#AmericasGP – Friday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
It was blink-and-you-miss-it stuff to end the first day of action at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas as the fastest riders on the planet attacked the track to secure Q2 spots and with it their chance to fight for pole position. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) drew first blood and came incredibly close to lap record pace to take top honours, pipping reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) to the top, with former COTA winner Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) excelling in the Americas once again to take an impressive 3rd.
One big headline from the day saw Championship leader Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) miss the cut, ending the day in P11 by just hundredths.
THE FIGHT FOR Q2
After P1 saw Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) beat Fabio Quartararo(Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) to the top, it looked like rain could derail the best laid plans for the premier class in the afternoon. But not so, as track conditions were back up to prime by the time the field headed out, and with that the times began to tumble.
The battle for Q2 honours was well and truly underway as the riders attacked with the clock ticking in Practice 2. Ten minutes to go and red sectors were flooding the timing screens, with the pace getting hotter and hotter. Marini and Bagnaia were leading the way in that order until the reigning champion took charge and placed his factory Ducati at the top of the pile, but the final runs were still to come.
Silence fell on the circuit as the riders returned to the pitlane in the calm before the storm. Minutes later a whole gaggle of riders went out on circuit for the final bite at the cherry, but 2022 Championship rivals Bagnaia and Quartararo let the group take to the circuit and waited behind for clear space…
Martin, however, had other plans and moved the goalposts by almost half a second, leaving the rest to battle for the scraps. Bagnaia put in a hot lap soon after though and managed to close back in, but it wasn’t quite enough as he finishes the day 0.063s off. Rins also took up the challenge with a truly impressive third overall, getting to within 0.154 of the top to push Marini down to fourth.
For some, the final very lap was a no-go as Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) went down and brought out the yellow flags, also forcing the Repsol Honda Joan Mirto take evasive action, riders ok. There had been another moment of adrenaline earlier in the session for Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) too, who saved a massive moment that nearly saw the Spaniard fly over the handlebars. It was a good recovery, however, as he finishes Day 1 in fifth.
Sixth goes to Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) as Top Gun ends Day 1 as top Aprilia, with Quartararo getting shuffled a little further down the order in the afternoon to finish up in P7. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing), and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took the final Q2 spots in 8th, 9th, and 10th respectively, making it both KTMs in the top ten for the first time since Motegi last year.
There is a very notable name missing there though: the Championship leader. Bezzecchi missed the cut by just 0.037s, and from 11th spot, the Argentina GP winner will have to fight his way through Q1 for a chance at pole. The Italian will have to fend off Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda CASTROL), Zarco, Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), and Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team), who will all have to face Saturday’s Q1 session.
Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) began his Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in fine fashion as the Spaniard set the time to beat in the final moments of the day with a 2:09.856. Despite a valiant effort, Championship leader Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) fell just short, finishing the day in 2nd, with Aron Canet (Pons Wegow Los40) completing the top three.
The track remained dry all day for Moto2™ Practice 1, but Practice 2 gave the riders much more to think about with spits of rain in the opening stages. The conditions began to improve as the session went on but with twenty minutes remaining the rain began to pick up once again, before a reprieve finally came in the final few minutes. The hot laps then came flying back in, and Acosta improved his time dramatically. The Portuguese GP victor put in the only 2:09 of the day and snatched the top spot, from Arbolino and Canet.
Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) also lit up the timesheets at the end of Practice 2, with the American kicking off his home GP with 4th place on Day 1, and Jake Dixon (Asterius GASGAS Aspar) was fifth overall by the end of play after the Brit also dominated P1.
Day 1 at COTA goes to Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) as the Japanese rider kicked off his weekend at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas with a 2:16.306. Completing the top three on combined times were fellow veteran Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) and sophomore Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team).
The dark clouds loomed over Austin Texas but the Moto3™ riders were lucky to have a full day of dry running. The final five minutes of P2 saw Sasaki put the hammer down. Ortola was the first to improve but the Japanese rider had something special in his back pocket and stamped his authority on the rest of the field, moving the goalposts by almost half a second. Masia then put in an impressive effort to try and topple Sasaki, setting the fastest first sector but ultimately falling short by 0.176s.
Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) topped Practice 1 and will be one watch heading into the race as he finishes the day in P4. Equally, Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) have had positive starts to their weekend finishing the day in 5th and 7th respectively. Kaito Toba (SIC58 Squadra Corse) slots into sixth.