Jorge Lorenzo tops Friday at Jerez MotoGP

Free Practice 1 had seen several upgrades and experimental parts from teams such as Movistar Yamaha MotoGP and the Repsol Honda Team. In Free Practice 2 yet more new parts were introduced as the MotoGP World Championship embraced winglets, at least one bike from each manufacturer running winglets in the second session. Aleix Espargaro’s (Team Suzuki Ecstar) GSX-RR had a total of six winglets with three small ones down each side of the fairing, Suzuki had planned to test them on Monday but Espargaro pushed to use them before. Stefan Bradl’s (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) RS-GP also had winglets fitted, looking very similar to the ones used by Yamaha and Ducati just under the front fairing.

Winglets are used by most teams to help reduce wheelie out of corners. In previous years wheelie was tamed by electronics, but with the new Magneti Marelli system a more robust solution was needed. Therefore a physical answer has been found with winglets. No two winglets are alike and each manufacturer is taking a slightly different approach to size and positioning.

Having stolen headlines in the build up to the weekend, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) again grabbed all the attention as he topped both Friday practice sessions. A 1’39.555 saw him end the opening day as one of just two riders able to drop below the 1’40 barrier. Lorenzo had also led Free Practice 1, able to improve his time by 0.7s in the second session to end 0.345s ahead of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). This weekend is all about Lorenzo looking for victory to try and close the 21-point gap to Marquez in the championship standings.

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo

Marc Marquez, with winglets fitted, slid his way around the Jerez circuit in 1’39.900 to set the first sub 1’40 lap of the 2016 Gran Premio Red Bull de España. He would be bested by Lorenzo, the only other rider in the 1’39s, ending the day 0.345s back on the Majorcan. Although he was behind Lorenzo, Marquez’s improvement between the session was even more impressive as he dropped almost a full second off his time. With the lead in the championship, Marquez can afford to settle for the podium this weekend.

A late flying lap from Aleix Espargaro made it three different manufacturers inside the top three. The elder Espargaro brother is continuing to ride on a wave of confidence after his return to the top five in America. On paper the layout of the Jerez circuit should suit the Suzuki GSX-RR more than any of the previous circuits and Epsargaro’s early pace is certainly proving the prediction true. Like Marquez, Espargaro made major steps forward with his one lap pace in the second session as he improved his best time by 0.9s. His fastest time was set on a GSX-RR without winglets.

Once more it was Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) who was the leading Ducati rider as he nestled into fourth, 0.674s from the top. The return to Europe has brought with it a change at the top, a number of new riders such as Barbera able to mix amongst the established order. Barbera continues to prove that there is life in the GP14.2, despite it being several seasons old.

Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completed the top five, once again working tirelessly throughout the session as he again completed 20 laps. 0.727s separated Rossi from his teammate at the top of the timesheets, while the gap may be significant; the Italian has always been a rider able to improve come race day and is currently un-phased.

Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) and Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP) rounded out the top ten. Pedrosa was the only rider unable to improve his time in FP2, 0.102s slower in the second session.

A number of big names were absent from the top ten on combined times and will have significant work to do on Saturday or risk having to fight through Q1. Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) struggled in both practice sessions, ending the day in 11th overall. Ducati revealed that their data from the test in November was of little use due to the changes to the Michelin tyres since then, causing Iannone to start almost from zero in Jerez.

Both the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 riders also had a difficult start to the Spanish GP, Pol Espargaro ending 14th with Bradley Smith a distant 16th and neither rider within a second and a half of Lorenzo’s time. Smith has been struggling for several rounds now and is eagerly awaiting the test on Monday to get some much needed track time to solve his issues. Meanwhile, Espargaro’s troubles have seemingly come out of the blue as the Spaniard had been strong in all three previous rounds. He’ll need to work hard overnight with his team or risk losing fourth place in the World Championship.

A best time of 1.41.904 in FP2 this afternoon put Miller in 20th position, with the Australian slowly building up his confidence again after a high speed crash in practice for the previous round in Texas prevented him from participating in the Circuit of the Americas race.

Miller has undergone extensive treatment on the right ankle he damaged in the Austin spill, but he is still lacking confidence and comfort on Honda’s RC213V machine to push to his absolute limit around the fast and flowing 4.4km Jerez track.

