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Aleix Espargaro pulls off Suzuki surprise in FP2

 Aleix Espargaro pulls off Suzuki surprise in FP2

Team Suzuki Ecstar's Aleix Espargaro delighted his home fans at the Catalan GP by ending the day on top of the combined timesheets.

Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Aleix Espargaro lapped close to record pace to top the opening day practice timesheets in front of a delighted home crowd at the Catalan GP.

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.

Check out the combined MotoGP™ Free Practice times from Friday, FP3 kicks off at 9:55am local time on Saturday in Barcelona.

MotoGP, 2015, GRAN PREMI MONSTER ENERGY DE CATALUNYA, FP2, Marc Marquez, Aleix Espargaro, Dani Pedrosa

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