Niklas Ajo and Danny Kent take steps forward from Friday times and will set off from second and fourth rows, respectively.
A big improvement by the Husqvarna riders on day two of the French Grand Prix took Niklas Ajo and Danny Kent up the order. Both riders were able to best their Friday times considerably on Saturday, and they placed higher up in the final free practice session. In qualifying, Niklas Ajo confirmed his good feeling about the Le Mans circuit and will take off from a creditable fifth place. Danny Kent was able to turn around his situation from yesterday and will start from the fourth row, in 12th.
Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo rider Niklas Ajo and his team used a change of strategy in the final practice session, taking another step forward. The Finn was able to take a second off his Friday best with a top time of 1:43.241, putting him sixth. Track temperatures were somewhat colder than yesterday afternoon. In qualifying, tactics came into play: Alongside his garage-mate, plus Jack Miller and Karel Hanika, Ajo collaborated to gain space and strong lines. With a time of 1:42:769, he took fifth on the grid for tomorrow’s race. This was his joint best position of his World Championship career so far. He was previously fifth in Qatar and Dutch TT 2012.
Danny Kent was determined to do better than on Friday, and made changes to ensure this. With a completely different setup, the Red Bull Husqvarna Ajo rider took more than a second off his previous best to set a 1:43.341 and claim ninth in the final practice session. He was just half a second off the top spot. In the afternoon he continued to improve, setting a 1:43:247 lap in qualifying which gives him twelfth on the grid for the French Grand Prix.
The aim for tomorrow for both riders will be to latch onto the lead group in the early stages and fight for as high a position as possible on the final laps. Niklas Ajo comes into the race off the back of two consecutive Top 10 finishes, and Danny Kent has taken points at every race so far in 2014.
Results – Qualifying practice
1. Efren Vazquez (Honda) 1:42.491
2. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 1:42.516 +0.025
3. Alex Rins (Honda) 1:42.718 +0.227
4. Alexis Masbou (Honda) 1:42.752 +0.261
5. Niklas Ajo (Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo) 1:42.769 +0.278
12. Danny Kent (Red Bull Husqvarna Ajo) 1:43.247 +0.756
Niklas Ajo >> Audio (only for radio use)
”I am very happy with today’s result. Yesterday we already felt good with the bike and were close to the top. Today we worked a lot with Jack [Miller], Karel [Hanika] and Danny [Kent], with good results. Later we all went off on our own and we helped each other out –it benefits everyone like this.
We also improved the front end a lot today, and the pace was really good. Our starting position is very good, so we will need to relax and try to get into the front group tomorrow –just like we tried to do at Jerez. We shall see if we can stay there for the whole race; we have a good pace, which is the important thing, and the tyres last longer here than at Jerez. I hope that the weather remains stable and it is neither too cold nor too hot, as that could affect everything that we have prepared for tomorrow. We will try to do our best and see what happens.”
Danny Kent >> Audio (only for radio use)
”We’ve improved a lot in terms of lap times and our feeling with the bike, compared to yesterday. Our starting position isn’t the best, but the times are all tight. The most important thing tomorrow is to get a good start, because it’s going to be as exciting if the practice sessions are anything to go by. We need to be aggressive on the opening lap and not suffer in the lead group –which I think will be a large one.
I can be happy, because we’ve put in a lot of effort and it seems like we’ve made a big step forward. I have a bit of soreness in my right shoulder, but it is getting better by the day. We’ve changed a lot of things with the setup from yesterday, going back to the 2012 configuration. It looks like the changes worked, so we will keep working with this.”