Another top10 finish for Maria Herrera in Moto e
The French Moto E round turned out to be a thriller: overtakes, battles for the win and rain in qualifying. In a tricky Le Mans race, Openbank Aspar's rider Maria Herrera claimed a top ten finish at her return after the surgery.
At the Jerez season opener, Spanish rider Maria Herrera - the only female on the grid of the all-electric Moto E World Cup - was ninth after a solid race.
Despite the points-scoring round, Herrera reported pain in her right forearm after the race and was diagnosed with arm pump - an issue that has become relatively common among motorbike racers of all classes.
Herrera underwent surgery approximately 10 days prior to the second round of the season at Le Mans, France: the operation was successful, and the Spaniard was therefore able to join the Moto E field at the Bugatti Circuit.
The first practice took place in dry track conditions; Dominique Aegerter topped the timesheets and Herrera was 14th. The best time in FP2 was set by Eric Granado while Maria maintained her position in the second session.
"I was looking forward to putting my arm to test after the arm pump surgery and see if I could feel improvements - and it is responding well. I can still feel the stitches, but little by little it's getting better. We need to work because I still don't feel strong enough under braking, I can't stop the bike in the way I'd like to. We're studying how to ride on this circuit, but I'm optimistic for tomorrow." - Maria said.
The Openbank Aspar Team rider was 13th in the last practice, on Saturday.
Just before qualifying, the rain started to fall - heavily. The session was obviously declared wet. In this case, the E-Pole format changes: riders get a 12 minute session, with all entrants sharing the track together. Every rider can complete 6 laps, including the in and out lap- effectively granting everyone 4 timed laps.
When the riders went out, the session was quickly red-flagged because of the very heavy rainfall. E-Pole started about half an hour later.
The first times were slow - Granado's one was 2:03:623. Maria Herrera initially posted a 2:12:906 - just before Lukas Tulovic and Yonny Hernandez crashed and couldn't rejoin the session. Eric Granado also had a hard fall at turn 3, but he managed to stand back up and set the new fastest time.
Maria was sitting in P16 before Pons moved into the provisional pole. He was then topped by Aegerter when Casadei crashed. His time, surprisingly, wasn't deleted - at least initially.
Maria was down to P15.
But the final results came after the qualifying - many times were deleted due to the crashes. The penalties promoted Eric Granado to pole position, who lined up alongside Miquel Pons and Matteo Ferrari on Sunday. The former pole sitter would have to start from eighth on the grid.
Maria Herrera's times were also deleted - all but the first one - meaning that she had to take the start from the last row.
"It's hard for me to ride on the water due to my size, I'm hardly able to execute the road. Four laps were too short to achieve a good time. I think I could have done it better if there would have been more laps to roll. I am happy with this evolution we're having." - she commented.
The Moto E race was moved from the morning schedule to 3:30 PM, after the MotoGP race. Andrea Mantovani and Miquel Pons fell on the line up lap - excluding both from the race.
Race control reduced the number of laps by one.
After the start, the Brazilian pole sitter fell at turn 2 and Zaccone moved into the lead, preceding Aegerter. Herrera had a very good start and advanced to P14.
It wasn't long until Aegerter could snatch P1 though - the Swiss rider overtook Zaccone after a good battle as Granado recovered to fifth.
Surprisingly, Hiraki Okubo moved into third position, followed closely by Cardelus.
Avant Ajo MotoE rider Okubo claimed second place with a great move and managed to keep both Zaccone and Ferrari behind. The Japanese charge didn't stop and he became the new leader - having gained ten positions from the start - as he passed Aegerter.
Meanwhile, Maria Herrera also had a very good recovery and was up into eleventh position.
Okubo was deep into a corner and he lost several places - but his race only came to an end when Aldeguer (Team Aspar) crashed and took him out as well. Herrera's teammate was able to continue the race, but finished a distant 15th behind the pack.
Taking advantage from the chaotic situation, Tulovic moved into third and Zaccone overtook Aegerter. At the same time, Maria Herrera found herself within the top ten.
A few moments later, Maria was up to ninth place, with Eric Granado also continuing his chase for the podium spots. When the Brazilian passed Aegerter and entered the battle for the victory.
In this close fight at the top, Zaccone was temporarily ahead of the pack, but he then fell behind Granado - with Casadei also overtaking Aegerter.
The battle up front went on until the chequered flag: Pramac's Zaccone crossed the line in second, but was dropped one place down for having exceeded the track limits on the last lap at turn 14.
Maria Herrera, at her first race after the arm surgery, took home another top ten finish.
"I had a good start, I was able to quickly overtake a couple of riders in front of me who were slower but had qualified ahead of me after my best lap was canceled. We were quite a large group and I was comfortable - but I didn't have the same feeling as in practice, I was struggling for traction. I am happy to be able to score points after surgery and we are leaving with six more points in the standings." - she said after the race.
The next Moto E World Cup race will take place on 6th June in Barcelona.