With rain forecast for Saturday morning, Friday took on even more importance than normal in terms of Q2 entry; the top ten on the combined timesheets potentially already decided if the weather changes. In terms of times, Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was the first major improver in FP2, soon 0.590 clear of the field in the afternoon, with his fortunes soaring early in the session as bad luck hit the other side of the Yamaha garage.
Five-time premier class Brno winner and team-mate Valentino Rossi had to nurse his M1 back to the pits with just over 20 minutes of FP2 to go after a mechanical issue and at that stage, the likes of ‘The Doctor’, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), 2016 Czech GP winner Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and even Quartararo were languishing outside the top 10.
That would all change in the last 10 minutes, however. Soft tyres came out to play and Marquez stuck his Repsol Honda top of the pile, with the likes of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Miller also improving just before the reigning World Champion went quickest. Then, enter Quartararo. The rookie sensation was 18th in FP1, and somehow then suddenly seared around Brno 1.7 seconds quicker to move up from P17 to take over at the top in FP2. ‘El Diablo’ is back in business and very close to fully fit after his arm pump surgery and then shoulder dislocation.
Fabio Quartararo – P1
“I’m close to 100% and not having many problems with my arm. I don’t have any pain at all with it, and felt good in both sessions. We struggled a little bit with the tyres today as we’ve been working with all three compounds, so the plan for tomorrow is to concentrate on one option for the race. It looks like the soft has a big step from the other two, and I think we need to analyse our data to see if we can use it in the race. But first, my goal for tomorrow is to be on the front two rows of the grid as we know that Brno can be a difficult track to overtake on.”
The Frenchman heads Marquez by mere hundredths then, ahead of the two Ducatis of Miller and FP1’s fastest man Dovizioso, with earlier FP2 leader Viñales pushed down to fifth overall.
Marc Marquez – P2
“It was important to start well after the summer break and the bike was feeling good today, allowing us to try a mix of tyres, settings and some chassis options. We concentrated on the setup more than the one lap speed until the last run because tomorrow it looks like there is a big chance of rain. Tonight we will look at everything to better understand the positives and negatives to choose our best option for tomorrow. We are happy, happy with how the day went and we will see what tomorrow brings but we are in a good place.”
Jack Miller – P3
“It was a very positive day and it was nice to find the feeling right away after two races on circuits that were not easy for us. We were fast both on the race pace and on the time attack and the tyres also worked very well despite the circuit conditions are not the best.”
Andrea Dovizioso – P4
“Here at Brno you need the bike to be pretty strong under braking if you want to go fast, and it seems that the hard front tyre is a bit more stable than the others. It was a bit of a strange session, because the possibility of rain tomorrow forced everyone into trying as many things as possible, both with the tyres and everything else. We have to study the pace of our rivals well: all things considered, mine is good and in line with the quickest guys out on the track. But we know that in the race the rear tyre suffers a big drop and so you can’t really understand certain details well in the practice sessions: in any case I did a pretty good lap with the soft tyre, and I only used one. Let’s hope we can work well in the dry tomorrow, because otherwise we’ll all start the race with some doubts. Today I tried the new fairing, but we weren’t able to make a real comparison because we also had to test a lot of other things, but in any case the overall feeling is good.”
Maverick Viñales – P5
“Honestly, I‘m really happy about today, because we worked hard for the race. So, if it rains tomorrow we have the work done, and I think we did it in a good way. The race pace is really good and I felt quite good with the bike. I set my lap time a little earlier than the rest, which can be a little bit tricky, but I needed to do it so I could concentrate on working on the race. In the last part of the practice we worked on the race distance and it felt good, the bike was working well. The tyre degradation is difficult for everyone, the tyres drop so much, so we need to understand which spec drops the least over 20 laps. It‘s difficult, but we will see what we can do.”
