Jorge Lorenzo quickest on opening day at Valencia
Last race with Yamaha off to a flier for the 2010, 2012 and 2015 MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo
After Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) ruled FP1 at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana over four tenths clear, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) hit back in the afternoon to take the provisional top spot for much of the second session of the day. In the final few minutes of the day’s track action however, Lorenzo hit back to go quickest once again – six tenths faster than his best of FP1 and two tenths quicker than his 93-numbered rival.
The morning session was cooler, with the afternoon bringing the air and track temperatures up considerably – and the paddock hosted by uninterrupted blue skies.
Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) moved up the timesheets in the sunnier afternoon session from P6 to end Friday P3 on combined times, with Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) moving up one place from a P5 in FP1 to fourth on Friday as the home crowd hit back to take control at the top.
Winner last time out Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) ended the Spanish dominion at the top in fifth by the end of play, despite the Circuit traditionally being more difficult for the Ducati. Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was another improver as he moved from P7 in FP1 to P6 in the afternoon, just ahead of the second Ducati Team machine of Andrea Iannone in seventh.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi was second quickest on Friday morning despite a problem on an out lap, but was eighth by the end of FP2 and over seven tenths down on teammate Lorenzo’s best. Another Italian followed the ‘Doctor’ home, as Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) ended day one in ninth, after teammate Scott Redding had also been in the top ten in the morning.
Starting slow as he comes back from injury, Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa was 22nd after his first few laps on track in FP1 – and then ended the session in P12. Gaining confidence and pace, the ‘Baby Samurai’ upped the ante further in FP2, and rounded out the top ten in an incredibly impressive Friday performance despite his ongoing recovery from a broken collarbone sustained in Motegi.
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller put up a strong challenge for the top 10 at the end of a close opening day of practice for the final MotoGP encounter of 2016 at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia.
The Australian grew in confidence throughout the first 45-minute session, which took place in chilly conditions of just 14 degrees, despite the 4km Valencia venue being swathed in glorious autumnal sunshine.
Miller was able to set a personal best time of 1’32’155 which comfortably placed him inside the top 10 in eighth, as his Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS crew diligently worked through the process of evaluating four different spec Michelin front tyres that included two that the French manufacturer plan to use as part of its 2017 allocation.
Clear blue skies were a welcome sight again for FP2, and with track temperature up 15 degrees, the improved grip levels enabled Miller to improve his pace to a 1’31’754.
That placed the 21-year-old in 14th position on combined standings but Miller can take great heart from his first day showing in Spain, with his quickest time just over 0.5s away from the top five.
Jack Miller – P14
“I was pretty happy with my performance in FP1 this morning and I was able to put in a decent lap time on a new rear tyre. Only a handful of us used fresh rubber at the end of the session but this afternoon everybody ran new tyres and the pace got faster. I improved my lap time compared to this morning, so I feel like we made a step. I used the hard tyres for most of the second session to concentrate on set-up for the race and it didn’t feel too bad. We are not too far away from where we want to be and I am sure we can improve tomorrow.”
The KTM RC16 ended its debut day down the timesheets, and was three seconds down in FP2 – but within a second of both Loris Baz (Avintia Racing) and Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS). Test rider Mika Kallio is at the helm for the one off appearance ahead of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team lining up full time in 2017, and cut half a second off his best from FP1.
FP3 decides final direct entry to Q2 qualifying on Saturday, with Lorenzo leading the way in blue – for the last time.
Morbidelli on the move: Italian fastest on Friday
Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) is looking for his first win in Moto2, and the Italian got off to the best start in his quest to complete that goal before the end of the 2016 season as he topped Friday’s timesheets. Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was second quickest and a tenth down in FP2, but it was Garage Plus Interwetten rider Tom Lüthi who was second by the end of play after topping FP1 – with Nakagami taking third overall.
Simone Corsi was fourth from his time in FP1, with Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) completing the top five also due to his best lap in first practice, as the Moto2 field found laptimes harder to lower. Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) was third quickest on Friday afternoon but sixth on combined timesheets, ahead of an impressive performance from Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team) at home, as the Spaniard was seventh.
Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) remained in P8 by the flag from his laptime in FP1 as the Brit was another who didn’t improve, with Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) finding some form in the intermediate class to end the day in P9 – just edging out QMMF Racing Team’s Xavier Simeon, who completed the top ten.
With Zarco now Champion, the fight for P2 in the standings continues on Saturday with qualifying for the final showdown – ahead of lights out for the race on Sunday at 12:20 local time (GMT +1).
Enea Bastianini back with a bang
Gresini Racing Moto3 rider Enea Bastianini returned to competition in style at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, as the Italian topped the timesheets on his comeback from injury. Caught up in an incident during the Australian GP that saw the ‘Beast’ crack a vertebra, Bastianini went quickest by the end of his first day back on the grid as he fights to defend his second in the standings from key rivals Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Francesco Bagnaia (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra). Navarro ended the day sixth despite a big crash during FP1 that saw the Spaniard head to the Medical Center for a check up, with Bagnaia in thirteenth.
The superstars of FP1 proved to be RBA Racing Team duo Juanfran Guevara and Gabriel Rodrigo as the two took a one-two in the morning, before Guevara finished the day in second with Rodrigo completing the top ten.
Rookie of the Year contender Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) had another good session in the afternoon to end Friday in third, with reigning Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in P4 and Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) completing the top five.
Behind Navarro in sixth was second Leopard Racing rider Fabio Quartararo, with Jorge Martin (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra), Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) and Rodrigo rounding out the ten quickest on day one.
With everything to play for behind Binder in the Championship, the final race of the 2016 Moto3 season is sure to prove another incredible spectacle.