Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya: Friday roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3

 In MotoGP, News




A thrilling first day of MotoGP™ Free Practice action at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya in Barcelona ended with a sensational performance from Team Suzuki Ecstar’s home crowd favourite Aleix Espargaro. Espargaro took full advantage of an upgraded Suzuki engine to power his GSX-RR machine to an impressive lap time of 1’41.158, which was less than 0.3s away from Dani Pedrosa’s circuit best lap set in 2013.

Overnight thunderstorms meant grip levels weren’t ideal for FP1 this morning, but conditions improved throughout the day, with track temperatures soaring to 40 degrees Celsius for FP2. Lap times quickly tumbled, with mixed weather forecasts for Saturday placing extra emphasis on today’s second session as riders were anxious to secure an automatic place in Q2 in case of rain tomorrow. In a frantic last few minutes of FP2, it was Espargaro’s brilliant lap on the Bridgestone’s soft option Open spec rear tyre that secured him top spot ahead of reigning World Champion Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda rider (+0.285s) was the only man to get within half-a-second of the leading Suzuki, as he debuted a new exhaust and updated electronics to improve the power characteristics on his RC213V. His teammate Dani Pedrosa (+0.631s) was in third ahead of Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso (+0.665s) who with his teammate Andrea Iannone ran modified aerodynamic winglets on the GP15 to avoid touching the raised curbs at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Team Suzuki Ecstar enjoyed a day to remember as Maverick Viñales (+0.764s) also showed good pace on the second GSX-RR to finish in fifth. Iannone (+0.780s) improved from eleventh in FP1 to end the day in sixth overall, with the big surprise coming from Jorge Lorenzo. The Spaniard has dominated the last three races in Jerez, Le Mans and Mugello but he found himself down in seventh on the Movistar Yamaha M1. Cal Crutchlow (CWM LCR Honda), Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Scott Redding (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) completed the top ten, despite Redding crashing heavily at turn 10 during the afternoon.

Nine-times World Champion Valentino Rossi ended the day down in 11th, while Nicky Hayden slipped down the order to 13th after the American was an impressive seventh this morning. That put the 2006 World Champion ahead of Bradley Smith (14th). Irishman Eugene Laverty set the 19th fastest time of the day, with Aussie Jack Miller in 20th, 2.211s behind Espargaro.




Ajo Motorsport’s Moto2 World Championship leader Johann Zarco ended the first day of practice on top of the combined timesheets at the Gram Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya. The French rider set the fastest time of the day in cooler conditions this morning with a 1’47.144, as he looks to extend his 31-point lead over reigning Champion Tito Rabat at the Montmelo track.

Cortese finished second on the combined timesheets after the German topped FP2 with a 1’46.941 (+0.186s). Only three of the top 10 were able to improve their pace in significantly warmer conditions this afternoon and most riders lost crucial time through the technical final sector in the second session.

Speed Up Racing’s Sam Lowes (+0.248s) crashed in both sessions. He was unhurt after a fall at turn 5 this morning and the Briton fell again at turn 10 in FP2 before bouncing back to end the day third fastest. AGR Team’s Jonas Folger (+0.249s) was fourth fastest despite suffering a gearshifter malfunction in FP2, with reigning Moto2™ World Champion Rabat (+0.255s) taking fifth as he tried to improve a front-end chatter issue.

Folger’s teammate Axel Pons (+0.289s) was sixth fastest on the combined timesheets, with Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40), Dominique Aegerter (Technomag Racing Interwetten), Thomas Luthi (Derendinger Racing Interwetten), and Luis Salom (Paginas Amarillas HP40) completing the top ten.

Less than a second separated the top 20 riders, with Ratthapark Wilairot ending the day in 27th on his return to Moto2™ as replacement rider for Zaqwhan Zaidi in the JPMoto Malaysia squad.




Leopard Racing’s Danny Kent came out on top of a typically closely contested practice day for the Moto3 field at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Kent, who holds a commanding 46-point lead in the standings, finished with a 1’51.637 that put him top of the timesheets by just 0.011s from Italian Niccolo Antonelli on the Ongetta-Rivacold Honda. Kent’s best pace was still some way off the fastest Moto3™ lap around the 4.7km circuit of 1’50.232 set by Alex Marquez one year ago. But less than 0.1s split the top four and less than a second covered the top 22, with the big surprise supplied by Italian Alessandro Tonucci (+0.065s) in third spot on board the Outox Reset Drink Team Mahindra. Tonucci was behind Mugello winner Miguel Oliveira and Livio Loi when he set his fastest lap of 1’51.702.

RW Racing GP’s Loi (+0.089s) clearly benefitted from having Oliveira as a reference in front of him too as he finished fourth fastest. Enea Bastianini (+0.113s) on the Gresini Racing Team Moto3 Honda recovered from an early nasty crash in FP1 to set the fifth fastest time. Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Oliveira, who became the first Portuguese rider in history to win a Grand Prix in Mugello earlier this month, completed the top six. Spanish rider Jorge Navarro had topped the overcast morning FP1 session, but as conditions improved throughout the day, every rider managed to improve their times in FP2.

Navarro dropped back to eighth on the timesheets to finish one place behind his (Estrella Galicia 0,0) teammate Fabio Quartararo. Hiroki Ono (Leopard Racing) and Phillip Oettl (Shedl GP Racing) completed the top ten. Scottish rider John McPhee on the SAXOPRINT RTG Honda had finished FP1 in twelfth but he dropped down to 19th by the end of FP2.



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