11 October 2020 08:33
Suzuki's Joan Mir has his work cut out if he's to extend his MotoGP podium run to four in a row, at Le Mans on Sunday. The title contender, who has scored more points than any other rider over the last seven rounds, struggled to find his usual feeling with the GSX-RR in the chilly conditions and could only qualify in 14th place. "Honestly it was a really difficult day. I struggled a lot with the bike and I didn't have a great feeling," Mir said. "We have margin to improve for tomorrow, but the reality is that we start really far back.
It will be important to fix a bit my feeling with the bike if we want to make a good comeback." Mir fell once and team-mate Alex Rins twice as the Suzuki's delicate use of its tyres, which put them both on the podium with a late charge a week ago in Barcelona, seemed to work against them in today's 10-17 degree air temperatures. "The cold temperatures here at Le Mans is really on the limit of what you can ride with a motorbike," Mir said. "The temperature of the front tyre is something that at the moment we struggle with and I lose a lot of time in the first sector because of the first left corner, I'm not able to stop the bike. I don't have any feedback and if I try a bit more I can lose the front. "This is really difficult.
"Today I'm not looking at the other riders," Mir said. "It's true that with Petrucci, Miller starting at the front it will be hard for [the Yamahas] to break away. But at the moment I'm focussed on getting my feeling back." "I don't want to blame Michelin, Suzuki, or the riders because it's the package. [But] the package that we have at the moment, you can see on the results, we are not competitive. So we will work on that." Rins will start from 16th place having also failed to progress beyond Qualifying 1. "It's not great to have two crashes before qualifying because it affects your confidence - but the positive thing is that we understood why they happened and it's mainly a problem of keeping the temperature in the tyres," Rins said. "My pace isn't that bad, I think it was good enough for Top 5, but the cold temperatures made it tough for us today. Tomorrow's first lap will be key for the race; if I can be competitive at the beginning I believe we can still recover many positions and have a good race." Ducati's Danilo Petrucci expects "10 riders can fight for the podium" in Sunday's MotoGP French Grand Prix at Le Mans. Having had to come through Q1, Petrucci qualified his works Ducati on the front row at Le Mans for the first time since his Italian Grand Prix-winning weekend at Mugello last year. Having been a podium finisher at the French GP in the last two seasons, Petrucci "knew I could do a good weekend" at Le Mans having "found something better" under braking with the GP20 last time out at Catalunya. Starting from third, Petrucci says his front row has taken on further importance as he expects a mass battle for the podium on Sunday in the 27-lap race. "I knew I could do a good weekend here," Petrucci said. "But this morning [in FP3] in my last run I always found some yellow flags, so it was impossible for me to do any lap times. "So, I had to pass through Q1. I feel good with the bike. I always liked this track since I joined MotoGP and during my past seasons here I always find a good feeling. "Since Barcelona I found something better on the bike, especially on braking where I struggled the most during the year. And in Barcelona I lost a lot of time on the straight and at Le Mans there are not so many long straights. "So, I think it's a good thing to start on the front row because I think 10 riders can fight for the podium. "At least starting in front you can stay away from the problems and maybe manage better the race." Both factory team Ducati riders Petrucci and team-mate Andrea Dovizioso have struggled all season to adapt to 2020 Michelin rear tyre, with most of their problems coming under braking. But Dovizioso has also enjoyed an upturn in form at Le Mans this weekend, qualifying sixth having made several bids for pole position late one. The Italian believes part of this is down to the layout of the track not having many straight braking zones, but is unsure whether the Ducati is just working better or its rivals are struggling more. "I don't have a clear answer for this," he replied when asked why Ducati was stronger at Le Mans. "Maybe the competitors struggle a bit more than us in these conditions or this track. "About me, about the tyre, I think there is less straight braking and this maybe helps me with the negative points to manage the rear tyres on braking. I can't know exactly why some of the bikes struggle maybe a bit more, I don't know if that's the case because the pace is really fast for a lot of riders. So, we will see in the race." Share this article on LinkedIn Email Cal Crutchlow says he was caught out by Danilo Petrucci "pulling across the track" during MotoGP French Grand Prix qualifying meaning he "lost the front row". The LCR rider has continued to struggle from complications due to an arm pump operation he underwent at the end of August, but managed to qualify fourth at Le Mans on Saturday. Crutchlow's 1m31.686s lap did put him into second provisionally late on, but was shuffled back to the head of the second row by the chequered flag. He admits he "made a couple of mistakes" on his best lap, one of which was going wide at Turn 9 after getting caught out by Ducati's Petrucci - though insists there was "no real problem" with what the Italian did - and this cost him the front row. "I actually made a couple of mistakes in my lap," Crutchlow explained. "I had a marker, which was Valentino [Rossi], but he was a good two seconds ahead of me and I knew I was on a good lap, so I didn't want to blow it and run off the track. "At the end of the back straight I braked too early, then into Turn 9 Petrucci pulled across the track - no real problem, but he was right in my braking zone and I missed the corner completely. I lost the front row there, but no excuses. "I put a good lap together, my last sector on my outlap was faster than my last sector in my fast lap. "So, I know we could have improved and could have been better. But overall, I felt good with the bike and to be able to push." Through numerous injury woes and a difficult RC213V, Crutchlow has only made it into the top six in qualifying twice in 2020 and finished inside the top 10 in a race once. Though he admits he does have "some motivation to prove some people wrong" when he's on the bike, he doesn't care about his doubters enough to consider his Le Mans qualifying as having proved a point. "Do you even think I give a shit about what anyone thinks," he replied when asked by Autosport if fourth in qualifying proved his doubters wrong. "I don't care about doubters. I used to 12 years ago. Yes, I feel some motivation always to prove some people wrong. "But that's not me saying 'fuck you', it's about me also proving to myself and proving a point with myself. "At the end of the day, I do not know any rider that would be sat on the grid with what I've been through. "So, in the end, I'm doing a good job to even be here and as I said it's nice to be back up there in the sessions, and I've always said to you I haven't lost any speed. "There's no problem with the speed, or the motivation, or the desire or want to continue to be fast. "At a few points my arm and my body has not been able to do that this year, but I also believe in time it will recover.