Marquez masters mixed conditions to lead Friday COTA MotoGP
Dog running across the track interrupts practice session
Marc Marquez showed he is still the man to beat at the Circuit of the Americas as the Repsol Honda rider set the quickest time on the opening day of the Grand Prix of the Americas, as both sessions were subjected to unsettled weather.
On a rapidly drying track surface in Free Practice 2, Marquez set a 2’04.835 on his last lap of the day to top the timesheets by 0.327 seconds from CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow in second place, while Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone was a further 0.028 seconds behind in third. To set their best times, both Marquez and Crutchlow used the medium compound slicks front and rear, while Iannone used soft compound slicks front and rear for his quickest lap.
The first session of the weekend, Free Practice 1, took place in heavy rain and although the track was still damp for the start of FP2, strong sunshine and warm ambient temperatures allowed the tarmac to dry quickly. After track temperatures lingered in the high teens in FP1, in the afternoon the track temperature reached a peak of 28°C.
Throughout the wet FP1 session in which Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso finished quickest, all riders used the main wet tyre option, the soft compound front and rear wet tyres. In FP2, a few riders ran some exploratory laps on soft compound wet tyres to gauge the track conditions, before switching to slick tyres halfway through the session.
With the track still damp in parts, most riders initially set out on the softest rear slick option available, the medium compound rear slick for the Factory Honda and Yamaha riders, and the soft compound rear slick for the rest of the field, paired with either the soft or medium compound front slick. The less than ideal conditions meant that the hard compound front and rear slicks remained unused in today’s sessions.
The weather forecast indicates a strong chance of rain for the rest of the weekend, with the next MotoGP session, Free Practice 3 starting at 0955 local time (GMT -6) tomorrow.
Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department – “It was raining and quite cold in the morning session which is never pleasant for the riders, but it did give them a first-ever chance to assess the grip levels of this circuit in wet conditions.
“Given that there is a good possibility of rain over the rest of the weekend, the data collected this morning is quite valuable. We can now see that this circuit can dry quite quickly once the rain has stopped, and given we have worked hard to improve the warm-up performance and feel of our 2015 specification slicks, it was pleasing to see that the riders were able to push quite hard on slick tyres after just a couple of laps of dry running.
“We also had positive feedback from the riders on the performance of our soft compound wet tyres in FP1 and the wear rate of this option was quite good as well. Therefore, although the riders can select the alternative, hard compound wet tyres at this circuit, if we see more rainy conditions this weekend I expect most riders will continue to run the soft compound wet tyre.”
Marc Marquez – P1 – 2’04.835 [LAP 10/10] – “Today was a positive day and in general it went fairly well. In the morning we rode in wet conditions, which was important because it is possible that Sunday’s race will be under the same circumstances and we were able to discard a few things. In the second session we were able to ride in the dry and, although we only put in five fast laps, the feeling was good and we could draw a few conclusions. Let’s hope that tomorrow the weather is dry and we can continue trying out some modifications to the bike to improve further –although the important thing is that our initial feeling is positive.”
Cal Crutchlow finished fourth at the inaugural Texan GP in 2013, and although he had a race to forget last year, finishing seventh as top satellite rider at this season’s first race in Qatar mean the British rider arrived in the USA in high spirits. That showed as he set the second fastest time of the day on board his factory spec Honda RC213V, impressing just as he had two weeks ago in Qatar. This weekend Crutchlow is using a new frame supplied by HRC on one of his bikes, and the 29 year-old admitted that although quick, he would like more laps in the dry, with the morning session completely wet and the afternoon starting with damp patches in certain areas.
Cal Crutchlow #35, 2nd (2’05.162, lap 12 of 12) – “At the moment, my feeling is not too bad. I think we still need to do more laps on the new chassis, I’ve only had a few laps in the dry so I still have no idea. Of course, I’ve gone well today but there is always room for improvement.
“I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made today though, and the speed wasn’t so bad. I need to understand it more, run a race distance on it and just see where we are. In the rain in the morning I’d only done six laps in the rain in Sepang with the other bike, so it was a learning process. We had a bit too much power in some areas and a bit too much wheelieing but this is all part of the first day of riding at a track you haven’t been to yet.”
Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team #29) – 2’05.190 (3rd) – “I am pleased with how today ended. FP1 this morning was a bit more difficult for me because I didn’t have a good feeling with the bike in the wet. In the afternoon however, I managed to be quite quick with the bike in its dry weather set-up and right from the start of the second session I had a good feeling with the GP15: I like the way it behaves and so I am satisfied with our situation at the moment. Let’s see tomorrow what the weather conditions are going to be like.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 2’05.646 (5th) – “All things considered today was a positive day, even though the conditions were rather particular. But we are happy because we were quick both in the rain and in the dry. This afternoon the main aim was to stay in the top 10 because tomorrow morning it will probably rain. Unfortunately we were unable to work very much with dry settings, I only did four laps and the feeling with the bike is not good enough yet. We have to improve a few things, both in the wet and in the dry, if we want to fight for the podium tomorrow, but the limits of the bike are pretty similar in the various weather conditions, and so in any case tomorrow.”
Suzuki riders experienced their GSX-RR machines on rain tyres for the first time in anger this season. The provisional classification sees Aleix Espargaro well up at the top of the results sheets with a solid fourth place, obtained thanks to a positive 2’05.564s lap scored on his very last lap. His young team-mate Maverick Viñales struggled a little more, but his best-lap of 2’07.011s sees him in 15th place overall.
Davide Brivio – Team Manager: “This has been a very strange day, with variable weather conditions that required extra effort as the riders had to adapt. This morning we made our debut in wet conditions, our machines and riders had never ridden properly in hard rain before so we had to start with a basic set-up from where we tried to improve, according to the data and feedback from the riders. Fortunately in the afternoon we could run in dry conditions and both riders did make major improvements since they have more experience with these conditions. Aleix did a good job running out on track as much as possible and getting well into the leading group, which is good in case the rain falls tomorrow as well. Maverick on his side of the garage kept on with his personal development plan in the class and made many laps with the same tyre, getting more and more confidence. For sure we still have to improve and it is impossible to say how the weekend will proceed, since it depends on the weather conditions.”
Aleix Espargaro: “I’m happy for the final position; like in Qatar I finished the early sessions with a virtual position near the top which is good, but overall this has not been a fully satisfying day. This morning we had to start from zero with the rain since we have no experience in the wet. I feel the bike is performing well, but we still have a huge amount of work to do for the final set-up and on my own I still have a lot to learn about how the bike behaves and reacts. In dry conditions we have much more experience, but I have been having the same chatter problem on the rear that we had in the Qatar race. We need to further investigate this and fix it. We will see how the weather develops tomorrow. Today’s fourth place is a good starting point and we can now concentrate on finding the best feeling with the bike.”
Maverick Viñales: “Today was pretty difficult. This morning I had my first experience with the bike in the rain and I feel that I still have a lot of work to do to improve my riding style and also give proper feedback to the engineers to improve the machine. In dry conditions I tried to exploit the session to my advantage, but I had few laps available and unfortunately the engine map on my GSX-RR was not the best one so I couldn’t be as fast as I wanted, but now we can fix it for tomorrow and try to improve more.”
The first practice at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) had certainly been full of surprises. Rossi and Lorenzo initially battled themselves up to provisional 3rd and 13th respectively in a soaking wet morning session, but just 12 minutes into FP1 the red flags came out after a dog ran across the track, delaying the session by 20 minutes.
Once the session re-started, nine-time World Champion Rossi returned to the track and was able to better his time to a 2‘20.593 for a fourth place. He further improved his time in the afternoon. As dry patches started to form, he made the most of the last 18 minutes of track time and clocked a 2‘05.691. His time put him in sixth place, 0,856s from the front.
Teammate Lorenzo kept his caution in the first free practice as he struggled with a lack of rear grip, causing him to finish in ninth place with a 2‘21,486 lap. As the track dried out during FP2, the Spaniard gradually reached a personal best of 2‘06.174. He holds eleventh in the combined times, less than five tenths of a second from his teammate in sixth place.
