Bradley Smith’s hopes of a good start to the French 125GP weekend to help kickstart his 2010 title challenge were wrecked by a mechanical fault this afternoon.
The Oxfordshire teenager, who is chasing a third podium finish at the iconic Le Mans circuit, ended up in a lowly 18th position after a problem struck his Aspar Aprilia machine on his tenth lap.
Despite the frantic efforts of his Spanish crew and Aprilia to diagnose the problem, Smith was unable to complete any further laps and a best time of 1.47.687 left him close to four seconds off the pace.
Smith has yet to claim a podium finish in 2010 and currently trails series leader and Aspar team-mate Nicolas Terol by 24-points.
Fellow British rider Danny Webb ended the opening practice session run in hot and sunny conditions in a creditable tenth place.
The Kent rider logged a best time of 1.45.881 to finish just over 1.9s away from pole position. Webb at one stage had been as high as fifth in the rankings.
The fastest time of the hour-long session was clocked by Pol Espargaro. The Spaniard was in stunning form throughout the opening session and a best time of 1.43.908 left him over half-a-second clear of his closest rival.
Marc Marquez, who has claimed pole position in the season’s opening two races in Qatar and Jerez, was second quickest but 0.522s adrift of Espargaro.
German Sandro Cortese logged the third best time with a 1.44.669 but he was the last rider to lap inside of a second of Espargaro.
Fourth place went to Terol, but he too missed the vital closing stages having suffered a mechanical issue with his Aspar Aprilia.