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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez finishes the first day of practice on top, as rain plays its part at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas.
The MotoGP™ Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas was already going to be exciting with the field closer than ever this year, but add to that the chance of rain and things could get really unpredictable this weekend in Austin.
Today’s first two MotoGP™ practice sessions took on an extra importance as rain is predicted to play a major part over the weekend at the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas. This meant that riders not only had an opportunity to collect vital data in the wet conditions for their teams, but also had one eye on making it through to Q2.
In FP1 it was the Ducati Team GP15 of Dovizioso who had set the fastest time, just beating Marc Marquez into second as the session ended, with the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing Honda of Scott Redding finishing in an impressive 3rd.
It was all change for FP2, with the track drying and the rain holding off it gave riders a chance to head out and attempt to set what could be their fastest lap of the two days of practice. The times from FP2 might be very important, as with more rain forecast for tomorrow they could decide who makes it through to the second qualifying session on Saturday.
Riders initially headed out on wet tyres to get a feel for the track conditions, but came back in to switch to slicks as the racing line began to dry with about 20 minutes to go. This led to a frantic end to proceedings, as riders attempted to take advantage of what could be the only dry session of the weekend.
Repsol Honda’s Marquez was the only rider to break the 2’05 barrier, as he set a 2’04.835 to finish three-tenths ahead of the CWM LCR Honda of Cal Crutchlow (+0.327s) who is benefitting from a chassis and seat upgrade to his RC213V in Austin, and was the fastest of the Satellite riders.
Marquez said afterwards that he felt good in both the wet and the dry: “We are positive, as we don’t know which weather we will have on Sunday. The feeling was good in the rain, and I feel well in the dry, as despite only doing five laps we were competitive.”
For Crutchlow, it was a good feeling to finish 2nd after his big crash at turn 2 in last years race: “I spent all day being scared through that corner as it was the biggest crash of my career. We took our time to build up the confidence, but overall I feel quite happy.” When asked if his new chassis was better than the old one, he admitted it was hard to tell without riding them back to back: “I can’t tell you whether its better at this stage, but of course it should be better or the Factory team wouldn't be riding on it.”
Completing the provisional front row was the Ducati Team GP15 of Andrea Iannone (+0.355s), with the Italian pleased with his progress in the US: “I am really happy for the second practice, as I had a good feeling with my bike and could push really hard to finish 3rd, and as tomorrow we expect rain, so it is really important for QP2.”
Seven-tenths back from Marquez was Aleix Espargaro (+0.729s) on the Team Suzuki Ecstar GSX-RR in 4th, with Andrea Dovizioso (+0.811s) in 5th on the second Factory Ducati.
Espargaro seemed pleased but had some concerns: “I am happy as we are in Q2, if tomorrow rains, but like Qatar I felt a lot of chattering in the rear tyre, which is really strange, so we need to figure out why it’s happening.”
Dovizioso was happy that he too had made it through to the provisional Q2, but says they need to work on their pace in the wet: “The most important thing was to be in the top ten in case it rains tomorrow. In the wet, I can’t do what I want, but I can also be really fast without a good feeling. It was nice to confirm we have pace in the wet, but we have to improve for the race.”
Valentino Rossi (+0.856s), the man who rolled back the years to claim the race win in Qatar, ended the day in 6th on the leading Yamaha, and emphasised how crucial todays lap times could be: “It was very important to stay in the top ten as if the conditions are bad tomorrow, then these lap times will count.” The nine-time World Champion went on to say how he was happy with his wet pace: “I was already quite strong in the wet, but today I had a good feeling on the bike, which is important as the last time we tried the bike in the wet I wasn’t so strong. I feel good with the bike, but I can do better.”
Pol Espargaro (+1.005s) finished in 7th on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, ahead of Forward Racing’s Stefan Bradl (+1.155s) who was the leading Open class rider in 8th place. The Pramac Racing Ducati of Yonny Hernandez (+1.257s) finished in 9th, with Bradley Smith (+1.299s) claiming what could be the last Q2 automatic qualifying spot in 10th, after crashing out of the session unhurt.
One rider who didn't have a good day at the office was Movistar Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, the double MotoGP™ World Champion finishing down in 11th, 1.339s off the pace of Marquez. Lorenzo later revealed that he was suffering from suspected bronchitis, and that he was on a course of antibiotics in an effort to be fitter as the weekend progresses. If tomorrow's FP3 session is wet, then as it currently stands the Factory Yamaha rider will have a tough battle with Scott Redding (12th +1.381s), Danilo Petrucci (13th +1.459s), Maverick Viñales (15th +2.176s), and Dani Pedrosa's replacement rider Hiroshi Aoyama (16th +2.433s), for the top two spots in the first qualifying session that see you through to Q2.
Click here for the combined MotoGP™ Practice times from Friday, FP3 is scheduled to start at 9:55am local time on Saturday in Austin.
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