- Round: 5 - 2006 MotoGP Le Mans
- Circuit: LeMans
- Temp: 18ēC
- Weather: Dry
- Circuit Length: 4180
- Lap Record: 1' 33.678 (Valentino Rossi, 2005)
- Fastest Lap Ever: 1' 33.678 (Valentino Rossi, 2005)
Camel Yamaha Team riders Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards will start from the third row of the grid in the Grand Prix of France tomorrow after setting the seventh and ninth fastest times respectively in this afternoon's qualifying practice. The session took place in dry conditions with ambient temperatures reaching 18ēC after the sunshine finally overpowered the thick black clouds that hovered over the Le Mans circuit and caused the third free practice session to be held in wet conditions during the morning.
The improved weather allowed Valentino Rossi to continue the evaluation of Yamaha's latest chassis, with both of his YZR-M1 machines fitted with the updated specification following positive initial results yesterday. Edwards continued working on the standard version, with similar updates planned for the American at the next round in Italy, and again lapped consistently as one of the fastest riders throughout the session. After setting the pace in yesterday's dry free practice sessions, both Rossi and Edwards have found a good race set-up for their machines but they were unable to turn their pace into a top grid position after struggling to use their qualifying tyres to full potential in the late push for times.
Valentino Rossi (7th; 1'34.840, 28 laps);
"Today I am happy because we worked in the right way and found a good race setting for the bike. When we used the very soft tyre at the end of the session we again found some vibration problems caused by the extra grip but it's not such a problem on the race tyres. Anyway, looking at the qualifying results from the last few rounds the third row is an improvement and I think there is the possibility of a good result tomorrow. Myself and Colin have been at the top through all the practice on race tyres so we know we have a good pace compared to the other riders. To be honest I expected a better position this afternoon so I am a little disappointed but it is not a disaster. Now we wait to see what the weather does tomorrow, hope for a dry race and then try to turn around our recent bad luck in the race."
Colin Edwards (9th; 1'34.970, 28 laps);
"The track was a little slippery today, I guess after the rain this morning, and I didn't have the same level of grip on the front tyre. I wasn't as comfortable but we did a good job on the race tyres and my pace is decent. I think there's only three of us lapping in the 1'35s on race tyres so we've got every chance to do something in the race - it's just a shame about the chatter on the qualifying tyres because we could have been much further forward on the grid. I did four or five laps trying to break the 1'35 mark and eventually hit 1'34.9 on the last one but there was no way to go any faster. All things considered the third row isn't bad - there are a few guys who will go backwards tomorrow and a few others who will be tough to get past but, as I said before, we have the pace. Now it's a case of holding that throttle open longer than anyone else into turn one and seeing where we can get from there."
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
"Unfortunately we missed out a little on the qualifying tyres because we couldn't use them properly but we're not too worried. On the whole the two days of practice have been very good for both riders and they both have good race pace. The only concern now is that they both have a good start in the race. We were able to set-up the new chassis for Valentino but also the older bike is working very well for Colin. Tomorrow is a good opportunity to get more information and confirm our direction with development but of course we also need points. Our aim for tomorrow is to close the gap between us and the championship leaders."
Weather again plays havoc for Tech 3 Yamaha Team;
For the third time in as many races, the weather had a detrimental effect on progress for the Tech 3 Yamaha Team and tyre suppliers, Dunlop. All plans were thrown out of the window when the heavens opened before the morning's final practice session ensuring a wet track. The afternoon's qualifying battle although dry, was overshadowed by strong winds that added to the team's woes.
Riders, Carlos Checa and James Ellison qualified in 14th and 17th positions respectively, but in a carbon performance from Friday's encouraging sessions the overall gap to the leaders in qualifying also narrowed. Additionally, relative novice Ellison is getting closer to his teammate and in doing so both riders are amidst a bunch of more fancied teams on other tyre brands on the grid.
Carlos Checa (14th, 1'36.260, 49 laps);
"This morning we tried an intermediate rear and we gained some information if it's conditions like that tomorrow. At this stage we know what tyres we will try no matter whether wet or dry. It is clear in my mind the tyres we will use depending on the conditions to fight with the guys that are close to us. On the qualifying tyres I had a wheelie problem and couldn't open the throttle fully in some areas of the track as the grip is good enough to make a good lap and also we had some chattering when we tied to be faster in qualifying. If it's a strange situation like this morning when it was wet then dry or the opposite we must make a strategy. We know we have nothing to lose so we can take a risk and then our choice will not be conservative, it will be risky. The bike is working quite well and we know some tyres that work ok but we only did 50% of the race total on this tyre The Yamaha is very suited to this track and we also have the speed to match it with many of the other teams. The
other Yamaha with Edwards is not too far in front of me and this gives me confidence but like everyone else we have lost much time because of the weather but I'm quite confident the bike will work quite well here tomorrow. Our position hasn't changed so when we make the top 10 we will make a party. We tried our best and we know the limitations we are facing. I hope that we can grow together with Dunlop and finally get something to fight for the next level. We know the gap we must close with the top guys and that we must continue to improve which Dunlop is trying very hard to do."