Valentino Rossi – 6th – 2’05.691 – 13 laps – “It’s important to test on the wet because last year I never had a good feeling with the YZR-M1 under these conditions. We changed a lot on the setting of the bike and today I finished fourth on the full wet, which is not so bad, but on the dry I feel better. I am only sixth because I hit some traffic and I can do a little bit better than that. We still have to work, but the first feeling of the bike is not so bad.”
Jorge Lorenzo – 11th – 2’06.174 – 11 laps “Today was a very difficult day for me. Since this morning I feel pretty bad. I didn‘t feel comfortable with either the bike or myself. My physical condition today it‘s not good, I got a cold and today I started on antibiotics because I feel sick. I couldn‘t work in a normal way; I feel weaker due to the cold. The doctors told me it‘s bronchitis and I suffer a lot when riding the bike. We have a lot of work to do with the machine but first of all I need to recover. Hopefully tomorrow it will be better with all the treatments. I‘m so sorry because today we couldn‘t improve the pace and I couldn‘t be competitive.”
Massimo Meregalli – Team Director – “It is untypical weather in Austin. This morning it was cold, wet and windy but it was better in the afternoon. We have to be prepared, because the weather for the coming days is unpredictable, making this a tricky weekend. Anything can happen, so we have to be ready. Considering the uncertainty of the weather forecasts for this weekend, today was a good day in terms of data collecting, because we could practise on the wet and the dry. Unfortunately we only had 20 minutes on a dry track but those were important. We have some work to do to improve the settings of the bike for both conditions. This means we have to work in two directions, because we have to be ready for every circumstance, but we are confident that we can do it.”
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider, Scott Redding, showed his wet weather prowess by posting the third fastest time in this morning’s wet free practice. During the afternoon the 22-year-old Briton quickly found his rhythm and spent much of the free practice inside the top ten, only to be relegated to 12th position as a number of rivals switched to the soft rear tyre right at the end of the session.
Scott Redding – P12 – 2’06.216 – “This morning in the wet FP1 session we managed to find a good set up and a good feeling in the rain, which was good for us. Even FP2 wasn’t too bad, as the feeling was better than it was in Qatar, so we’ve made the step forward that we were expecting, but we still need to work a little bit more with the chassis set up to get the bike to turn a little better. In Qatar I felt like I’d lost the feeling with the bike, but today I felt much more comfortable on the bike and that builds confidence. I think we can find further improvements tomorrow, but today was a pretty good start to the weekend for us, despite the unpredictable weather.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, stand in rider for the injured Dani Pedrosa, finished the opening day 16th fastest.
Hiroshi Aoyama- P16 – 2’07.268 [LAP12/12] – “Unfortunately this morning’s session was in wet conditions which wasn’t the easiest start for me in learning how to ride this bike. We adjusted the bike a little and by the end I had more confidence. This afternoon it was slightly damp still but we rode on the slicks so I could get some experience in drier conditions. We didn’t really change too much on the bike, I just needed to put in some laps as I’m still missing a good feeling on the bike.”
Jack Miller last raced at the COTA track in 2014 in the Moto3 class, and on that weekend took pole position before going on to win the race – leading every single lap in the process. The Aussie started the opening day of MotoGP practice well, particularly in the wet morning session when he finished as the 13th fastest rider out in the desperately tough conditions. In the afternoon the team encountered a couple of technical issues, but nonetheless Miller impressed by sealing the 19th best time of the day and ending up as top open spec Honda rider.
Jack Miller #43, 19th (2’07.916, lap 12 of 14) – “It was a good day all in all, but I’m not too happy with the dry session. We didn’t get to do what we needed to do on the suspension, but the rest of it was pretty good. We had a few problems with the brakes, but we know what the problem was. Now we look forward to what the weather will do tomorrow and then prepare things accordingly.”
For Aprilia Racing Team Gresini this was just the second stop in a long season where the bike and team will have to grow, motivated by competition on the track in the highest level motorcycle racing championship.
