Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) made it two Fridays on top in a row at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, the Aussie fastest in FP2 to pip Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) by less than a tenth. Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) completed an all-Independent Team rider top three, still within 0.120 off his teammate at the top. The top 19 on Friday were covered by just under three-quarters of a second.
Championship leader Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) didn’t have the smoothest start to his first #MatchPoint weekend, the number 36 ending the day in 12th and suffering what’s become an uncharacteristic crash in the afternoon – rider ok. Second overall Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) ended Day 1 in P16, meaning it’s advantage Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in the top three in the title fight as the Suzuki rider took ninth.
After getting so close to the podium last weekend, it was Nakagami out the blocks quickest to top in FP1 as the Japanese rider ended the session just over a tenth ahead of Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT). Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) made it a Yamaha duo on the chase, improving late on to move up to third.
With the weather dry and not too cold, a huge improvement on a tough Friday at the European GP, the riders were down to business straight away. Morbidelli set the early pace with a 1:30.944, a substantial margin quicker than the race last Sunday. Nakagami then went fastest with just over 20 minutes to go, and he stayed there for the remainder of FP1, Viñales the only one making a decisive late move as he took third – and he’s out from under the cloud of the pending pitlane start that he dealt with last weekend.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) rounded out the top five, with 0.341 covering the leading quintet. There were no crashes in FP1.
Mir was eighth, starting the day ahead of both of his closest challengers. Rins was 11th in FP1, whereas Quartararo was P16.
Miller moved from 12th to first in the afternoon, just ahead of Nakagami as FP1’s fastest man kept his presence at the top consistent. The afternoon also saw Bagnaia strike to take over in the top three, part of an impressive Ducati showing.
The session began with an immediate flurry of fast times as yet more dry track time greeted the premier class, with Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) leading the early stages of the afternoon session from Mir. These laps saw the Frenchman and Spaniard go fifth and six on the combined times to get within three tenths off Nakagami’s pace from FP1. Plenty of riders went quicker in the first half of the session though, and there was plenty left to play.
Nakagami was the first to really raise the stakes. On the soft rear, the Japanese rider put in in a 1:30.713 to go two tenths clear on the combined times, and 0.340 clear in FP2. Fellow Honda rider Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) wasn’t faring so well though. After a crash at Turn 2 early on, the number 73 was down again – this time at Turn 4. T4 then also bit someone else: Mir. The Championship leader suffered a rare crash at the left-hander, but he was able to get back out in the session.
The timesheets were still changing. Rins shot up to sixth before going better again as Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) joined fellow Ducati rider Zarco inside the top three. Pol Espargaro then shoved the Italian down to P4 but it was all happening with just over a minute to go. Next to move up was Bagnaia, into second. Finally, Miller struck. The Aussie was flying and took over at the top as the chequered flag waved.
Overall, that means Miller leads the premier class field on Friday, ahead of a consistent performance from Nakagami as he slots into second. Bagnaia joins his teammate in the top three; the Italian P19 after FP1 and making a big leap up the timesheets.
European Grand Prix polesitter Pol Espargaro ends Day 1 in P4, staying inside the top four and another consistent performer on Friday. Zarco’s handy FP2 sees the Frenchman finish Friday in P5, moving up from a P6 finish in FP1. Dovizioso took sixth by the end of play, ensuring there are four Ducatis in the top six on an improved Day 1 for the Borgo Panigale factory.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) claimed P7, demoting Morbidelli as the Italian ends the day in P8. He was one of only two to to not go quicker in the afternoon, the other being Maverick Viñales as he took tenth. Rins finished ninth to split the Yamahas on the combined timesheets.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was P11 on Friday, ending the day just ahead of Mir as the Championship leader got shuffled down to P12. Add in a crash and it’s not going all his way so far, although with Rins not too far ahead and Quartararo in P16, it could be worse.
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) ended Friday in P18 after a tougher day at the office, with an identical laptime to Alex Marquez as the rookie also looks for more on Saturday.
Friday MotoGP Rider Reflections
Jack Miller – P1
“Definitely the best way to start the weekend, we tried a few solutions and focused on solving some problems we had last weekend during the race. The track is in very good condition, the grip and the pace are fantastic. I’m really very happy and we hope to do well tomorrow as well.”