In hotter temperatures, and with the benefit of improved grip on track for FP2, Miller was still able to lap almost 1.2s faster this afternoon, which was a richly deserved reward for his effort to get fit for the opening European round of 2016.

Jack Miller: 20th – 1’41.904

“My confidence is a little bit low after the Texas crash and I’d say today I was only able to ride at 50% of my normal potential. My leg feels pretty sore but I managed to grit my teeth and get through the two sessions. My main goal is to try and get the bike working a little better for me here. If we go to a low grip track we don’t have so many problems but on a track like Jerez that offers high grip and has an abrasive surface, it makes our job more complicated. I’ll work a lot with the Clinica Mobile staff tonight to ice the foot again to prevent it from swelling up too much and come out fighting again tomorrow.”

Jack Miller
Jack Miller
  1. J. LORENZO MOVISTAR YAMAHA MOTOGP 1’39.555
  2. M. MARQUEZ REPSOL HONDA TEAM 1’39.900
  3. A. ESPARGARÒ TEAM SUZUKI ECSTAR 1’40.093
  4. H. BARBERA AVINTIA RACING 1’40.22
  5. V. ROSSI MOVISTAR YAMAHA MOTOGP 1’40.28
  6. M. VIÑALES TEAM SUZUKI ECSTAR 1’40.44
  7. A. DOVIZIOSO DUCATI TEAM 1’40.737
  8. D. PEDROSA REPSOL HONDA TEAM 1’40.823
  9. S. REDDING OCTO PRAMAC YAKHNICH 1’40.860
  10. E. LAVERTY ASPAR TEAM MOTOGP 1’40.925
  11. A. IANNONE DUCATI TEAM 1’41.017
  12. Y. HERNANDEZ ASPAR TEAM MOTOGP 1’41.028
  13. C. CRUTCHLOW LCR HONDA 1’41.112
  14. P. ESPARGARÒ MONSTER YAMAHA TECH3 1’41.167
  15. S. BRADL APRILIA RACING TEAM GRESINI 1’41.17
  16. B. SMITH MONSTER YAMAHA TECH3 1’41.28
  17. L. BAZ AVINTIA RACING 1’41.32
  18. A. BAUTISTA APRILIA RACING TEAM GRESINI 1’41.57
  19. M. PIRRO OCTO PRAMAC YAKHNICH 1’41.84
  20. J. MILLER ESTRELLA GALICIA 0,0 MARC VDS 1’41.90
  21. T. RABAT ESTRELLA GALICIA 0,0 MARC VDS 1’42.230
Nakagami ends fastest as Folger rallies in FP2

The second Moto2 World Championship session of the Gran Premio Red Bull de España began with a number of small slides and big wobbles. Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) started Free Practice 2 with an incredible save, the side of his bike touching the track before the Swiss rider pushed the bike up on his elbow. A number of other wobbles and saves followed soon after but none were quite as impressive as Luthi’s.

Luthi also impressed with his early pace as the Swiss rider dropped into the low 1’43s almost straight away. All the Moto2™ riders were pushing hard in order to close in on Takaaki Nakagami’s (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) record breaking 1’42.642 from Free Practice 1.

With an incredibly loose and wild lap, Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) roared around the Jerez circuit to set 1’42.667 and demonstrate the track was still capable of producing quick times. The German tried to improve his time later in the session but suffered a fall at Turn 6 on his final lap. No other rider was able to go faster than the German in the second session, allowing him to slot into second overall and 0.025s behind Nakagami and just off a new record.

Nakagami remained as the fastest rider of the opening day thanks to his morning time. For several rounds it has appeared that the Japanese rider is on the cusp of something great, a podium return or perhaps his first win in the Moto2™ class. But at each round he has been unable to combine all the elements come race day and has so far had a best finish of ninth in 2016. Twice Nakagami has finished inside the top five in Jerez so certainly has the initial pace and historical record to do well.

Third overall was Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) thanks to his time in Free Practice 1. Baldassarri joined Nakagami and Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) in being the only three riders inside the top ten to not improve their times in FP2. This is no fluke for the Italian, hard work during multiple private tests at the Jerez circuit paying off on race weekend. All of the top three were under 0.2s from each other. Practice times are already reaching near breakneck speed, being able to keep the pace over race distance will be a deciding factor on Sunday. This is often what separates championship challengers from podium challengers, the championship contenders able to stay fast throughout the race.