Rins, another who’d already bothered the top earlier in the session, ends Friday in sixth, with Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Franco Morbidelli jumping up one place from his P8 in FP1 to take P7 in FP2.
Alex Rins – P6
“My feeling is nice. During the summer break I relaxed my mind but trained my body, and I can already feel the benefits of that. Today’s result of 6th is pretty good, and I felt that my rhythm was strong. I tried the new fairing with the new aero design and my initial feeling is that it’s much better, we still need to gather more information, but I can feel the difference on anti-wheelie already. The track is quite bumpy this year, which makes it difficult for everyone, but I feel that my bike copes well with the bumps.”
Franco Morbidelli – P7
“Today FP2 was like FP3, thanks to the rain forecast for tomorrow and it was very important to secure the Q2 time today. We managed to get into P7 which I’m very happy with, and of course we have to improve tomorrow as always but so far so good for us. Fabio is fast and all four Yamahas are in the top ten, so it seems like the bike is behaving well here. Of course, we know we’re still struggling a little bit with top speed but all of us have made a strong start to the weekend.”
Crutchlow, Rossi and Petrucci also all put in late personal best laps to earn top 10 positions, something that could prove crucial. Crutchlow was eighth overall – a big improvement from the Brit, who managed 15th in the morning – with Rossi recovering from his mechanical issue to place ninth, one better than his FP1 effort. Petrucci climbed three places to complete that potentially crucial top ten.
Cal Crutchlow – P8
“I felt better with the soft tyre obviously and I was able to go faster with that. Normally my style suits the hard rear tyre, but not today. We have no real understanding of why, the lap time was just really slow and I didn’t feel great on the bike anyway even though we tried two different settings. We’ll look forward to tomorrow, hopefully it will rain as we’re already in the top 10, but we need to improve. I don’t feel as good as I felt at Sachsenring, but it’s a different style of circuit. I’m optimistic and hopefully we can be towards that top five podium battle on Sunday, but we’ve got a long way to go after today.”
Valentino Rossi – P9
“I had a problem with the engine of the first bike, it was a bit old. We don’t know what happened, but anyway it was broken. The forecast for tomorrow is not fantastic, so it’s important to stay in the top-10. We are ninth, so we can await tomorrow’s weather, and if it’s wet, we are already in Q2. If not, we also need to push tomorrow morning. Anyway, the pace and the lap time are not so bad. It was quite good for the first day.”
Danilo Petrucci – P10
“It wasn’t very easy to start off with the hard tyre today, because this year there doesn’t seem to be much grip at Brno, and above all there is a lot of tyre wear so in the race you have to manage it well. For the moment I’m not able to be very quick, because I’m struggling a bit to stop the bike, but there’s certainly margin to improve: both Andrea and Jack went quicker than me so now we’ll have to improve. We understand the direction to take so let’s hope the weather will be good tomorrow. I think we’ll use the new fairing again tomorrow, because this morning it helped me and I’m happy with the feeling it gave me.”
Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was the man to just miss out as he ends the day in 11th, just ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). The Japanese rider is close to being back to fully fit on the bike and put in a solid showing despite a crash in FP2, rider ok. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) also crashed, rider ok.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), meanwhile, impressed once again. The Portuguese rookie was fourth in FP1 and ends Day 1 in 13th overall, as well as being top KTM. Another impressive FP1 performer was Suzuki test rider Sylvain Guintoli (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who ended the first session in fifth. He was P17 overall.
Finally, another headline from Day 1 was some of the updates on show ahead of the post-race test on Monday. Marquez tried two chassis at Sachsenring and – despite liking the new one – opted to race the old one. But the carbon reinforced chassis could be used for the first time in race trim at Brno. Meanwhile at Ducati, Dovizioso and Petrucci sported updated aerodynamic fairings, and Alex Rins had a new aero fairing on his Suzuki on Friday, too. Jack Miller said he had some updates but didn’t specify what, and the Aussie says he’s expecting new aero in Austria…
The likes of Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) will be casting nervous eyes to the skies on Saturday, with the Spaniard down in P22 after Day 1 and looking for much more. Will it stay dry or is it a trip to Q1 for those who missed out? The top ten after FP3 will go through to Q2, and that final chance to move up the timesheets.
