Strong start for Aleix Espargaro & Maverick Viñales at Mugello
Aleix Espargaró and Maverick Viñales both got off to a strong start in the opening Free Practice sessions today at the Autodromo del Mugello for the sixth round of the MotoGP™ World Championship.
Espargaró put his GSX-RR Suzuki into fourth place in the closing stages of FP2 with a lap-time of 1’48.270 on his 15th of 17 laps, while Viñales – who led the session at one stage – secured seventh with a 1’48.345 on his 18th of 19 laps at the scenic 5.245km Italian circuit; and where just 0.649-of-a-second separated the top seven riders.
The morning session was affected by track conditions; the rain that fell copiously yesterday left the track in a mixed situation – too dry for rain tyres and still too humid for the slicks. Because of this, many riders chose not to take the risk of a crash, plus the weather forecast predicted sun for tomorrow. However, both Viñales and Espargaró took the last minutes of the session to try the new intermediate tyres that Michelin has introduced this year; and their first impressions were positive, although they could only put-in a few laps.
The sun finally shone in the afternoon and this dried the circuit, allowing riders to start their real work to get ready for the race, as this preparation had been the priority for both Team SUZUKI ECSTAR’s riders from the start. The whole session was a thrilling one, with Viñales frequently among the top riders and very close to the leading position. In fact, for most of the 45 minutes, all the top riders were less-than half a second apart, but finally, Espargaró managed to challenge the leading group as well with a renewed boost.
“It’s been a good start, I like this track very much and I’m happy to see that we are finally competitive. Last year here we suffered a lot with the top-speed but now we have pretty-much closed the gap. Unfortunately, I can’t benefit 100% because I’m very tall, but for sure Suzuki has made a huge step forward on this. Today in practice I couldn’t find a very good feeling, I felt it was hard to make the changes of direction as I wanted and this is something we must improve on because Mugello has many chicanes. Despite this problem, I made a very good lap time which is a positive thing and it means we still have some potential to be explored tomorrow. It looks that on Sunday it’s going to be hot, therefore the consistency of performance on the distance will be the key factor for the race. We are working on this, already thinking for the race to get well prepared is the priority, and then we will think in qualifying to get a good place to start from.”
“I feel it’s been a positive day, but unfortunately we lost the morning session because of the weather conditions and had to recover in the afternoon. We focused on the race, and I did many laps with only one set of tyres. Despite this, my best lap-time is not so bad which means we can be much faster tomorrow. We are already thinking about the race, as this is the priority, but tomorrow we will also need to focus on the grid position and the start. Here in Mugello, overtaking is pretty hard, therefore the better the start, the more advantage you will get.”