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MotoGP Le Mans: Ducati's Miller finishes Friday in charge

Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller ended Friday’s MotoGP free practice at the top of the timesheets with a healthy four-tenth margin over Maverick Vinales in second and Taka Nakagami third.

Miller was one of the first riders to change to slicks on a drying track and made his presence felt immediately but left it until the final few minutes to stick in his sheet-topping 1’34.133, 0.367s ahead of Vinales’ factory Monster Yamaha.

Vinales, fresh from some handbags with Joan Mir after he re-joined the track in a manner that didn’t suit the Suzuki rider, finished his day with a 1’34.500 set on his last lap.


LCR Honda’s Nakagami secured his third place with a 1’34.567 on his final whole lap but the Japanese rider was on a quicker one before he lost the front at turn 11.

All the essential action happened in the final ten minutes when it was clear that the riders were starting to push. For some, too much. Aprilia duo Smith and Aleix Espargaro were down at turn 12 and turn three respectively, Smith suffering a nasty looking highside (see below) but was able to walk away from the scene. Then, Andrea Dovizioso slid unhurt into the gravel at turn 3.

In the meantime, Rossi had slotted himself into fourth behind Nakagami, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Iker Lecuona, Miller had been shuffled down to fifth. Then, the injured warrior Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) found himself at the summit, but it wasn’t for long. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and then Miller again beat the British rider’s time. Miller went eight-tenths quicker than anyone to once again move the goalposts into a different ballpark.

Viñales then cut the gap to half a second to place himself second after running off and into the gravel a lap earlier at turn eight, which upset Mir. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), third place in FP1, launched into second before Nakagami went quicker to sit 0.291 behind Miller with a minute to go.

Miller had no such worries though, the Aussie went faster again and looked by far and away the most comfortable rider on track in the afternoon, couple that with a P4 in FP1 and Miller looks bang in form in France. Eventually, Miller finished 0.367 clear of the field with good mate Viñales slotting into P2 on his final flying lap, he too went well in both conditions after finishing P6 on Friday morning.

Zarco was another rider to go quicker on his last lap of the day to finish P4 overall, it was a great opening day at his home Grand Prix – P2 and P4 is a job well done for the Frenchman. Rossi completed the top five on Day 1 at Le Mans, The Doctor popping up to P5 on his last flyer to jump up three places from his wet P8 finish in FP1.

Petrucci ended the day P6 to make it a good Friday for the Italian, he leads Crutchlow as the duo claim double top 10s in FP1 and FP2 to head into Saturday’s in good shape.

Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) got his first taste of wet weather MotoGP action on Friday morning, and the reigning Moto2 World Champion was impressive to finish P14 and just over a second away from Smith’s time. In the afternoon, Marquez again went well to claim P8 on Day 1.

Completing the top 10 was Morbidelli and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in P9 and P10 respectively, another two riders to be inside the leading 10 riders in both the wet and dry-ish conditions.


The same can’t be said for the leading two in the Championship though. Quartararo was 18th in the wet conditions and P13 when the riders hit the asphalt on slicks, with second in the title race Mir just ahead in the afternoon – P12 for the Spaniard.

Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) crashed unhurt in the latter stages.

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