The Aussie continued to prove his worth in MotoGP™ as the hopes and dreams of the home fans face the Q1 hurdle
There is just no way of predicting which way the tables will turn in the MotoGP™ 2023 season. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) dominated the proceedings on Day 1 of the SHARK Grand Prix de France, topping both Practice sessions to continue his strong run of form with his new KTM team. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) showed a return to the top onboard his Aprilia, whilst the Italian prodigy Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) displayed why he can never be discounted taking 3rd place on Day 1.
As ever in P2 the fight for Q2 positions didn’t come until the session drew nearer to the chequered flag. It had to be all or nothing for Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) who was well aware of the importance of bagging a Q2 spot at his home Grand Prix. The Frenchman began put on the afterburners in the final twenty minutes. Riding on the ragged edge, Quartararo’s first flyer ended early with a near-miss onboard his Yamaha, seeing him make a dramatic save to regroup and put the hammer down once again.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the first to reshuffle the order as the South African hit the top of the timesheets to beat his teammates P1 time to make it a KTM one-two.
The final 10 minutes came and Miller retook the top spot from his teammate to lose it again straight after to Marco Bezzecchi. The Aussie was looking like he was going to bite right back at the VR46 man but a strong final sector from Bezzecchi kept Miller at bay.
Meanwhile, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) was on a flyer as the Spaniard set red sectors to slot himself into P2, and with two and half minutes remaining the timing screens began to light up.
Espargaro, Bezzecchi, Martin was the order with just one minute left. The fans were off their feet as their home hero Johann Zarco began to put down red sectors as he chased down the flying Jack Miller. Miller went top to set the first and only 1:30 with Zarco putting himself into P5 to push Espargaro and Bezzecchi down a spot each and push Bagnaia out of Q2.
With Espargaro and Bezzecchi holding strong in 2nd and 3rd, Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) consolidated P4 just ahead of his teammate, as Aprilia Racing’s Maverick Viñales bagged P6 ahead of Binder in P7.
World Champion vs World Champion: The Bagnaia – Marquez mind games continue
It was a familiar sight for Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) as he looked behind with eleven minutes to go to see Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) right on his rear-wheel as the Repsol Honda man was looking to use the World Champion to tow him into a Q2 position. Bagnaia wasn’t giving into the mind games as the Italian rode back into pitlane to shake off the Spaniard.
Bagnaia headed back out onto the circuit, and it was a last-chance saloon scenario for the Ducati man as he was sat outside of Q2 contention in P12. A swarm of riders followed the World Champion with just six minutes left on the clock. The ominous Marc Marquez slotted himself behind Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) who was shadowing Bagnaia which dragged the Repsol Honda man up to P5.
There was one final bite at the cherry for World Champion as Bagnaia just bagged a Q2 spot to put himself into P9, whilst Marc Marquez took another trip to the gravel trap and finished the session just ahead of the Italian in P8.
WATCH: Turn 9 bites hard as M. Marquez crashes in Practice 2
France’s favourite falls at the first hurdle
It was a disaster for Quartararo on home soil as the Frenchman failed to secure himself a place in Q2. The Yamaha man will have to battle his way through Q1 after finishing in P12 and missing out on the final Q2 spot by 0.139s.
The 2020 World Champion will be joined by Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) who enjoyed a solid top 3 in P1. The Italian finished the day 11th fastest and will face Q1 after missing out by just 0.003s to Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™). Quartararo and Marini will also be joined by Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) as well as the fast-charging Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3), Takaai Nakagami (IDEMISTU Honda Team Asia) and Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™).
Friday’s action saw the return of Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Lenovo Team) as the Italian rejoined forces with the Ducati factory team at the Le Mans circuit where the #9 won with the Bologna bullet during the 2020 season. With the incredibly high level in MotoGP™, it wasn’t an easy return for the Italian as the #9 crashed out of P2 with 20 minutes to go and finished the day in P19.
With plenty to play for in MotoGP™ make sure you don’t miss a single detail as to how the action unfolds with Qualifying and Tissot Sprint coming up on Saturday, as well as Free Practice up first at 10:10 local time (GMT +1)!
1. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – 1:30.950
2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) +0.119
3. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) +0.200
4. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) +0.285
5. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) +0.326
6. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) +0.392
7. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +0.402
8. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) +0.482
9. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) +0.517
10. Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) +0.558
SHARK Grand Prix de France: MotoGP™ P2