Marc Marquez returns to form at German MotoGP Sachsenring
The German Grand Prix began started this morning at the Sachsenring, the shortest of all the tracks on the World Championship calendar. A circuit at which Honda have won for the last five years in the premier class, so it is no coincidence that Marc Márquez imposed his will the first two practice sessions. The Spaniard held a slim lead in the morning, then ended the first session at the top of the timesheet, followed by Valentino Rossi. In the afternoon he repeated the same dynamic from very early on, but the difference at the end of the second session was not as much as in the first. Smith, Iannone and Lorenzo all put in fast laps, although Márquez remains the man to beat.
With conditions improving from this morning’s cold temperature of 13ºC to 17ºC (and track by 10ºC from 22º to 32º), all but four of the MotoGP class improved their times in the afternoon session. The field is incredibly close at this tight and twisty 3.6km circuit with 15 riders within a second of each other.
Bridgestone brought the asymmetric front tyre for the first time this season. Marc used it at the end of FP1 and then stayed on it for the whole of FP2 to better understand its behaviour. He posted his best time of 1m21.621 on his final lap of the day.
Marc Marquez – P1 – “I think that today has been a positive day.We felt good, and that’s the important thing. It’s true that there was a strong wind that made things tough for everyone. We followed a good working plan but we still have things to improve. I don’t feel completely comfortable, but we can reflect positively on today. The important thing for the moment is that we are going well, but I am aware that tomorrow everyone will get better.”
Bradley Smith kicked off his weekend by undertaking a shake down with his Yamaha YZR-M1 in preparation for the 30 lap sprint on Sunday and completed the FP1 session in 13th. When the afternoon practice started, he continued to adjust the setup and assess the tyre options before undertaking a total of 27 laps around the 3.7 kilometre circuit. By the fall of the chequered flat, he had set a blistering time of 1’21.740 which left him only 0.119 from the top of the heap. His performance now leaves him confident of surging to a strong grid position in the all-important qualifying session tomorrow.
Bradley Smith – 2nd / 1’21.740 / 52 laps – “It was a positive start to the weekend and I am feeling comfortable on the bike already. The base setting seems to be working well at this race track and I am looking forward to getting back out tomorrow and continuing this form. In addition, I’m happy about our showing today especially after the difficult time that we had last year. We were able to assess quite a lot of different front tyre options today and now we pretty much have everything clear for the race with regards to tyre choice. There are a few small details that we need to improve, which I noticed when I was following some other riders. Furthermore, I’m happy with how the bike handles the first and third sectors, but we need to make a few adjustments in order to improve in the other two. All in all, to be second at the end of day one is a strong start and now we need to keep this momentum for tomorrow, because qualifying is always so important at this circuit.”
Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) came in third, only 0.084 sec slower than Smith, leaving Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) in 4th.
Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team #29) – 1’21.824 (3rd) – “I am half satisfied, in the sense that for sure I managed to get a good result today, but in the end we still have to understand how competitive we can realistically be with the harder tyre. Even today we are struggling a bit more than what I expected: I was sure I could go quicker much easier than this and be closer to the front. In any case we are working in a methodical way and we have found a set-up with which I can be quite quick. This is important with tomorrow in mind.”
Jorge Lorenzo – 4th / 1’21.886 / 41 laps – “In the first practice I found some problems, especially in sector one. The electronics weren’t perfect going into the first corner and we improved it. I had a much better feeling in this sector after that in T1, and also in general all over the track, so we are much closer to the top guys. Tomorrow we have another session to try, so let’s see if we can improve the bike even more.”
Fifth place went to Marquez’s team mate Dani Pedrosa who put in a lap time 0.268 sec off the pace set by his Repsol Honda colleague. Honda has a good record in Germany – since the introduction of the 4-stroke MotoGP class in 2002, the Japanese manufacturer has been the most successful at the Sachsenring with 9 wins in total.
Dani Pedrosa – P5 – “It was a good first day and we tried some different bike setups and tyres in the practice sessions, but not the asymmetric front – perhaps we will try this tomorrow, we will have to wait and see. We have to make a step with the bike ahead of tomorrow as there are a few points of the circuit where we need to improve corner entry in particular, this will be the key to lowering our times our times.”
Aleix Espargaró – who is racing in a striking retro livery today celebrating 30 years of the GSX-R – came in sixth place for Team Suzuki Ecstar. He finished the day just 0.007 sec quicker than Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha).
Aleix Espargaro – P6 – “I have to say that I’m not really happy because today it was a difficult day for us, I couldn’t find a good compromise with my machines as we did in other races and I struggled a lot to make it turn as I wanted. In the afternoon we made some big changes to my Number 1 bike, but they proved to be ineffective, we tried with bike Number 2 to be more competitive but the time was against us. At the end of the day we found a good direction to work on, so far I’m not really happy, but I’m confident that the info we got today will help us to make some steps forward tomorrow.”
