Leopard’s Dennis Foggia was back to his session topping best as preparations for the Moto3 French GP got underway at Le Mans on Friday.
Gaviota GasGas Aspar’s Izan Guevara and the second Leopard of Tatsuki Suzuki completed the top three with Sterilgarda Max Racing’s retuning John McPhee sitting 16th at day one’s close of play.
Friday’s action kicked off with McPhee back onboard the Husqvarna after a five race absence while Red Bull KTM’s Jaume Masia led the way in the early times. The Spaniard repeatedly refining the pace out front and circulating on the bubble of 1’45 by his third effort before Rivacold Snipers’ Andrea Migno broke the barrier next time around.
Foggia was back in the mix after a disappointing start to the European season, sitting second, behind Masia once again, as the next laps registered with Guevara, Diogo Moreira and Suzuki joining the pack in the opening stages.
French rider Lorenzo Fellon returned to action in front of his home crowd after a dislocated shoulder, running 23rd at the halfway stage narrowly behind McPhee, VisionTrack’s Scott Ogden and Mario Aji on the Honda Team Asia.
Masia maintained control with low 1’43 pace from Migno, Guevara and Foggia as the second half counted down. Carlos Tatay joined the fray on the CFMoto ahead of Moreira, Suzuki and Tech3’s Deniz Öncü with Sergio Garcia and Riccardo Rossi completing the top 10.
Jose Rueda began his maiden replacement ride of 2022 inside the top ten, in ninth, as he stood in for the injured Alberto Surra at Rivacold. Teammate Migno topping the times thanks to a 1’43.257 with ten minutes left on the clock. Daniel Holgado improving to circulate just behind his own teammate as the Ajo riders locked out third and fourth.
Tatay looked to be on to take charge before Kaito Toba crashed out in sector three, with the ensuing yellow flags cutting short the PruestelGP rider’s impressive effort. The Snipers pair working in tandem as they advanced to first and fourth in the closing minutes.
The final flurries saw Leopard lock out the front as Foggia headed Suzuki on mid 1’42 pace before Guevara split the pair next time around. Ryusei Yamanaka arrived on the MT Helmets to capture fourth in the penultimate minute, Masia immediately bettering as the top seven lit the screens ablaze in red for the last push.
The chequered flag found Foggia consolidating his command with a 1’42.184 from Suzuki and Migno, Guevara, Yamanaka and Masia leading Rossi, Holgado, Moreira and Tatay in the top ten with Öncü and Garcia just adrift. McPhee completed his returning session from 14th with Ogden and teammate Josh Whatley 25th and 30th respectively.
The afternoon action was subject to a brief delay following a red flag in the MotoE session, with Garcia suffering his own heavy crash at turn ten as the green lights finally released the pack. Moreira mirrored his fate at the same corner moments later as Guevara set the initial pace in the standings.
A turn eight slide saw Öncü down after just seven minutes but easily back into the groove with no damage done before turn seven found Gerard Riu and Taiyo Furusato barrel rolling out in separate but successive incidents. Dunlop claiming Fellon in a massive highside with just ten minutes complete.
Guevara was the first rider running 1’42 pace as the session bedded in, albeit seven-tenths adrift of the overall benchmark. Foggia and Suzuki sitting second and third with McPhee up to eighth in the FP2 times. The Scot was on the move after the opening 15 minutes, as he promoted the Sterilgarda to fourth with a 1’43.164 - leaving him 12th overall. KTM’s Masia narrowly ahead with Suzuki and Tatay now behind while Ayumu Sasaki circulated in 11th.
Foggia began to home in on his morning pace at the halfway stage as he circulated half a second clear of the rest before Tatay took charge by a mere 0.001s. McPhee continuing to refine his personal best from 11th overall with Ogden and Whatley improving likewise in 19th and 28th.
Rossi suffered a near identical turn four crash to his Sic58 teammate as the closing quarter of an hour approached having just set the third fastest time of the afternoon.
The late session lull gave way to the final push as the clock struck five to go. Foggia breaking the 1’42 barrier with a 1’41.962 on his 15th lap with Guevara just adrift. Yamanaka crashed out at turn seven with three minutes to go, as Suzuki retuned to the top three. Tatay, Masia, Migno and Rossi holding off Matteo Bertelle, Holgado, and Öncü in the top ten.
The Avintia rider’s lap P8 lap was deleted due to yellow flags as Sasaki stole the position seconds later. McPhee dumped out of Q2 contention as the mid pack improved en masse.
Foggia’s final effort advanced the target once again with a 1’41.680 with the top five unchanged at the chequered flag. Elia Bartolini promoted the second Avintia to sixth ahead of Migno, Rossi and Sasaki with Öncü, Moreira, Holgado and Artigas staking their claims on the all-important Q2 places overnight. Garcia completed the session in 14th but Yamanaka’s FP1 time meant the GasGas rider was adrift in the overall standings.