Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) will lead Honda’s quartet of RC213V riders in tomorrow’s French Grand Prix, which marks one-third distance in the 2022 MotoGP World Championship.
The six-times MotoGP World Champion qualified tenth quickest at the end of a challenging Saturday in the French sunshine. He had started the day well, with a superb ride in FP3, which elevated him to fourth fastest, after ending Friday 15th.
The 29-year-old Spaniard still doesn’t have full strength in his right arm and shoulder, so his usual weekend plan is to conserve energy and strength for when he needs it, which means FP3 and then qualifying.
However, Marquez slid off at the end of FP4, damaging one of his RC213Vs. His mechanics didn’t have enough time to repair the machine for the Q2 qualifier, so he only had one bike for the all-important 15-minute session. As always, he pushed as hard as he knew how and had high hopes of bettering his position on his last lap, but a small mistake at Turn Four ruined his chances.
Although his grid position isn’t the best his fastest lap was less than seven tenths of a second off pole position.
Marquez will share the fourth row of the grid with Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V), who were 11th and 12th quickest in Q2.
Espargaro started his Le Mans in perfect style, setting the fastest lap in yesterday morning’s FP1 outing but complicated his weekend when he slid off this morning. This track features nine right-handers to five lefts, so keeping sufficient heat in the left side of the front tyre isn’t easy, especially in cooler morning outings. The 30-year-old Spaniard was pushing hard in FP3, working to ensure direct promotion to Q2, when he lost the front and fell at the Turn Seven left. That tumble dropped him outside of the top ten but he fought back valiantly to end free practice in ninth place.
Like his team-mate Espargaro was unlucky in qualifying. He was in full-attack mode in the final moments of Q2 when he was badly baulked by a rival riding slowly on the racing line at Turn Four. That cost the former Moto2 World Champion the chance of bettering his grid position.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) has had a painful two days here, struggling with the left knee injury he sustained during last week’s post-Spanish GP tests at Jerez. The injury is also causing him difficulties when riding, especially when changing direction.
Despite that the 30-year-old from Chiba has had a strong Saturday, ending free practice seventh fastest, half a second off the best times. That gave him direct access to Q2 but he wasn’t able to repeat his earlier performance and had to be happy with 12th.
Team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V), who two years ago here scored his first MotoGP podium, qualified 21st, even though his best lap was less than two tenths of a second slower than Nakagami’s. As always MotoGP is incredibly close, with just over one second covering the fastest 16 riders here.
The 26-year-old Spaniard ended day one 15th, after a minor fall in FP2 and was hopeful of bettering his speed today. He did recover the feeling with his bike and lowered his best lap time by almost half a second but it wasn’t enough to improved his position.
The French GP is round seven of this year’s longest-ever 21-race MotoGP series. After tomorrow’s racing the season continues with back-to-back races, the Italian and Catalan Grands Prix, on May 29 and June 5. The season concludes at Valencia, Spain, on November 6.