Valentino Rossi – 7th / 1’22.102 / 52 laps – “Today wasn’t so bad because we started quite strong this morning. In the afternoon it became a bit more difficult, because the temperature rose and that made it harder to control the bike that started sliding more. We worked well and were able to improve the setting. I did the best time for the last section with a tyre that had already done more than twenty laps, considering this we’ve made a good step forward. I’m happy because we start with a good setting but now we have to improve a lot of small details. My pace isn’t so bad, but it’s also not fantastic so we have to try to do better. I decided to use the asymmetric tyre for the entire afternoon session and the first feeling was good. It had good grip, both left and right, and the performance of the tyre is consistent for 25 laps.”
Scott Redding (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Yonny Hernández (Octo Pramac Racing) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) complete the top ten.
Scott Redding – P8 – 1’22.167 – “I’m quite happy with how it’s been going. I can do longer runs with the bike and I’m not really fighting with it; it seems a little bit easier this weekend. I’m not sure if it’s the circuit layout that’s helping me but I feel comfortable and the bike doesn’t feel as heavy. We’ve got a few things that we need to work on. It’s more with the front end because, while we have some spin from the rear, it’s similar for everyone. Through two corners I have quite a bit of bouncing from the front but in general I feel much better on the bike.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 1’22.340 (10th) – “I am not very happy with the afternoon session when I hoped to be able to make some further improvement, but the modifications we tried did not work the way we had hoped for. Even when the things we try don’t give the expected results, they are in any case useful to understand the direction to take and this will help us for tomorrow. Of course we still have a lot to do because our speed is not as much as we want, but I am confident for tomorrow.”
Hector Barbera was once again the quickest ‘Open’ category rider.
The first day of practice at Sachsenring left Cal Crutchlow in an uncharacteristic 12th place on the timesheets, although the British rider remains unconcerned about his race pace with just eight-tenths separating him from the fastest lap of the day.
The CWM LCR Honda rider set his best lap in the afternoon session on a well-worn set of tyres, and although he was subsequently unable to improve on a fresh pair, he feels that with an evening of hard work with his crew he should have no problems in getting back up towards the front positions come qualifying on Saturday.
Cal Crutchlow 12th – 1’22.425 – “I don’t think we warrant being in 12th position considering the effort put in today by myself and the team. I did my fast lap with 32 laps on the tyre, so when I put a new tyre at the end of the session I didn’t benefit at all. I had a lot of sliding and the tyre felt unpredictable. Hopefully we can take a look through the data tonight and erase any doubts about why we never went any faster, maybe there was something wrong with the tyre. We definitely need to improve even though I got held up twice on my fast lap, but I think we are competitive although maybe not enough at the minute. I hope that improves tomorrow.”
Pol Espargaro fell at the notoriously difficult turn 11 in FP1. He undertook a total of 21 laps in FP2 before finishing with a best time of 1’22.436, leaving him in 13th.
Pol Espargaro – 13th / 1’22.436 / 41 laps – “It goes without saying that it has been quite a tricky opening day to the weekend. Unfortunately I crashed this morning, which meant that we lost a pair of tyres so I had to start the afternoon session with a used set. Still, our rhythm was really promising as I was running in 8th position despite the fact that the tyres had reached almost race distance. However, I then entered the pits and changed tyres for the final run but when I returned to the track, my feeling on the bike was just not the same anymore. This happened to Bradley in Assen and also to us quite a few times this year, yet it’s always better to have something like this happen on a Friday instead of later on in the weekend. Nevertheless, I am happy with how the bike is working even though we still have a degree of improvement to make in some areas. Most importantly, we have to be wise tomorrow because we now have one set of tyres less but we are still confident of clinching a strong result here this weekend in Germany.”
Maverick Viñales – P14 – “I’m not happy with today, I couldn’t find a proper set-up that made me feel confident, we worked hard but we are still far from the top. This morning we spent a lot of time finalising the settings of the electronics, but we still suffer. I miss some traction from the rear and this prevented me from making a good fast lap. For tomorrow we need to see the data and try to find some new solutions in set-up and electronics that could make me more comfortable on the bike.”
Nicky Hayden concluded the first free practice session in fifteenth place, 1.1 seconds off the fastest time. In the afternoon he worked to improve the balance of his bike but, despite collecting a lot of data, was unable to improve on his morning time. He knows that German track favours his bike, so tomorrow he will implement all the data collected on the first day to get his bike turning well.
