Domination continues for Marquez on Friday in Austin

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After a productive Free Practice 1 session, riders in the MotoGP World Championship were straight back to work in Free Practice 2. Almost the entire field flooded out of the pits as soon as the session began, apart from Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) who had suffered a heavy crash at Turn 18 during Free Practice 1. The Australian had just recovered from a broken leg, the heavy crash forcing him to hop to his bike to begin the session. A small fracture was found on the fifth metatarsal of his right foot and as such he will undergo a medical check before FP3 on Saturday to decide if he is fit or not.

Unsurprisingly it was Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) who had set the pace in FP1, the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) one of his favourite tracks. It was a bit of a slow start to the session for Marquez but once he found his groove he exploded to the top of the standings with a 2’04.560 on his sixth lap. The Spaniard looked set for a 2’03 lap with 25 minutes to go until he lost the front at Turn 20, he was immediately on his feet and pushed his bike all the way back to his pit box.

He would then go faster on his 11th lap of the session with a 2’04.034, continuing to edge closer and closer to his 2015 pole time. Marquez was untouchable as Friday came to a close, no rider able to get within half a second of the factory Honda rider. On only three occasions has Marquez failed to top a session he was a part of at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas.

Marc Marquez – 1st 2’04.034

“Overall, I’m happy with how the day went. Acceleration was something of an unknown, but it seems initially that it is not as much of a factor here as at other circuits, because most of the corner exits here are in first gear, and we don’t lose so much. This morning we briefly tested some new winglets that effectively reduce the wheelying a little bit, but we need to test them further to better understand the bike’s behaviour with them. In the afternoon I had a small crash in which I was unhurt. I saw that I was going very well on a lap and, on the last corner, I left my braking until a little later than before. I found out where the limit is. I’m happy with how the day went but we can still continue to improve.”

Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez

Once again it was three different manufacturers inside the top three as Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) managed to wrestle his Ducati into second. But he was 0.706s behind the merciless Marquez, unable to keep his pace. After his attempted pass in Argentina, Iannone was handed a three-place grid penalty by Race Direction for the Austin round. Therefore the Italian needs to focus as hard as he can on achieving a top grid spot on Saturday to ensure he is at least on the second row once his penalty is applied.

Andrea Iannone – 2nd 2’04.740

“My FP2 session was positive and we succeeded in improving a lot on this morning. We always used the same tyres throughout the session and lapped almost one second quicker on race pace. Obviously we still have some situations to analyze in detail: for example we have to improve a bit in T3, where I’m losing three or four tenths, but all in all I am fairly happy. It will be important to continue to work in this direction, because we started off well this morning and I’ve got an incredible feeling with my crew.”

Andrea Iannone
Andrea Iannone

Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) rounded out the top three and was just 0.155s back on Iannone. Back in 2015, the Suzuki GSX-RR struggled a lot with the heavy acceleration demands of COTA but Viñales’ third in FP2 is proof of the development done by Suzuki. In Argentina he was not only able to match the Yamaha riders down the straight but also slipstream past them.

Maverick Viñales – 3rd

“We have done a good job today, we did many improvements throughout the sessions and most importantly I did my best time with worn and used tyres, which mean we are pretty confident with the pace. We still miss some improvements, we already have some ideas and I guess tomorrow we will go to improve further. I feel very confident in sector 1 and 2, more technical and fast, which are the ideal path for my GSX-RR’s characteristics. I still miss something with the stability in hard braking, and this is the reason why I lose-out in sector 3 and 4. But we are conscious of the problems and this will allow us to find effective solutions. The step forward we made from the morning to the afternoon is very important, but yet this is not enough; tomorrow the others will improve a lot and therefore we must do the same.”

Maverick Vinales
Maverick Vinales

Fourth place saw Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) finish as the highest placed Independent Team rider and as the second Ducati. Once more it was the Bologna factory that took the lion’s share of the top five. The Brit is out to make amends after a number of technical problems destroyed his weekend in Argentina.

