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After a tougher than expected weekend in Jerez, both Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and teammate Maverick Viñales have made promising starts to the HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France. The factory pairing end Friday P3 and P4 respectively, with home hero Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) just behind them in P5.
Yamaha have won the last three races at the Le Mans circuit, with Viñales and Zarco taking first and second here in 2017, and despite losing out to Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) on the combined time sheets on Friday, the three Yamaha riders are positive about their chances this weekend.
The ‘Doctor’, third fastest on Friday, spoke about his good feelings on used tyres. “On this track the bike works very well so you can push,” said Rossi. “It looks like, with the used tires, our pace is not too bad. Anyway, it’s early because we have to decide different things, especially the tires, but also the balance of the bike. It was a good start.”
Rossi: "It's positive to be on top 3 but it’s just Friday"
Despite trying things that didn’t work in FP2, Viñales also felt good on the M1, and expects to have a good qualifying session on Saturday. “This afternoon we tried some things that really didn’t work so we lost a lot of time in the box. I couldn’t get the rhythm, especially with the medium front tire because you need laps to trust it,” explained the 23-year-old. “I think I can finish well in qualifying because in FP2 the bike was working quite well. However, I didn’t think we had the best tire option in the afternoon. In the end, I’m happy. When I push, I can get the lap time but let’s see.”
The two Movistar Yamahas look good to mount an attack at the front row, but what about the man with 100,000 fans cheering him on this weekend? Zarco was also pleased with his opening day, despite alluding to a slight problem with rear grip. “I feel happy and quite competitive. I feel, still, that we are missing something on the bike that we need to find the good setup to use well the rear grip but when we’re going to find that solution I will be able to think about the victory.”
Highlights: Dovi leads Marquez and Yamaha
The double Moto2™ World Champion was also happy to be mixing it with the fastest riders again, and is confident if the right changes are made, he can fight for a ninth consecutive front row start. “It’s good to be there with the top five or top six other guys. I’m fast when I need to be, I can push and do the lap times so I have quite good control but, as I say, we must still improve to be on the front row in qualifying and up there with the other two (Dovizioso and Marquez) to play for victory.”
Can Zarco get his second pole of the season and send the Le Mans crowd crazy? Or will it be one of the Movistar Yamahas who starts from the front? Find out when qualifying gets underway at 14:10 local time (GMT +2).
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