Nicky Hayden – P16 – “The day has started very well. I was able to complete some successful laps in the first session and the feelings was good. In the afternoon we tried some modifications, to find a balance for our bike, which shown us the direction to go in. We were not able to improve our times in the afternoon, but putting all the information together I’m sure we will find solutions to further improve tomorrow. Theoretically this is a circuit that is well suited to our bike. It has several small places where you have to use full power, and we have to try to take advantage of that to work well in the qualifying session. Every tenth here is very important, so we cannot lose focus for a second. Tomorrow we will continue working hard to keep on the same line and also to improve the turning of our bike in some sectors.”
A sliding crash this morning complicated things for Bautista who, fresh from surgery on his right forearm right after the Assen race, was bothered a bit by the injury. In the afternoon the Spanish Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider in any case was able to get back onto the track, lapping on the same tyres with the clear intention of getting the bike set up for the race on Sunday, but also managing to shave almost 6 tenths of a second off his time from the morning session.
Alvaro Bautista – P18 – “This morning I took a spill on turn 11. The problem is that the spot where I had surgery on my arm last week opened up a bit.. But in the afternoon I was still able to ride. We used the same tyre for the entire session in order to find a good setting. Our most important goal is to improve grip at the rear. I need to feel the tyre more on the tarmac.”
Loris Baz, debuting on the German track, improved his lap time by over two seconds in the afternoon session after struggling in the first stint in the morning. He finished close to the other Open bikes and ended 19th in the combined timesheets.
Loris Baz – 19th / 1’23.344 / 48 laps – “It was a day of work aimed to become familiar with the track. The circuit is difficult to master, very technical with many blind corners. Although we are a little off the usual positions, I am satisfied overall. We made an important step forward since this morning and I’m confident for tomorrow.”
Jack Miller took victory in last season’s Moto3 race at Sachsenring, after today’s two free practice sessions the 20 year-old closed the day with the 20th fastest lap time, but is hopeful of making some big improvements ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session once he and the team go through the data they have gathered.
Jack Miller – 20th – 1’23.427 – “I’m not so happy with the result today, we have a lot of work to do. This is one of my favourite tracks though, so I’ll be looking to improve a lot. The bike isn’t working too bad, there’s just a few things we need to adjust and make a little better but we have a lot of work to do tonight for qualifying tomorrow to get a better grid position for the race. We don’t want to be starting from the back of the grid and be making our way through the field again, so we need to do a good job tonight so we are well prepared for tomorrow.”
Eugene Laverty started out re-learning an almost unknown circuit. In the afternoon he had expected to improve, but lost his way with changes to his machine. He experienced a dip in feeling and maneuverability, which led to him to concluding the day in 23rd position.
23rd Eugene Laverty 1.23.952 (46 laps): “I used the first practice session today I used to learn the different sectors of this circuit. This is like a new track for me, and learning the blind corners has taken me some time. The first session was very productive but in the second we lost our way. At the end of the morning we had found some improvements and we were satisfied, but in the afternoon we worked in the opposite direction -thinking it would be productive but it was not the case. We basically lost maneuverability from one session to the next -something we must recover for the second say.”
There has been plenty of change towards the bottom of the MotoGP timesheets this weekend, with three new riders lining up to do battle at the Sachsenring:
AB Motoracing’s injured Karel Abraham has been substituted for Hiroshi Aoyama. The Japanese rider said: “It’s a strange feeling to be back again, I’m very sorry for Karel, but I’m very excited to jump on his bike.”
Michael Laverty also makes his return to MotoGP, permanently taking Marco Melandri’s ride in the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini. It’s a tough challenge replacing a rider mid season, but Laverty is no stranger to the Aprilia due to his role as a test rider for the Noale manufacturer.
Michael Laverty – P24 – “In FP1 I felt very comfortable in the saddle every time I went out onto the track and in fact I did my best time in the last run. In the afternoon unfortunately I was only able to get one clean run in at the end of the session so I wasn’t able to improve. In general I’ve got a good feeling with the bike. There’s room for improvement in terms of grip. Today I tried the rear suspension link like the one Alvaro uses briefly and it seems to make things a bit better, so tomorrow I’ll try it on both bikes.”
Claudio Corti replaces Stefan Bradl for Athiná Forward Racing due to his broken scaphoid. Bradl was obviously disappointed to miss the German round: “It’s really a shame to be forced to miss my home Grand Prix, but doctors have advised me not to rush the recovery in order not to jeopardize the rest of the season.”
Claudio Corti – 25th / 1’25.160 / 43 laps – “Overall it was a positive day. I made the most of free practice in the morning to get to grips with the bike trying not to make mistakes. In the afternoon I pushed more and I improved my best time by over a second and a half. I have a completely different riding style compared to Stefan and I have to change the whole front setting. The feeling is good, the bike is easier to ride than I thought and I’m sure we can do a good job for qualifying with the team. I believe that I can still improve and shorten the gap to make a good race.”