Takaaki Nakagami – P2
“We made a good start today in FP1 and also FP2. We were able to improve in the session and we definitely have potential and a good feeling on the bike, which is really important. Of course, we need to make some adjustments tomorrow for qualifying, but even with that we have good pace and good lap times already, so we’ll keep pushing and keep improving on the bike and hope to bring our best performance on Sunday. But tomorrow is really important and hopefully we can get on the front row again, that’s my target, and I think we can do it.”
Pecco Bagnaia – P3
“Today I am very happy. This morning I rode with used tires to look for consistency and on lap 21 I repeated my best time and this is very positive. We can only feel satisfied, it’s a really good feeling. It was very important to be fast from the first day, because the level is always higher. We are working in the right direction and tomorrow we will try to improve further.”
Johann Zarco – P5
“As in Aragon, when going out on the track I felt very comfortable from the beginning, as I had the sensations of the race the previous Sunday. Today we made small modifications to the bike, which allowed me to push harder than last weekend. At the end of the afternoon training, we put the rear soft tire to do a fast lap, but I did not get the advantages I expected, so that is the big question we have for tomorrow. Despite this, it was a good start to the Grand Prix.”
Andrea Dovizioso – P6
“It’s been a good day. Compared to last week, my feeling with the bike has improved, and we were able to understand why I couldn’t be competitive in the early stages of the race on Sunday. We also identified some sectors on the track where we can still improve, and if we can do that, I’m sure we can have a good qualifying tomorrow and a good race. There are several fast riders with a similar pace to ours, so it will be crucial to be able to enter Q2 and get a position on the front rows of the grid”.
Cal Crutchlow – P7
“Today we worked well as a team and the track was in a lot better condition than last weekend with regard to it not being half wet and half dry, it was a very good day. We worked well and we tried to improve the bike, two different settings with the bike and we’ll continue to try and do that for practice and qualifying.”
Franco Morbidelli – P8
“It was a positive day for us: I was quite fast this morning and this afternoon. We tested different set-ups of the bike and we felt comfortable and fast with both. To get into the top-ten without doing any time attack laps is a really good thing. I think we have started this weekend with a good mojo and I hope that we will continue like this. Our aim tomorrow will be to start on the front two rows, then attack from the very beginning of the race on Sunday and settle into a good rhythm.”
Alex Rins – P9
“It was a good day, I’m actually close to the top of the times despite finishing ninth today on combined. Today I focused on trying a few things that we couldn’t really work on last week because of the rain. In the end my rhythm was nice and I felt good, but I’ll try to improve more tomorrow with the aim of getting a great qualifying position. It’s going to be a big challenge this weekend because everybody is close, so we need to stay focused and try to find the optimum setup.”
Maverick Vinales – P10
“For me, the Friday has been very positive. We tested many things. As always, there were some positive and some negative things, but we worked on the hard tyre, simulating low grip, and I’m really happy about the feeling on the bike. But for some reason I didn’t have an amazing feeling on the softs this afternoon. I couldn’t go as fast on the softs as I could on the mediums, that’s why I didn’t improve my lap time. But overall I feel good. I have a good rhythm. Tomorrow it will be a very tight qualifying, and we will see. I think we have good potential. We just need to understand how to make the softs work for us.”
Aleix Espargaro – P11
“It was a positive day. I was very fast, but with these gaps, not enough for the top 10. The pace with the medium tyre is definitely good, whereas with the soft tyre I did a fast, but not perfect lap. We are all very close, but I feel good – as good as I did last weekend. Now I need to stay focused and keep going in this direction.”
Joan Mir – P12
“Luckily I’m fine after the crash. I began working on race pace and general setup and feeling. I was trying the hard front tyre when I went down, and I think we were at the lower temperature limit for using this tyre. Of course the feeling with the second bike is never the same as with your number one bike, and I was never able to really push for a fast lap. It was a bit of a shame because I was feeling good and the bike was working well, but I just missed that really quick lap. Tomorrow I’ll work more on the time attack and we’ll see what we can do.”
Stefan Bradl – P13
“Today was quite good, we are close to the top ten and the bike is working well. Also I am riding well and we are faster already than last weekend. The aim for tomorrow is to try and push for the top ten, but it is super close this weekend so it will not be easy. We still have some work to do on the setting but I am happy and I think we can have another good day. Our potential is high and there’s more coming.”
Danilo Petrucci – P14
“I am quite satisfied with this first day of work: my feeling with the bike is good, as well as also my pace with the tyres with the race set up. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be as fast with the soft tyre this afternoon, and we have to try to understand why. I hope the weather holds up tomorrow morning so that I can try my time attack again in the FP3 session”.