James Ellison (17th 1'37.019, 48 laps);
"I'm not too unhappy as I am closer to Carlos than ever being less than 0.8 second behind. We also had a problem right at the end of the session that slowed us a bit. The Dunlop qualifying tyres need a few laps to get right up to speed and we just ran out of time as I was quite confident I had another half a second improvement. If we had got that last lap in I would've been a lot closer to Carlos. He knows how to ride the bike and had a lot more experience and my main aim to get right on his times. I know we're down the back but we had a lot of things we wanted to try this weekend. It's the same old story but again the weather played its part. I don't care what it is tomorrow I'm not really bothered although I'd prefer it to be dry because we now have a pretty good set up for the dry. This morning was a bit of a waste as the circuit was very greasy with all the oil coming through so we didn't get a very good wet setup. So if it's not dry I want it to be lashing down - nothing in between."
Herve Poncharal - Tech3 Yamaha Team Director;
"Today was not an easy day with the weather conditions we have had. Soaking wet to start this morning then finishing almost dry. Then it was dry this afternoon with a lot of wind so it has been difficult for everybody. We did quite a few laps with some of the race tyres and we had some interesting results. Then we tried some qualifying tyres and we continued to supply Dunlop with more information so they can continue the development program. This is definitely a good track fro Carlos, who has had some good results here and being at home of course the team wants to do well. The first day was very encouraging because we were just over a second off the best lap but today has been so different. Because of the wet morning, in half of the qualifying session we had to do many laps to find a race tyre. It went reasonably well but after yesterday we thought we could have been better on the grid so we are a little disappointed, especially with the weather. It is supposed to be very wet tomorro
w and we have been going quite well with a lot of water on the track so who knows what will happen. Compared to what we have I don't think we are doing a lot worse than the others when you look at the other Yamaha team on another brand of tyre. We also are surrounded by other teams with other tyre brands as well. At this stage we are making improvements at every race as we test and race all in the same weekend. It may not be what everyone on the outside wants to see, we would love to be fighting at the front but, the reality is that in such a competitive sport as MotoGP we can't expect to have immediate success overnight. It all takes time and we should look at how long some others have taken to taste the success they are now enjoying."
Dani Pedrosa, 50 laps, 209 Km. "Of course I am happy to be on pole again, but the important day is tomorrow! Today the practice was difficult because it was very windy, but it was dry, so that was good. At the beginning of the session I didn't make the most of the practice time - I made some mistakes and I had some traffic. I was not riding so well on race tyres and at the start of the session I didn't really do a good job. But then, at the end, I focused on the job and I got in to a better rhythm. We found a good race tyre so I'm happy about that and the set-up for the bike tomorrow for the race, if it's dry, can be good. I'll be hoping to make a great start and have a good race - we'll have to wait to see what the weather does."
Nicky Hayden, 53 laps, 221'54 Km. "Sure I'm not happy about starting tenth. Things felt pretty good this morning in full wet conditions - we felt pretty strong. But in the dry we're definitely struggling to get some traction and in these long corners I'm losing a lot of time. We'll just have to put our heads together tonight and come up with a better combination for tomorrow and do the best we can. We've got a few ideas for how we can improve things and I believe in the people around me here in the Repsol Honda Team - it's important to have good guys in my corner. Also, thanks to Doctor Costa and his crew for taking good care of me, and hopefully tomorrow I'll feel a bit better."
Loris Capirossi, sixth fastest, 1m 34.802s;
"Today we focussed on the race set-up and compared two tyres. The new one was more competitive and we will most probably use that one tomorrow. We had to sacrifice time in qualifying so we had no time to use the new qualifiers Bridgestone brought here so we only did two fast laps, while other riders made a lot more. For sure starting from a good position on the grid is important but for us it is more important to bring home more points in the race, that's why we gave precedence to the race set-up. We cannot win tomorrow, but our tyres are better than the ones we had in China. The weather forecast is completely unpredictable but for sure if it rains tomorrow the race will be a big gamble."