Alvaro Bautista, after finishing the morning FP1 in eleventh place (wet), finished with the 17th best time, putting 2’07,419 on the sheets. Marco Melandri (who is riding on the Texan track for the very first time) finished with the 24th best time at 2’11,258.
Romano Albesiano – (Aprilia Racing Manager) – “A day conditioned by the weather. In the morning we were able to test in the wet and it didn’t go too badly at all. The afternoon was a difficult session to interpret. In the end it dried out enough and Bautista was in the pack and his feeling with the bike was positive, so we’re happy enough. With Marco we’re trying a big more radical engine control solutions so his performance is suffering in this aspect as well.”
Fausto Gresini (Team Manager) – “Bautista demonstrated progress compared to the first race and that is encouraging. We didn’t lap much in the dry, but on the wet he had good sensations and since rain hasn’t been ruled out for the next few days, it’s important for us to be ready for these conditions as well. We are really at the beginning and we are all putting forth our best effort, we just need time.”
Alvaro Bautista – “Today we had the chance to lap in the wet. We tried different power management maps, especially coming out of turns, and I was quite comfortable. This is important because the forecast is uncertain and we need to be ready in case we have a wet race. In the afternoon with a half dry track I used slicks only in the second part of the session. Now we need to work to improve grip, especially in the middle of turns, and power management. We’ll be working on these aspects tomorrow.”
Marco Melandri – “Two very different sessions because of the weather. On my bike we’re exploring some rather different electronics solutions and my performance is suffering because of that. But on the other hand, we don’t want to leave anything untried to recover that feeling and confidence in the bike that I need in order to push the way I’d like to. There is still a lot of weekend ahead and we have a lot of work to do.”
Top ten combined Free Practice 1 & 2 times – COTA MotoGP
1. Marc Marquez (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 2’04.835
2. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) CWM LCR Honda 2’05.162
3. Andrea Iannone (ITA) Ducati Team 2’05.190
4. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Team Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP 2’05.564
5. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Ducati Team 2’05.646
6. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 2’05.691
7. Pol Espargarò (SPA) Monster Yamaha Tech3 2’05.840
8. Stefan Bradl (GER) Forward Racing 2’05.990
9. Yonny Hernandez (COL) Pramac Racing 2’06.092
10. Bradley Smith (GBR) Monster Yamaha Tech3 2’06.134
11. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 2’06.174
12. Scott Redding (GBR) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS 2’06.216
13. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Pramac Racing 2’06.294
14. Mike Di Meglio (FRA) Avintia Racing 2’06.591
15. Maverick Viñales (SPA) Team Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP 2’07.011
16. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Repsol Honda Team 2’07.268
17. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2’07.419
18. Hector Barbera (SPA) Avintia Racing 2’07.581
19. Jack Miller (AUS) CWM LCR Honda 2’07.916
20. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Aspar Team MotoGP 2’07.968
21. Karel Abraham (CZE) AB Motoracing 2’08.266
22. Nicky Hayden (USA) Aspar Team MotoGP 2’08.762
23. Loris Baz (FRA) Forward Racing 2’09.372
24. Marco Melandri (ITA) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2’11.258
25. Alex De Angelis (RSM) Octo IodaRacing Team 2’12.409
A rain affected opening day of Moto2 practice in Austin saw Sam Lowes finish on top as conditions improved, despite two massive crashes.
Moto2 was struck by delays at the beginning of FP1 due to track conditions on a tricky day at the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas for all the classes. The sun came out for the second session, allowing riders to run slick tyres throughout the session. Rain is predicted for both Saturday and Sunday.
Tito Rabat, the current Moto2 champion has been eager to improve his riding in the rain, and got his chance during FP1. Last year he felt that this was his greatest weakness; he finished third on the opening day of practice at Austin with crashes in FP1 and FP2.
Rabat’s Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS teammate, Alex Marquez, also crashed in both sessions and was only able to finished 24th on combined times.
