Ducati 1-2 on opening day of MotoGP practice in Austria
Dovizioso leads teammate Iannone as the Desmosedicis take a 1-2 on opening day in Austria
Ambient temperature for the morning’s FP1 didn’t even reach double figures, while track temperature was an incredibly cool 14-degrees for the opening 45-minute session. That cold morning session that saw Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Viñales take the top spot from the Ducati Team pairing, both riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone hit back in the afternoon to lead the pack into Saturday as MotoGP rolls into the Red Bull Ring for the first time in nearly two decades.
After Ducati machinery dominated the recent private test at the venue, initial prophecies seem correct as the Desmosedici took the top honours with a last dash in the final minutes of FP2, leaving Maverick Viñales’ Suzuki eight-tenths back in P3.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was fourth quickest as the veteran Italian worked on refining his set up further to the earlier private test, with Sachsenring podium sitter Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) closing out the top 5.
Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) and Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) continued the Ducati presence in the top ten in P6 and P7 respectively, with wildcard entry Michele Pirro in P9 completing the Borgo Panigale factory’s impressive showing at the Red Bull Ring.
Reigning Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) ended the first day in Austria in P8 as he built on work done in the test to try and move up the timesheets, with Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) closing out the top ten in P10 – but neither Spaniard put in fresh rubber at the end of the day to join the last minute time attack. Marquez’ teammate Dani Pedrosa suffered a difficult Friday after a crash with no consequence in the morning session – but had no warning ahead of the incident either and will be looking to recover some confidence in FP3 ahead of qualifying later on Saturday.
A fully fit and confident Jack Miller was an impressive eighth fastest in the morning session and he impressed again in slightly warmer temperatures this afternoon to improve his pace by over a second. Miller finished 14th overall but found himself just 0.5s outside of the top six and he starred in the fast third sector of the 2.684 miles Spielberg track when he set the second fastest T3 split time in FP2.
Jack Miller: 14th – 1’25.321
“I got off to a decent start this morning but the gap has increased slightly to the front in FP2. I am not worried because I know I can do a better lap time but we are still experimenting with the set-up of our package to suit the new tyres that Michelin have here. They are different to the spec we used at the test, so it is just a matter of me refining the set-up to make them work better for me. It was really hot at the test and Michelin made these new tyres based on that. They went hard for better tyre life but now we’ve got cold conditions. But it will be fine once the weather improves. I’m pretty happy with how today went and I am really satisfied with my pace in the last two sectors. I’m really fast in the third sector but we need to improve out of the slow corners in the first part of the lap.”
Cristian Gabarrini – Jack Miller Chief Engineer
“The weather conditions are completely different to what we had at the test here last month and as soon as we knew it was going to be very cool today we expected it would take time to work on the set-up to get the best out of the new Michelin tyres. The main problem is managing the rear grip because we have a lot of sliding on entry and exit. The bike is moving a lot, so it makes acceleration more difficult and we are working to improve in that area without straying too far away from our test setting. In some parts of the track Jack feels really good but we need to try and give him more grip coming out of the slower corners. Hopefully this will become less challenging as the weather improves because it was very cold today and difficult to keep temperature in the tyres.”
Tito Rabat was just one place behind his teammate and he was delighted that the sharp drop in temperature did not alter his increased confidence in the front-end of his Honda RC213V package, which he improved after extensive work during the recent Spielberg test.
Tito Rabat: 15th – 1’25.770
“The track is very different compared to the test we did here last month and it is much, much colder. I am still happy because I have a good feeling with the front-end and this is the first time this has happened in the entire season in cold conditions. I think the biggest improvement I need to find is managing the wheelie coming out of the first corner. It is a very aggressive acceleration point and I can improve in that area. Today was one of the best opening days I’ve had this season, so hopefully in warmer conditions I can build on this performance tomorrow.”
Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) suffered a crash in the afternoon that saw the Granollers native pull back into pitlane to visit the medical center, with a small fracture to his left ring finger discovered and his race fitness to be reviewed ahead of FP3 on Saturday.
The third practice session on Saturday morning will now decide direct entry into Q2, before the final FP4 session gives one more chance to adjust setups ahead of qualifying – the first at the Red Bull Ring in nearly two decades.
Thomas Luthi rider quickest Moto2 rider on Day 1 at the Red Bull Ring
Garage Plus Interwetten rider Tom Luthi topped the timesheets on Friday in Austria, as the veteran former world champion dueled it out with key rival Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) and championship leader Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) at the front. Rins improved throughout the second session to join the leaders in a time attack near the end of FP2, and was second quickest ahead of title rival Zarco – but it was Luthi who beat the two to the top.
Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli had a good first Friday in Austria to close out the day in P4, with Dynavolt Intact GP’s Jonas Folger completing the top 5 behind the Italian. CarXpert Interwetten’s Dominique Aegerter was P6, ahead of Morbidelli’s teammate – 2014 Moto3 World Champion Alex Marquez – as times tumbled in the afternoon.
Marcel Shrotter (AGR Team) headed Assen winner Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Dynavolt Intact GP’s Sandro Cortese at the tail end of the top ten, with the 2012 Moto3™ world champion only 0.004 behind Nakagami’s time as Moto2 proved as competitive as ever.
Championship contender Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) had a difficult day 1 at the Red Bull Ring with crashes in the morning and afternoon, and ended Friday in P13 – looking for more on Saturday to keep his title campaign on the right track.
Brad Binder decimates Moto3 field on Friday
Local hare on the run overtakes South African series leader Brad Binder
Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Brad Binder kept his FP1 dominance rolling on Friday afternoon at the Red Bull Ring, as the South African took control of the second practice session to end Day 1 at Spielberg in P1. Gresini Racing Moto3 rider Enea Bastianini put in a final dash over the line to set the second fastest time of the day, ahead of Leopard Racing’s Fabio Quartararo as the Frenchman showed good Friday pace.
Binder, who has a 47 point lead in the championship as the second half of the season gets underway, was the first rider down in the 1 minute 38s and then again the first to drop into the 1:37s with only a few minutes of FP1 remaining, and the South African’s stunning form at the new venue continued into the afternoon as he cut that laptime by almost a second.
Bastianini and Quartararo both had good Fridays as Austria comes back onto the calendar, with the Italian and Frenchman looking to get back some of their frontrunning form that has been interrupted through injury in 2016. Rookie Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was the next fastest, as the Dutchman put in an impressive day’s work to end Friday in P4. Sky Racing Team VR46 rider Romano Fenati completed the top 5 on Day 1, with fellow title contender Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) suffering a more difficult day to end up P11.
Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing Team) ended Friday in an impressive P6, ahead of 2015 race winner Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) and Schedl GP Racing’s Phillip Oettl.
Francesco Bagnaia (PULL&BEAR Aspar Mahindra) was the quickest Mahindra machine in P9, in front of Leopard Racing’s Joan Mir – who completed a top ten largely dominated by KTM machinery.
There were a number of laptimes cancelled throughout the day – including some of Binder’s faster efforts – after riders exceeded track limits: something that could prove more pivotal on Saturday when qualifying gets underway.