Sete Gibernau, eighth fastest, 1m 34.870s;
"We are working hard at it but I am not too happy with the result. I am not feeling comfortable with my lap times and the way I am riding, so I have to get my head down and try to work out with the guys why I cannot enter the corners the way I want, with both qualifying and race set-ups. That is the whole deal I think; I am not comfortable going into the corners so we will have to try to work around that. We will try to make the best use of warm-up tomorrow, after we have worked out what to change."
Shinya Nakano: 2nd - 1'34.201;
"Mission accomplished! I had a very good feeling during practice yesterday, so I knew a front row start was possible, but I didn't really expect to be fighting for pole position. When I saw the chequered flag I thought I'd held onto pole, but at the back of the circuit they have a big TV screen, which showed Dani stealing pole position as I rode past it on my way back to the pits. I was a bit disappointed not to take pole, but I'm happy enough with second place on the grid, and I go into tomorrow's race more confident than in recent weeks. So far the races have been difficult for us, but here we know we have a strong package in the Ninja ZX-RR and our Bridgestone tyres, so a good result is possible; maybe even a podium finish if everything goes well."
Randy de Puniet: 4th - 1'34.780;
"If someone had said to me yesterday that I'd be starting my home Grand Prix from fourth position on the grid, I wouldn't have believed them. It's fantastic. I had some problems during practice yesterday, including a crash and an unplanned trip through the gravel, and then this morning I crashed again. For sure, this is not the best way to prepare for qualifying, and I'm sure a lot of people thought I was maybe nervous racing in front of my home crowd, but this wasn't the case. This afternoon it all came together, and I had a good feeling with the bike. I was running consistently in the top six on race tyres early in the session, which gives me confidence with our tyres and our set-up for tomorrow's race. It was great to qualify fourth fastest, but now qualifying is over and I must look to follow today's performance with a good result in tomorrow's race."
Marco Melandri (1'34"795, 5th):
It was a positive day, we worked well
and found a good set-up to work from. I think the set-up will work well
whatever the conditions in the race. The bike worked well from the start
in the qualifying session and I found a good rhythm. However, I couldn't
make full use of the qualifying tyre as I hit a bit of traffic which
caused me to slow down. However, I'm happy with fifth position, it's my
best qualifying performance of the season and I have achieved my
objective which was to start from the first two rows. I have to select
the tyre for the race and then I hope to get a good result."
Toni Elias (1'36"582, 16th):
"I am still having a problem which is
preventing me from riding as I want. I will sit down with the team to
try and find a solution as soon as possible. I am still a little nervous
on the bike as I don't have the rear grip I want which is making it
difficult to exit corners. It will be a difficult race tomorrow, I hope
to make a good start and make up some positions. I like this circuit and
have always gone fast here so I hope to get a good result."
Alex Hofmann #66 (18th - 1'37.267):
"Today, we went on working on the tyres and on the set-up definition of our DUCATI for the race of tomorrow. We will continue during the warm-up, depending on what weather conditions there will be tomorrow. I hope to get the chance to make a good race ; with the race tyres we are not so far from Checa, I will do the maximum to precede him and try to catch some other points for the general classification of the Championship. Anyway, I'm happy to be in the front row if we want to talk about visibility, the logo with my website URL address is on the leather suit of my friend Hopkins, as his logo is on mine".
Jose Luis Cardoso #30 (19th - 1'37.812):
"I'm not much satisfied about today's practice. I had some difficulties in the exit of the corners, the motorcycle tended to bring me on the outside and, consequently, I couldn't open the throttle very quickly ; perhaps also because of the wind. We will see tomorrow, we will make other modifications during the warm-up, to be able to make the race in the best way as possible".
Makoto Tamada - Konica Minolta Honda Rider (13° - 1'36.058");
"I did not expect such a low tone qualifying session after the positive practice day of yesterday. Today I have not been able to find the same riding feeling of yesterday especially for the inferior grip level I'm still too low in the first sector and I am not been able to get improvements here even with qualifying tyres. As far as the setting is concerned, we should not have any particular problems when choosing the race tyres while the weather uncertainty could call everything into question."
Qualifying Practice - Final Times;
- 1. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team, 1'33.990
- 2. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Kawasaki Racing Team, +0.211
- 3. John Hopkins (USA) Team Suzuki MotoGP, +0.646
- 4. Randy de Puniet (FRA) Kawasaki Racing Team, +0.790
- 5. Marco Melandri (ITA) Fortuna Honda, +0.805
- 6. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati Marlboro Team, +0.812
- 7. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Camel Yamaha Team, +0.850
- 8. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Ducati Marlboro Team, +0.880
- 9. Colin Edwards (USA) Camel Yamaha Team, +0.980
- 10. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda Team, +0.998