Scott Redding – 4th 2’04.899

“It was a good practice. The feeling with the bike is very good although I felt not comfortable with the front hard tire. I think we can work on this. With used tires, however, things went well and this gives me confidence for the race. Tomorrow we will have some options to figure out which is the best tire for the race. And I hope to do very well in qualifying.”

Scott Redding
Scott Redding

In fifth, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was the leading Yamaha rider and 0.867s back on Marquez. He was a meagre 0.006s back on Viñales in third place however, almost nothing dividing himself from Redding and his fellow Spaniard. Yamaha riders have often struggled at the Texan track, the new Michelin tyres easing the issue but it’s clear there is still work to be done. It has almost always been the front that has caused issues and more laps are needed to know if the issues still exist.

Jorge Lorenzo – 5th / 2’04.901 / 31 laps

“In general the feeling is much better than over other years here. We need to improve. For some reason we had some problems with the first bike and couldn’t take full advantage of the first session and show the maximum potential that we have right now, which I think is half a second faster than our lap time today. Let’s see if tomorrow we can be on the first row.”

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo
Valentino Rossi – 6th / 2’04.974 / 32 laps

“The second session was not so bad. I was quite fast from the beginning and we tried something on the bike in the last run, but unfortunately I made two mistakes and I was not able to do a good lap. If I hadn’t made the mistakes, I would have been able to stay closer to the front. I had quite a good potential because I’m quite fast everywhere, but unfortunately we suffer a little bit too much in braking so we need to work to try to improve this part, because it’s very easy to make mistakes. We need to understand the tyres. We have to wait for the hard rear that arrives tomorrow. Our decision on the front tyre is also still very open, we have three tyres to choose from. It will be difficult and I think the tyres will make the difference and will be key for the race.”

Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi

Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was sixth and within a tenth of his teammate. ‘The Doctor’ was able to complete 16 laps and gather more valuable data for his team as they turn their attention once more to race day.

Loris Baz (Avintia Racing), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) formed the top ten which was tighter than initial glances at the timesheets may have suggest. A second split Iannone in second from Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) in 15th. All of the 21 riders on track improved their times from FP1.

Jack Miller: 20th – 2’06.777

“It was a real shame to start the weekend off with a big crash like I had this morning. I had a good feeling on the first exit and then put in a new tyre on my second bike and I just didn’t generate enough heat in the rear before I started to push. I ended up crashing and it is a big shame because this is one of my favourite tracks and I’d already shown I’ve got some speed here. My right leg is pretty painful and I’ll work closely with the Clinica Mobile staff to help make me as comfortable as I can be to try again tomorrow and push hard for qualifying.”

Jack Miller
Jack Miller
MotoGP 2016 – COTA – Day One Times
  1. MARQUEZ  Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team 2’04.034
  2. IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA Ducati Team 0.706
  3. VINALES Maverick 25 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 0.861
  4. REDDING Scott 45 GBR Octo Pramac Racing 0.865
  5. LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 0.867
  6. ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 0.940
  7. BAZ Loris 76 FRA Avintia Racing 1.156
  8. PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA Repsol Honda Team 1.160
  9. DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Ducati Team 1.161
  10. CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR LCR Honda 1.359
  11. BARBERA Hector 8 SPA Avintia Racing 1.454
  12. PIRRO Michele 51 ITA Ducati Team 1.563
  13. ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1.582
  14. ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 1.628
  15. HERNANDEZ Yonny 68 COL Aspar MotoGP Team 1.727
  16. LAVERTY Eugene 50 IRE Aspar MotoGP Team 1.857
  17. BRADL Stefan 6 GER Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1.888
  18. BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2.123
  19. SMITH Bradley 38 GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 2.445
  20. MILLER Jack 43 AUS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS 2.743
  21. RABAT Tito 53 SPA Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS 3.010
Alex Rins continued his FP1 pace to FP2, leading both sessions and the day from Corsi and Zarco

Times continued to fall dramatically during Free Practice 2 for the Moto2 World Championship as Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) went under the circuit and pole record. In most classes a new circuit record would easily ensure a rider topped the timesheets, but in a class as competitive as Moto2™, nothing is certain and Zarco found himself quickly pushed down the order.