Lowes on a high after setting fastest Moto2 pace in Germany
A best lap of 1’25.027 in this morning’s opening practice session secured Sam Lowes top spot on the opening day Moto2 timesheets in Germany. Lowes came out on top of a closely contested practice in the intermediate category, with just 0.077s separating the top five. The British rider certainly had a dramatic Free Practice. He crashed out turn 1 in this afternoon’s second session and nearly suffered a second fall at the same corner towards the end of FP2, but he managed to pull off a spectacular save.
Japanese rider Nakagami was only 0.040s behind Lowes, with 2014 German Moto2 runner-up Kallio a further 0.002s behind to complete the top three. Dominique Aegerter (Technomag Racing Interwetten) finished fourth, with the fastest home rider being Jonas Folger (AGR Team) in fifth place. Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) placed sixth on the time sheets, just ahead of current Championship leader Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport), who was seventh, despite being just 0.149s off the best pace set by Lowes.
Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) finished in eighth place. The Spaniard was keen to test his recovering right collarbone, which he broke just six days ago in a training accident at the Almeria track. He completed just two laps short of the full 29-lap race distance in FP1 and reported no pain or strength issues with the shoulder. He was fortunate not to aggravate the injury though when he crashed at turn 8 in the second session.
Tito Rabat: 8th – 1’25.195 – “I am disappointed with the result this afternoon but I am not so far away. I was lucky I didn’t aggravate my collarbone injury in the crash because I didn’t get any pain. It was a stupid crash but it can happen. The good thing is I was able to do a lot of laps this morning and I didn’t have any physical problems with the shoulder at all, so Dr Mir and his staff did a fantastic job with the surgery last weekend.”
Randy Krummenacher (JIR Moto2) & Thomas Luthi (Derendinger Racing Intewetten) complete the top 10. Simone Corsi (Athiná Forward Racing) finished 11th today, despite a strong record at the Sachsenring. He has been on the podium here for the last two years running with second in 2013 and third in 2014.
A crash from Azlan Shah (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) at the famous turn 11 with just under seven minutes of the session remaining brought out the red flag. The Malaysian’s Kalex bike came to rest in the middle of the track, and the only way to safely retrieve it was to halt the session, which got back under way after a short delay.
Kent finishes the day on top of the Moto3 timesheets
The Brit put in a fastest lap of 1’26.937 on the combined time sheets to put him & his Honda on top at the close of play on practice day, 0.678 sec ahead of Niccolò Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) and 0.721 sec ahead of 3rd-placed Alexis Masbou (SaxoPrint RTG).
Fabio Quartararo (Estrella Galicia 0,0) came in fourth on the combined times with a 1’27.666 lap. The fastest local rider was Phillip Oettl (Schedl GP Racing), who came in fifth in front of the German crowds, 0.853 sec off the pace set by Brit Danny Kent and just 0.015 sec faster than Karel Hanika (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in 6th.
Rounding out the top ten were Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Team Moto3), Efrén Vázquez (Leopard Racing), Andrea Locatelli (Gresini Racing Team Moto3) and Francesco Bagnaia (Mapfre Team Mahindra) respectively.
Big things were expected from Miguel Oliveira, but he unfortunately suffered a high side at turn 1 during FP1, breaking his left hand and sending him to Portugal for surgery, his weekend over. The crash has hurt him in more ways than one, given that the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider currently sits in third place in the championship and he needed valuable points in Germany to close the gap on championship leader Danny Kent.
Danny Kent told motogp.com that he saw Oliveira as a major competitor and mentioned him as one of the riders he needs to “keep an eye out for”, making Oliveira’s accident all the more painful. Oliveira is aiming to be fit to ride for round ten in Indianapolis, with team leader Niklas Ajo stating: “It was not a big crash so he was unlucky to break the bone. The doctors were positive it will recover quickly and he’ll be OK for Indy.”
This year’s Sachsenring Moto3 clash also sees two local riders joining as wild cards – Jonas Geitner for the Freudenberg Racing Team and Maximilian Kappler for SaxoPrint RTG. Kappler lives just a stone’s throw away from the circuit. He also competed in the 2014 German Moto3 race, starting from 29th on the grid to finish 21st. He said: “This year I feel much better prepared than last year. I want to have fun with it – and enjoy the cool atmosphere.”
The only Australian in the Moto2 field, Remy Gardner, finished day one 29th quickest in the 36-rider field.
Remy Gardner (1’28.946) – “This is a very special and difficult track because the braking areas and the riding lines. Many riders crashed today because this reason. I’ve been focused about learning the track and trying to find a good set-up for tomorrow’s qualifying. The gap to the top is not so big and I’m sure that I can improve it tomorrow”.