Ayumu Sasaki finishes 15th on the combined timesheets, with John McPhee 20th after two crashes.
The first day of the French Grand Prix proved to be a tough one for PETRONAS Sprinta Racing’s Ayumu Sasaki and John McPhee. Both riders ended the day outside the provisional qualification for Q2, with the 15th fastest combined time for Sasaki and the 20th fastest for McPhee.
In the morning Moto3 session at Le Mans, McPhee finished in 13th position with a time of 1min 43.643secs after suffering a small crash at Turn 3 in the final minute. The Briton had focused his work in this session on adjustments to the front end of his bike. Sasaki conducted extensive race preparation work in a change of approach for this weekend, with long runs instead of searching for one-off flying laps in practice, and clocked a 1min 44.589secs lap, the 25th quickest of the morning.
The Moto3 duo came out for FP2 determined to set quicker times and claim provisional places in Q2, aware that rain could fall on Saturday and make improvement impossible. Sasaki took a step forward, putting in a top time of 1min 42.919secs that would take him up to 15th overall, albeit just a tenth off a time that would allow him to make it into Q2.
McPhee took over half a second off his morning best time and led the way early in the session. The PETRONAS Sprinta Racing remained in the upper half of the timesheets when he suffered his second crash of the day -this time at Turn 9 with four minutes remaining. He finished 20th with a 1min 43.084secs lap.
FP3 on Saturday presents a final opportunity for McPhee and Sasaki to fight to enter Q2. Qualifying will take place at 12:35pm local time (Q1) and 1:00pm (Q2).
#71 Ayumu Sasaki
“In FP1 I tried to ride alone and improve my feeling with the bike. I tried to read how the bike behaved, without necessarily going for a fast lap time. The result wasn’t a fast time, but I’m happy with what we did, because I was able to understand better what I need to improve for the race. The focus in FP2 was to go for a quicker lap time, with improvements to the set-up made from the morning’s work. Unfortunately, on my last attempt with new tyres another rider crashed in front of me and I had to cut the throttle, aborting the lap. We ended the day one place off Q2 and I’m happy with the work that we did. We have some things to improve ahead of the race, and that is what we will do tomorrow. I’m pleased with the change to our practice plan, and I think it will help us to be faster.”
#17 John McPhee
“The positive side from today is that we tried different things out and we have learned from them. We are working hard on the front end and I think we can take a good step forward tomorrow. That said, it’s been a difficult day. In FP1 I crashed and in FP2 I made a mistake, went straight on and fell when I reached the gravel. It was a shame, because it was the only moment of the session in which we had new tyres on the bike. Obviously they were dirty from then on, and I only had two laps to set a good lap time. We will have to improve in a few areas tomorrow, but we have to take the weather into account as if it rains it will be difficult to improve our times.”