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Tight top five battle emerges in Moto3™

 Tight top five battle emerges in Moto3™

Danny Kent led a trio of Italians and a Belgian on the opening day of practice at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya.

Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) was the only rider in FP1 able to put in a lap under 1’52, but FP2 saw the pace increase considerably around the Barcelona track. The track temperature rose by over 9ºC between the morning and afternoon session, the rain that many had feared was nowhere to be seen. These improved conditions saw the top eight Moto3™ riders improve to drop into the 1’51s, every rider but Isaac Viñales (Husqvarna Factory Laglisse) bettering their FP1 time.

Moto3™ riders also had to contend with unknown conditions in FP1, rain overnight leaving many uncertain as to the amount of grip and condition of the track. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Team Moto3) fell victim to these conditions, running wide onto the artificial grass that was still damp from the rain. The Gresini rider was uninjured in the crash and showed strong pace in the afternoon.

A 1’51.637 from championship leader Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) was able to just cement his position at the top of the timesheets on the opening day of practice, with Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) just 0.011s behind. Kent, along with many of the other top Moto3™ riders, managed just two 1’51 laps in FP2. The Brit’s advantage this season has been a strong base setting on his Honda machine, allowing him to focus on riding and limit setting experimentation. Kent will use FP3 tomorrow to find a good middle ground between his FP1 and FP2 settings. “It’s been a good start to the weekend, we topped the timesheets but there’s still a bit of work to do. I’m English so I’m used to the wet conditions, I like the wet and the dry,” joked Kent.

2015 has seen Antonelli strong in the majority of practice sessions, but suffering from bad luck come the race on Sunday. Antonelli’s pace during practice has so far been in the 1’52s, overall slightly better than that of Kent and significantly better than Alessandro Tonucci and Livio Loi who are just behind. Fellow Italian Enea Bastianini’s pace appears the strongest, able to lap in the low 1’52s while dipping to a 1’51.750 on his last FP2 lap. “The feeling was very good, but we have to improve in the last sector. This track is very difficult with rain as you slide a lot so we will have to wait and see,” commented Antonelli on the chances of rain.

The 2014 race saw Honda end KTM’s Moto3™ domination and so far Honda have claimed the lion’s share of wins this season. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was sixth on combined times, the highest placed KTM. Barcelona offers a more limited choice of tyres that are viable for the race, forcing Oliveira and others to be more conservative with their use and thus limiting the number of one off fast laps, riders such as Karel Hanika (Red Bull KTM Ajo) spent all of FP2 on used tyres.

Other KTM riders are struggling more with the set up of their machines, many searching for grip in FP1.  FP3 will be crucial for those KTM riders still having trouble finding a setting. It was not only KTM mounted riders who had problems, Andrea Locatelli  (Gresini Racing Team Moto3) on the Gresini Racing Team’s Moto3™ Honda had to battle rear chatter throughout the day, as well as a small touch with Jorge Navarro.

Both Alessandro Tonucci (Outox Reset Drink Team) and Livio Loi  (RW Racing GP) were able to benefit from the slipstream available down Catalunya’s long straight to finish in third and fourth respectively. The duo were within 0.1s of Kent and could pose a threat come Qualifying, potentially displacing several of the usual frontrunners. Tonucci and his team have worked on an entirely new base setting they discovered at Mugello, alleviating many of the problems they had earlier in the season.

Check out the combined Moto3™ Free Practice results, FP3 kicks off at 9:00am local time in Barcelona on Saturday.

Tags:
Moto3, 2015, GRAN PREMI MONSTER ENERGY DE CATALUNYA, FP2, Danny Kent, Alessandro Tonucci, Niccolò Antonelli, Leopard Racing, Outox Reset Drink Team, Ongetta-Rivacold

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