French MotoGP: Miller tops damp FP1 from Zarco at Le Mans

Ducati’s Jack Miller, fresh from his Jerez victory, dominated a damp first practice for the MotoGP French Grand Prix having gambled on a slick-tyre lap late on.

French MotoGP: Miller tops damp FP1 from Zarco at Le Mans

The Le Mans weekend is set to be disrupted by wet weather for the duration of the three days, with the opening session taking place in damp conditions.

That meant lap times improved significantly across the opening stages, with Spanish Grand Prix winner Miller annexing top spot at the start of FP1.

The Ducati rider set the initial pace with a 1m47.320s, which he would improve over the next few tours to a 1m43.312s.

A few moments later, KTM’s Miguel Oliveira took over from Miller with a 1m42.824s, before Honda’s Marc Marquez moved clear with a 1m42.037s.

At the same time reigning world champion Joan Mir edged ahead with a 1m41.854s, having had to grab his second bike when his other Suzuki sounded an alarm at Turn 8 15 minutes into FP1.

Home hero Johann Zarco moved ahead of Mir on his Pramac Ducati with a 1m41.631s, demoting Miller again moments later with a 1m40.796s, which he followed up with a 1m40.398s.

With dry lines appearing on track, Miller gambled on slicks in the final 12 minutes along with LCR’s Alex Marquez.

Marquez’s effort ended at Turn 3 with seven minutes remaining when he crashed, but Miller was able to jump up to second with a 1m40.407s.

And on his following tour, the Ducati rider monstered the field by 2.3s with a 1m38.007s, timing this lap to perfection as spots of rain returned.

This forced the field back onto wet tyres to close out the session, with a number of late improvements shuffling the provisional Q2 order for Saturday inside the top 10.

Zarco cut Miller’s advantage down to a still sizable 1.4s with a final effort of 1m39.488s, with Mir completing the top three ahead of factory Honda duo Pol Espargaro and Marc Marquez.

Aprilia’s Lorenzo Savadori was an impressive sixth on the RS-GP, with the rookie armed with some experience of wet conditions in MotoGP from last year’s European GP weekend.

Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia on the sister factory Ducati was seventh, with Oliveira, Suzuki’s Alex Rins and the other Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro completing the top 10.

Should the weather worsen across the rest of Friday and Saturday morning, Yamaha face having all four of its riders going through Q1 as none of them made it into the top 10 in FP1.

Maverick Vinales was fastest Yamaha rider in 12th having crashed late on, with Petronas SRT duo Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi trailing him.

Fresh from arm-pump surgery after the Jerez race, home favourite Fabio Quartararo was 3.6s off the pace in 16th.

Last year’s wet French GP race winner Danilo Petrucci was a low-key 19th on the Tech3 KTM.

MotoGP French GP - FP1 results

Cla Rider Bike Laps Time Gap
1 Australia Jack Miller Ducati 14 1'38.007  
2 France Johann Zarco Ducati 18 1'39.488 1.481
3 Spain Joan Mir Suzuki 13 1'40.069 2.062
4 Spain Pol Espargaro Honda 16 1'40.115 2.108
5 Spain Marc Marquez Honda 18 1'40.121 2.114
6 Italy Lorenzo Savadori Aprilia 18 1'40.244 2.237
7 Italy Francesco Bagnaia Ducati 22 1'40.256 2.249
8 Portugal Miguel Oliveira KTM 16 1'40.582 2.575
9 Spain Alex Rins Suzuki 16 1'40.679 2.672
10 Spain Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 14 1'41.029 3.022
11 Spain Alex Marquez Honda 19 1'41.258 3.251
12 Spain Maverick Viñales Yamaha 14 1'41.299 3.292
13 Italy Franco Morbidelli Yamaha 21 1'41.423 3.416
14 Italy Valentino Rossi Yamaha 20 1'41.524 3.517
15 Japan Takaaki Nakagami Honda 17 1'41.576 3.569
16 France Fabio Quartararo Yamaha 21 1'41.641 3.634
17 Spain Iker Lecuona KTM 18 1'42.500 4.493
18 South Africa Brad Binder KTM 19 1'42.899 4.892
19 Italy Danilo Petrucci KTM 12 1'43.045 5.038
20 Italy Luca Marini Ducati 18 1'43.262 5.255
21 Spain Tito Rabat Ducati 21 1'43.469 5.462
22 Italy Enea Bastianini Ducati 16 1'43.644 5.637
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