On lap 18 of the second session, Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) improved to a 1’43.126 to end the day in fourth place. The Championship leader was able to get within half a second of Nakagami’s time and, like Baldassarri, is benefiting from a number of private tests at the Spanish circuit.

Luthi’s 1’43.132 would eventually see him conclude the day in fifth position. Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team), Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport), Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten), Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) and Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) filled out the remaining positions of the top ten. Inside the top ten there were seven different nationalities.

Once more Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) struggled to match the pace of the leading riders and ended Friday way down the field in 13th. With all of the top 16 inside a second of the best time, starting high on the grid will be important for Sunday’s race, Rins needing to up his pace overnight or risk getting trapped outside the top five.

Aside from Folger there were a number of falls including Simone Corsi at Turn 6, Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) at Turn 10 and Xavi Vierge (Tech 3) at Turn 2. Both Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team) and Dominique Aegerter joined Vierge is falling at Turn 2 but fortunately all riders were unhurt and able to return to their teams straight away.

Late charge puts Binder back on top

Moto3 headed out for their second practice session of Friday at the Grand Premio Red Bull de España under beautiful blue Spanish skies. Air temperature was a pleasant 23 degrees while the ground temperature steadily crept above 31°C. Riders were out to catch Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) who had led FP1 with a 1’47.241. Several of the rookies were also out for a strong result at a track they know well, and could very well threaten for debut podiums come race day.

By mid session no rider had bettered Navarro’s time from FP1, Fabio Quartararo’s (Leopard Racing) began to drop the pace but at the end of his second flying lap towards the conclusion of the session, the French rider suffered an enormous highside at Turn 13. Although he was slow to get up, he was able to walk away from the incident and return to his garage. Quartararo’s fall was soon followed by Navarro sliding off at the fast Turn 9, again he was unharmed but two of the favourites were forced to spend the remainder of the session waiting for their bikes to be repaired.

Times would remain largely unchanged until the final three minutes when Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) jumped from 16th to first with a 1’47.119 and was one of the first riders inside the top five to improve their time from FP1. This saw him lead both the session and the day overall, edging out impressive rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) by 0.281s. KTMs clearly suit the Jerez circuit, occupying the top two spots in the session and three out of the top five positions on combined times.

Having raced, and won, at Jerez in the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3 Junior World Championship in 2015, Bulega was able to again show his rapid pace as a 1’47.400 put him second in FP2 and third overall. Bulega took pole in the CEV race with a 1’46.737, there’s still significant speed to come from the Italian. As the crashes showed, the track was not in an ideal condition. Dunlop had expected more rubber to be left on track by this stage.

He may have crashed and ended Free Practice 2 down in 20th position, but Jorge Navarro’s time from FP1 was good enough to hold him in second overall as Friday came to a close. The fall disrupted his work during the session, limiting him to just ten laps. He was uninjured in his Turn 9 fall which is the most important point as Navarro will be able to head back out in FP3 on Saturday and prepare for Qualifying.

Fifth in FP2 and fourth overall, Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) is again showing well as he attempts to launch a serious championship challenge. Fenati’s 1’47.473 from FP1 was his best of the day, 0.2s faster than his best time in FP2. Navarro and Fenati were the only riders inside the top ten who were unable to improve their lap times in FP2. Back in 2012 Fenati took his first ever Grand Prix victory in Jerez in just his second race on the world stage, taking a second win in 2014.

Once again there were three Italians inside the top five thanks to Niccolo Antonelli’s (Ongetta-Rivacold) FP2 time. Interestingly, all three of the Italians in the top five are part of the VR46 Riders Academy that is starting to produce some very talented riders.

Jorge Martin (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3), Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3), Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia), Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold) and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) completed the top ten on combined times. After a difficult start to the year, the Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3 are beginning to gain momentum at a track which suits the MGP3O more.

Wildcard Enzo Boulom (Procercasa – 42 Motorsport) was an early faller, the French rider running off track at Turn 4 and hitting the edge of the gravel. His teammate, Davide Pizzoli, suffered a fall at Turn 6. There was also a fall for Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) at Turn 2. All escaped unharmed.