It was Lowes who led the way on Friday as the sun came out. The British rider finished first overall continued to show huge improvements from last year. This pace was despite a vicious high side in the final five minutes of the session, the former WSS Champion walked away, but later had to visit the Medical Centre for a suspected ankle injury.
The 2’10.563 of Lowes was just 0.096s faster than Zarco in second, the Ajo Motorsport rider putting on a late charge. The French rider was strong here last year before an unfortunate crash having started from second.
Both Anthony West and Julian Simon received the new aluminium swing arm for their Speed Up Moto2 machines, matching the one on Lowes’ bike. They saw marked improvements with West fourth and Simon sixth in FP2, the new swing arm offering increased feeling with the bike. West is often stronger come race day and a strong qualifying could see him become a podium challenger.
Alex Rins, in only his second Moto2™ event, was impressive finishing both seventh in FP1 and FP2, adapting well to the different conditions. The Spaniard made quiet progress to finish fourth in Qatar and is adapting well to the Moto2™ bike after moving up from Moto3™.
Italtrans Racing Team’s Franco Morbidelli was also impressive, finishing third in the wet during FP1. The Italian improved his time in FP2 to go ninth. 2014 saw him fighting for the top five in qualifying and races towards the end of the year, with a best of fifth at Aragon.
There were a number of falls including Sam Lowes, Tito Rabat, Alex Marquez and Dominique Aegerter in FP1. Rabat, Lowes and Marquez also fell in FP2. A suspected left hand injury had Axel Pons sit out FP2, and it was later revealed he had broken his scaphoid and will miss the race to undergo surgery in Barcelona on Monday.
A slow and wet start to the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas eventually saw Alexis Masbou lead the first day of practice.
The first practice of the day for Moto3™ was delayed by almost an hour. When action did get underway it was a wet affair, with Texas not quite living up to its reputation for sun and heat. It looks as though the rain will stay for the majority of the weekend, which could cause some interesting results come race day.
All riders improved their times in Free Practice 2 as the sun came out and the track began to dry. This is the first year that Austin has had a wet session and the track showed that it dried quickly. If there is only a morning shower tomorrow, there may still be a chance of dry Qualifying.
A 2’31.668 had Niccolo Antonelli leading the way in FP1, putting him comfortably at the top of the session. As conditions improved in the afternoon the Italian was pushing to claim the top spot before falling at Turn 12. He is having a much better year on the Honda and will be one to watch in Qualifying.
Andrea Locatelli of the Gresini Racing Team Moto3 had a strong opening day in America. The young Italian was third in FP1 and was challenging for the top spot in FP2 from early in the session. A 1’29.305 saw him finish second in combined times, just being beaten on the last lap by Masbou.
Much like last time out in Qatar, Danny Kent impressed on his Leopard Racing Honda. The British rider improved his FP1 time by over a second in FP2 as the track dried quickly, putting in a 2’29.843s before sitting out the second half of the session. Kent helped to complete a top five lock out for Honda.
Championship leader Alexis Masbou was down in14th during FP1 before improving on his final lap of FP2 to go first. A 1’29.267s put him just 0.038s clear of Locatelli in second. The experienced French rider is on a strong run of form after claiming pole and a win at Qatar.
There were falls for Tatsuki Suzuki, Karel Hanika and Juanfran Guevara in FP1. Brad Binder, Andrea Migno, Phillip Oettl and Gabriel Rodrigo all falling along with Antonelli in FP2. Karel Hanika had a second fall of the day as well.
Remy Gardner battled through a frustrating day one after a bad vibration developed on the out lap, forcing Gardner to pit immediately.
The team made some changes and checked the bike over, however, the problem was not resolved. Remy missed the remainder of the session, only completing around eight laps.
In Free Practice 2 the vibration presented yet again – with Remy pitting after a few laps. Eventually a tyre change solved the problem and Gardner was able to complete some laps without any machine problems, however, these were few and limited to track familiarisation.
Remy Gardner, “Today was one of those days where it all went wrong, however, the team worked hard and a faulty tyre ended up being the cause.
“I have another Free Practice tomorrow morning so I am going to be working very, very hard to catch up in that one session before qualifying”…