third row, he knows he will have to focus on getting his tyres as hot as possible on the warm-up lap so he can attack and pass rivals in the first laps of the race. Nicky Hayden (Drive 7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R) won the contest to be the quickest rider on Honda’s production MotoGP bike, the RCV1000R. Handicapped by an old right wrist injury – which requires painkilling injections – the former MotoGP World Champion improved his pace today and probably only missed out on a place in QP2 due to a small mistake on his best lap in QP1. MotoGP rookie Scott Redding (Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini RCV1000R) was delighted to be the second fastest of the four RCV1000R riders. The Briton – who won last year’s Moto2 race at Le Mans – was 16th overall, just ahead of former 250 World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama (Drive 7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R) who was happy with his work today, only spoiled by a small error on his best lap in qualifying. Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) was 18th quickest in qualifying after finding the ideal set-up a little too late to further improve his pace. Honda MotoGP rider quotes Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: pole position – 1m 32.042s “I’m very happy to be on pole and also with the gap between myself and second place on the timesheet. Tomorrow will be interesting as my main rivals – Dani, Jorge and Valentino – are not on the front row but on rows two and three. However, I know they will be there in the battle and we must be prepared. Starting from pole is an advantage and I will try to capitalise from it and give 100 per cent – as always – to fight for the win!” Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: 4th – 1m 32.846s “After yesterday’s sessions we went back to our standard geometry that we used in the past races because I have more front feeling. Our pace is pretty good and I am happy about fourth place today (also considering my recent surgery) but we must be realistic. The other riders are very fast too and I am starting from the second row with two big rivals like Rossi and Lorenzo. Even Pedrosa will push to catch the front group so our target is to finish in the top five. This would be a very good result for us. My arm is getting better and today it was not necessary to have a painkilling injection.” Alvaro Bautista, Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini: 7th – 1m 33.006s “Yesterday we started the weekend very well and also today my feeling with the bike has improved further, but the other riders were able to progress more than we did. As usual, when the grip on the track improves, as happened today, we struggle a bit more than other riders. However, apart from Marquez who was really fast, we are not far from the second position: the gap is less than three tenths of a second and that means that we are all very close. Our situation is undoubtedly better compared to Jerez, so tomorrow we’ll try to get a good start, then we will do our race with the usual goal: cross the finish line collecting as many points as possible”. Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 9th – 1m 33.023s “Free practice wasn’t too bad for us, but in qualifying we weren’t so great. I’m riding a little smoother this weekend and not so aggressive, due to my injured forearm, and when I wanted to push to improve my times I wasn’t really able to. I think that in general we have done a good job in practice and I will try to get a good start tomorrow, because I am very far back. It will be important to bring the tyre temperature up on the warm-up lap and try to overtake some riders in the opening laps.” Nicky Hayden, Drive 7 Aspar Honda: 13th – 1m 33.859s “To be honest my wrist is still very painful but I tried to give my best in qualifying. I want to thank all the staff at the Clinica Mobile for the work they are doing to limit the pain. We have improved the set-up of the bike today but unfortunately not as much as we had hoped. We lost some valuable time working on one of the bikes trying to fix something that we still need to get to the bottom of. Anyway, the lap time in qualifying was good. I made a little mistake in the chicane that possibly cost me a place in Q2, which is a shame because the extra track time would have been useful to test one more tyre option for the race. It will be a tough race tomorrow but we are ready to fight for the best possible result.” Scott Redding, Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini: 16th – 1m 32.233s “Until today we have always been the third or fourth Open Class Honda, so it’s good to be again the second fastest Honda RCV1000R during FP4 and qualifying. I’m feeling a lot better, we changed a lot on the bike to give me back some feeling, and as a result I started to enjoy myself again. This morning I didn’t feel comfortable on the bike, but in the end we solved our problems. Now we have to see if we can make more improvements tomorrow morning, especially from my side, because now the bike is pretty good.” Hiroshi Aoyama, Drive 7 Aspar Honda: 17th – 1m 34.457s “We improved the handling of the bike in the slow corners today. We worked hard and the outcome was very productive, which we can see in the lap times. In qualifying when we put the soft tyre in to push for a fast time I made a little mistake in the chicane on what was my best lap. It is a shame but we have to be satisfied that our performance has improved and we are quite well prepared for the race. I think we have a consistent rhythm, even on the hard tyre and I hope we can have a good race tomorrow.” Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing: 18th – 1m 34.880s “The good news is that the bike worked quite well in qualifying. This set-up is certainly the best we’ve tried during the weekend and I’m pretty sure that if we had it earlier, we would be faster now. I’m little bit angry that I missed the chance to do one more fast lap. Unfortunately I saw the flag only some seconds before I passed the start line. The important thing is that tomorrow I’ll stay close to the other Open Honda riders and fight for some points.”