MotoGP Day One Combined Times
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up) was quickest on Day 1 at the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky, although the number 21 only 0.035 ahead of Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) by the end of play. The two rookies impressed to take to the top at the track that saw ‘Diggia’ take his first Grand Prix win in Moto3™ last season, with another impressive performance completing the top three but this from veteran Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team). The Japanese rider was fastest in FP1 and ended the day within 0.063 of the top.
The sky looked fairly threatening as the day went on, but nevertheless the vast majority improved their laptimes, not least Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP), as the German moved up from P22 to lead for the majority of the session before ultimately ending the day in fourth overall. It was by the tiniest of margins, however, with Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) just 0.001 in arrears as he completed the top five.
Brno 2017 winner Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) ended Friday in sixth, just 0.016 further back, with the man marginally ahead of him in the Championship, Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), this time marginally behind him. After a tougher morning session, the number 73 took seventh, 0.061 off…and just 0.010 ahead of Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up). The trend continued for Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) as the Brit ended Friday in ninth by just 0.005.
Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) completes the top ten and beat Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder to the honour, with new Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2 rider Mattia Pasini down in P12 with his FP1 time. The Italian suffered a sizeable crash in FP2. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) was 13th, with Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) completing the fastest 14 and the provisional graduates to Q2. Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) was the first to lose out and the Australian will be keen to see the rain hold off in that all-important FP3 session on Saturday morning.
Steven Odendaal (NTS RW Racing GP) crashed twice in FP2, and in other news, Dimas Ekky Pratama (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) will sit out the rest of the weekend as he continues to recover from his crash at Assen.
Khairul Idham Pawi will also miss the remainder of the weekend. The Malaysian made his return to the intermediate class on Friday in Brno after several months on the sidelines, but will ultimately not ride in the Czech GP. Jonas Folger will step into the Petronas Sprinta Racing squad as his replacement once again.
Moto2 Day One Combined Times
Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) went fastest on Friday in the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky, with the Argentine rider two tenths clear by the end of a cloudy first day of action at the classic track. That was, however, before a crash in the last few seconds of FP2 as he highsided out, breaking his collarbone and pelvis and ruling himself out of the remainder of the weekend. Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) completed the top three, with 16 riders ending the day within a second on the combined timesheets.
Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) topped FP1 ahead of Rodrigo, but it was game on on Friday afternoon to get into the provisional Q2 graduation zone as bad weather seems to be on the horizon for Saturday and FP3. In the end though some of the fastest in FP1 remained threats on the combined timesheets, with Masia retaining fifth overall, slotting in behind a top three chased by Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46). The ever-impressive Italian rookie gained over twenty places from his FP1 slot.
Championship contenders Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) and Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) were next up, with the two rivals taking P6 and P7 respectively…split by just 0.030 as they prepare for another crucial battle on Sunday. Dalla Porta was also involved in an incident with Vietti at Turn 3 in FP2, both riders ok.
Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse), currently third in the Championship, was eighth quickest on Friday, with the Italian ending the day just under a tenth and a half off Canet. He headed up an incredibly close squabble, with compatriot Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) 0.003 back, Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) another 0.008 off and John McPhee (Petronas Yamaha SRT) within only 0.014 of Spaniard Ramirez ahead of him. The Scot’s best lap was from FP1.
That was also true of the man just behind him, rookie Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia), and the man behind him, Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai), in P13. Home hero Filip Salač (Redox PrüstelGP) took P14 and is the last man currently in the provisional graduation zone for Q2, with Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) the first to lose out.
Crashers on Day 1 included Can Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Kazuki Masaki (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race), Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power), Albert Arenas (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team), Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0).
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