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Lorenzo demonstrates demonic pace in practice

Lorenzo demonstrates demonic pace in practice

While Qualifying is the most exciting time of the Saturday action, FP4 is usually the most revealing for MotoGP™.

As always the Q2 session saw the MotoGP™ riders battling tooth and claw for pole position ahead of Sunday’s race at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya. The Team Suzuki Ecstar pair of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales threw up a major surprise as they claimed Suzuki’s first 1-2 since the 1993 Spanish Grand Prix, but it is Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo who has the other MotoGP™ riders worried.

The Free Practice sessions from throughout the weekend tell a very different story to the one we saw in Qualifying. FP3 saw Lorenzo at his absolute best, running a series of 10 laps in the mid to high 1’41s. In last year’s Catalan GP Lorenzo lapped in the high 1’42 range for the entire race, finishing fourth. Marquez, winner of that race managed a pace inside the mid to high 1’42’s. Regardless of bike and tyre developments Lorenzo’s pace demonstrates big steps forward from both he and the Yamaha.

Other riders have only been able to manage a smattering of 1’41s throughout practice this weekend. Viñales put in four low 1’41s in the same FP3 session that Lorenzo did ten in a row, with pole setter Aleix Espargaro also setting just four sub 1’42 laps. The majority of other riders follow a similar pattern of one or two fast laps amongst a sea of mid to high 1’42s.

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) was the only rider able to begin to match Lorenzo’s blistering FP3 pace as the Honda rider managed five 1’41 laps in succession. FP3 did offer some advantage to Lorenzo as the Yamaha favours the cooler conditions, the track registering at 30ºC. FP4 takes place at a time closer to that of Sunday’s race and yet again Lorenzo impressed in the session despite running again on used tyres.

A series of mid 1’42s had Lorenzo down in eighth during FP4 but this run of laps was still more consistent (varying by 0.3s on his longest run) than either of the Suzuki riders ahead of him on the grid. In this session, Marquez displayed a similar pace as he focused on two long runs with a total of ten laps in a range comparable to Lorenzo’s.

The Yamaha rider has spent the majority of his weekend improving the stability of his bike, especially when the grip of the tyres fall, allowing for these impressive runs. The drop-off of the tyres at Catalunya is far more severe than in Mugello and has many riders still questioning their choice of race rubber. “We had to work more than normal to set up the bike. Little by little we made a stable bike, especially with the tyre drop. This track drops a lot especially compared to Mugello that has a very grippy track. The bike starts moving and spinning and it’s very hard to keep the pace when this happens. We still have small margins to improve in some corners. I’m ready to fight,” commented Lorenzo on his work through the weekend.

Viñales admitted “We have a bit of advantage with the soft tyres but you still need to push hard and go a little crazy to make the lap time. We know we have a good pace but we need to work more towards the end of the race.” Aleix Espargaro is hopeful of being able to follow Marquez or Lorenzo for at least a handful of laps to further understand how they manage their Bridgestone tyres.

With the likes of Espargaro, Marquez and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) spurred on by the home crowd anything is still possible come Sunday’s race.

Check out the full MotoGP™ Qualifying results; the 25-lap race is scheduled for 14:00 local time on Sunday.


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