All of the top three would get under Xavier Simeon’s 2015 pole time but it was Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) who emerged fastest of them all. Rins would go top, and under the circuit record, on his 14th lap with a 2’09.564 and looked on course to improve the following lap until a small mistake saw him set a 2’09.622, still faster than the man in second.

A 2’09.744 put Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) in second position once again. There may be a limited number of Speed Up bikes on the grid, but they almost always go well at the Circuit of the Americas, Lowes having steered the bike to victory there in 2015. If the Roman can maintain a top three position during Qualifying, he’ll almost certainly be a contender come Sunday as he has the ability to battle with the best thanks to his penchant for an aggressive overtake.

FP2 saw an identical top three to FP1 as Johann Zarco managed to hang onto third. Having quietly gone about his business for much of the session, the reigning intermediate class World Champion put in a 2’09.760s on his 12th lap to go top of the session and record the provisional fastest ever Moto2™ lap at the American circuit. All of the top three riders were divided by under 0.2s of a second with everything building towards another close race as in Argentina.

Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was the fourth and final rider able to lap in the 2’09s, 0.002s off the pole record. The Japanese rider has steadily been improving his speed in the opening two rounds but is still looking to convert it to race pace.

Fifth was a somewhat distant Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team), 0.808s off Rins’ lap and almost half a second behind Nakagami. His session was disrupted by a fall, coming off at Turn 20 in the closing ten minutes. He was uninjured but also unable to improve his time.

Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP), Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten), Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten) and Luis Salom (SAG Team) rounded out the top ten.

Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) were the only two riders unable to improve their times in the second session.

Mid-session saw a crash involving both Lowes and Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) at the final corner. Lowes was unhurt but Wilairot needed assistance in leaving the track, the Thai rider able to return to track for the final few minutes.

Alex Rins
Alex Rins

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Times drop in Moto3 FP2 as Fabio Quartararo leads the session and the day overall from Fenati and Antonelli

During the morning session many riders and teams spent their time experimenting with the front end in an attempt to improve feeling. It was Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) who set the pace during Free Practice 1 with a 2’17.433. Navarro was immediately on the pace again with other riders getting tantalisingly close to his time within just three laps. On his fifth lap of the session, Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) would set a new benchmark and from there the times would tumble lap after lap.

The Italian continued to drop his times and became the first rider of the weekend to set a 2’16. In typical Moto3™ style, his time would not protect him at the top as Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) was able to set the fastest lap of the weekend. The French rider claimed his debut World Championship podium at the American circuit in 2015 and again showed well as he set a 2’16.250 to lead the session and top the combined timesheets. After two difficult rounds, this is exactly what Quartararo needed to boost his confidence and re-establish himself as a podium contender.

A mere 0.147s behind Quartararo was Fenati, the Italian improving to a 2’16.397 on his final lap of the session. This was an improvement of 1.5 seconds from Free Practice 1 for the Sky Racing Team VR46 rider. He was joined in the top three by fellow Italian Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) who was also within a third of a second of Quartararo’s time. The times of the top three are still almost a second slower than Danny Kent’s 2015 pole time.

Both Antonelli and Fenati are aiming to return to the top five after a difficult race in the mixed conditions of Argentina.

Navarro would eventually conclude the session down in fourth, all of the top four within 0.303s of each other. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) was fifth and the final rider able to lap in the 2’16s. Despite his lap time he was 0.306s behind Navarro and over half a second behind Quartararo.

Championship leader, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had a difficult session and ended down in 14th, 1.434s off the pace. The South African fitted new tyres late in the session and was unable to make a major impact on the timesheets for one of the first times in 2016. There’s still plenty of time to improve before the race on Sunday.

Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3), Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) and Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) were all inside the top ten. Every rider out on track in Free Practice 2 was able to improve their time from the first session. Most riders were able to go at least one second faster as they improved their feeling on the American track.

Once again a number of riders had their lap times cancelled for exceeding track limits. Come Qualifying on Saturday, remaining inside the circuit will be crucial as the removal of a potential pole time would be devastating.

Fabio Quartararo
Fabio Quartararo