Fabio Quartararo – P16
“Today we have tried lots of things with the bike, but it has been difficult because the feeling has been similar with each change. This means we will have to try something different in FP3 tomorrow, because we have not made the progress that we wanted to today and we need to do it. It has been a tough day but we never give up. We will know more about what the plan is after FP3, once we have tried some things and once we’ve tried to make a time attack. As I said though, we never give up and we will give our all tomorrow and on race day.”
Miguel Oliveira – P17
“Overall, it was a good day. Although it was a bit tough at the end. We couldn’t put everything together for the final time attack. We are still not clear about a couple of things on the bike, but I’m happy with my pace with used tyres. I think I’m strong, but for sure tomorrow morning we need to do a better job to go straight to Q2.”
Valentino Rossi – P18
“My position is quite bad because I am behind, but we are all there. It’s really close. I’m 0.7s from the top. I don’t feel very good on the bike. I have a bit too much movement on entry, so I’m not able to bring enough speed, but it’s just the first day. For tomorrow we will have to try something else, and we hope to be more competitive then, because in FP3 it will be crucial to stay in the top 10.”
Alex Marquez – P19
“The feeling today was really good, the 1’31.3 came quite easily and maybe this is why I had the first crash, I was pushing for a faster time and fell. But honestly, it was such a small crash I am not sure it even counts! The second crash was a typical cold tyre crash but unfortunately it meant that we couldn’t really improve on our final run of the day. Our end position is not great to look at, but our feeling is good and the times are very close – just one tenth and you gain a lot. We can be stronger tomorrow.”
Tito Rabat – P20
“The day started very well, I had a very good feeling on the bike, and I continued taking steps forward compared to last weekend. But in the afternoon, I had a failure with the rear brake that prevented me from setting a good lap”
Lorenzo Savadori – P21
“Honestly, a good day. I was able to improve both my feeling and my lap times between the two sessions. The phase I need to work on right now is braking. I don’t have the confidence to push to the limit in that area, especially because of my lack of experience with this bike. I feel better on a used tyre than on the new one, precisely because I don’t have the confidence to be able to fully exploit the grip. These will be the points where we’ll focus our work.”
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“I feel positive today. Joan had a crash in FP2 and he couldn’t use the full potential on the time attack, but both he and Alex have good pace and put in a lot of laps while collecting information. We’re always working to improve the bike, even though last weekend both riders felt good. Whenever you do back-to-back races at the same track, the level goes up and the gaps between the riders is reduced, so we’ll continue working. Alex is in the Top 10 for now, and Joan will try again tomorrow morning – even though we’re sure it will be a big battle for Q2 – and we feel confident that we can have a good weekend.”
Massimo Meregalli – Monster Yamaha Team Director
“Returning to the Valencia track, we knew that its general characteristics aren’t a perfect fit for us. We hadn‘t had much dry track time before, so it was crucial to make the most of it while we could and try many different setting and tyre options too. We know this will be another challenging weekend because Valencia is tricky for us. Still, overall, Maverick was quite comfortable on the bike today. However, he didn’t feel the grip he was looking for when he put on the soft tyres in the end. So his FP2 times don’t reflect his true potential. Valentino is not satisfied with the set-up of his bike yet. He has some movements on entry and this impeded his lap times today. We will try to find a solution this evening. Our goal for tomorrow is the same as always: we strive to have both riders in the top 10 at the end of FP3 to then get the best starting position possible in qualifying.”
Friday MotoGP Combined Practice Times
Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up) narrowly took to the top on home turf on Friday, beating Championship contender Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) by just 0.025 on Day 1 of the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana. Fabio Di Giannantonio (MB Conveyors Speed Up) completed a top three split by just 0.038.
Title contender Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was fourth and within 0.102, with points leader Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) starting the weekend off in sixth but only 0.157 down despite a crash as the timesheets tightened in Valencia.
Friday Moto2 Combined Practice Times
Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) set a new lap record at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitt Valenciana to head the combined timesheets on Day 1, the Italian’s last stand starting on a high. Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing), another trailing some points if he’s to stay in title contention for the season finale, was second quickest, with Europe GP podium finisher Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) completing an all-Honda top three on Friday. They were within 0.083, with Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) keeping the top four within less than a tenth as the Turk ended the day 0.098 off the top.
By the end of play, all the key players in the title fight had a provisional place booked in Q2 – except Championship leader Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3). He ended the day in 15th and will be hoping the heavens don’t open on Saturday morning.
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