Leon Haslam (HRC Honda) drove his 300th race in WorldSBK on Saturday and the fast Englishman made it into the top ten despite one mistake.

The two successful HRC Honda drivers after the first run in France

Leon Haslam (HRC Honda):Qualifying went well for me today. I was able to drive a 1: 37.0 with the same tire combination that I used later. Unfortunately, on the first lap of race one, I had some braking problems that forced me to simply deal with the situation every lap. I was at least seven tenths slower than in practice, so it felt like a very long race. It was my mistake that I lost three or four places in the final stage because I went off the track. So in the end it wasn’t the best result for me, because after this qualifying and the course of the weekend I had the feeling that we should have made it into the top 5. It could have been sixth had it not been for that mistake at the end.“

Alvaro Bautista (HRC Honda): I really enjoyed today’s race and made my comeback from fourteen on the grid to sixth on the grid. This morning, I struggled to set a good lap time in qualifying. I don’t know why, but I felt like I didn’t have enough grip in the rear tire that I couldn’t be very fast even with a lot of pressure. I was only able to improve by a few tenths of the times I set with the Race Tyre. However, I was confident about the race because I knew we had a good race pace. So it was important to get off to a good start and try to stay ahead with the guys. And that’s exactly what I did. That’s why I’m happy because I feel like we did our best at the moment. For tomorrow, it would be good to finish in the top nine in the sprint race so that we have a better starting position for the second race, which is about further improving.

Alvaro Bautista in the HRC Honda Box – next season he will return to Aruba.it Ducati and with it the team for which he won the first 11 races in a row two years ago and afterwards everyone thought he would steal the title from the reigning world champion.

The Kawasaki pilots after a different first day of racing

Jonathan Rea:I didn’t realize I was doing eight Superpoles in a row until I saw it on the TV screen. That’s pretty cool. And also 100 superpoles for Kawasaki, which is great. It was an excellent day at school because I learned a lot. I can now give the engineers in the pit box some information and hope that they can do something with it. It is clear that we are pretty much at the limit of the package and are demanding a lot from the bike – in terms of stability and front tires. When I was on the road with Toprak, I felt very good in the first sector, right up to the braking area of turn five. But when I shifted from first to second gear at the exit of T5, I lost the whole time on the lap. I felt pretty good for the rest of the lap. At some point it was time to consolidate second place because Toprak left.“

Alex Lowes:I felt good in all the sessions today. In Superpole, I couldn’t improve my time on my second qualifying tire and made a small mistake at Turn 15, but my first qualifying lap was still fast enough to be fourth on the grid. My start wasn’t the best and I came back to fifth, but soon I got back to third, past Locatelli and Rinaldi. I stayed with Jonathan and Toprak a bit, but I didn’t have the pace in the middle of the race. When Locatelli started to catch up with me, I tried to push again, but I was at the limit of the front. It’s been a while since I was on the podium, so I kept pushing and unfortunately made a mistake at the front. Not finishing the race is not positive, but how I ride and how I feel on the bike is much more positive. Being as fast as I am feels great, and we will get two more chances tomorrow.

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki) ahead of Andrea Locatelli (Yamaha) in the battle for third place in the first run of Magny-Cours – Saturday afternoon did not end well for the man in green (© Kawasaki Racing Team).

More rider voices with varying degrees of success

Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #21):It was a pretty positive race also because we are coming from a quite difficult period. We decided to work differently during this weekend, and I think this new approach has paid off. Unfortunately, the rear grip was never the best. In the end, I wanted to fight for the podium but in the last five laps, the tire dropped a lot. We will try again tomorrow“.

Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #45): It was a very tough race. I never had any grip, both on the front and on the rear. I tried to hold on until the end, even though the feeling was not the best. Then I crashed. In conditions like these, when the temperature is high but not very high, we have difficult problems to solve. Anyway, I hope to do better tomorrow in terms of results“.

Tom Sykes in his third and final year for BMW before making way for Scott Redding. After starting position 3 on Saturday afternoon, things didn’t go as planned for the man from Huddersfield in the Yorkshire countryside.

Tom Sykes (BMW): It was another good Superpole, but I am disappointed with the race today, and disappointed at not being able to race with the other bikes. Riding in the group, we struggled with the engine temperature and braking performance all through the race, unfortunately. We were quicker in the turns, but couldn’t get close on the straights to make a pass on the brakes. So, it was a frustrating race, but we will have to have another go tomorrow.”

Michael van der Mark (BMW): “I think if you look at the result it isn’t that bad, but it’s a shame I lost so much time in this morning’s session. In the races, I had a good feeling with the bike, and we wanted to try something different in FP3, but we couldn’t do so. So now in the race I am struggling a bit, and unsure whether yesterday’s setting was better or not. But anyway, I am happy with the points, and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s two races.”

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