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. I lose half a second in the first sector and this is a lot. But the good news is that in the other sectors we don’t lose time. We are fast. This means we can be fast but we need to find a solution for the first sector. If we improve, not half a second probably, but 2-3 tenths, we can make a really good race.”
Mir is currently just eight points from world championship leader Fabio Quartararo, who has qualified on pole position for his home round.
“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.”