Honda in the hunt: the top nine hosts five RC213Vs

Marquez, Lorenzo, Crutchlow, Nakagami and Bradl all sit inside a provisional automatic Q2 spot after Friday’s action in Jerez

The Ducati of Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) may have topped the timesheets on Day 1 at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España, but five Honda machines are hunting the Desmosedicis very closely.

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) is the one leading the attack in second, with the reigning World Champion looking to bounce back from his Austin disappointment at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto. And it’s looking good after Friday for the Spaniard.

“Yeah basically today we just worked like always,” began the number 93 rider, who finished just 0.012 off Petrucci on the combined times. “We tried to be constant for the race pace and it was a really good day for us, I felt really good from the beginning from the first run and yeah, happy. (We need to) keep working, of course in Austin was Austin, now we’re in Jerez and yeah I’m happy with how we’ve started the first day.”

One of the main talking points this weekend is a new surface that has been laid at the circuit, and it’s got high praise from the seven-time Champion: “With the new tarmac, the grip is incredible. Its something that when you come here with the old tarmac it was one setup, now it’s another setup.

“Luckily for us we start with a good base, we are trying a few things. Another good thing is that we resolve or we don’t have the same problems as we did in Austin so this is something that is helping my riding style a lot and yeah, I’m constant, I’m able to ride the bike like I want. But two Ducati riders are fast, my teammate, Crutchlow, Yamaha will be there so (we need to) keep focused.”

Said teammate goes by the name of Jorge Lorenzo and the five-time World Champion has made a positive start to the Spanish GP, ending Free Practice Friday in fourth and just 0.136 from top spot. But how is the number 99 feeling after his best day yet on a Honda machine? Watch his interview for free here:

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) completes a top five covered by 0.195, with the British rider happy with his progress made in FP2 after finding around 0.7 seconds in trickier conditions.

“Yeah overall we’re pleased, we’re pleased with the improvements we’ve made throughout the day because as you saw the afternoon session seemed more difficult to be able to go faster,” commented Crutchlow, who has room for improvement ahead of FP3, FP4 and qualifying on Saturday.

“I improved the lap time quite significantly, we need to have a look at the data tonight to see if we can improve in a couple of corners, I seem to be struggling in a few areas, but yeah overall we’re pleased as a team and pleased as a manufacturer to have all four riders up there who are on a Honda.”

The 33-year-old put his RC213V on pole position this time last year, but does he think he can repeat that feat again in 2019? “I think pole position will be difficult tomorrow honestly speaking. With the way I’m feeling with the bike at the moment I don’t feel fantastic over one lap that certain. But let’s see if we can be on the front row.”

And what about Crutchlow’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu)? The Japanese rider topped the November Jerez preseason test at the end of 2018 and has begun this weekend in strong fashion. A P7 on the combined times and just 0.225 off the pace indicates Nakagami should be right in the hunt for at least a top six on Sunday:

Finally, HRC test rider Stefan Bradl – a wildcard this weekend – also put in a sterling effort to close Friday out in a provisional automatic Q2 place. Ninth fastest for the German and less than half a second off his fellow Honda riders shows plenty of promise for the remainder of the weekend.

So, can one of the Hondas oust the Ducati of Petrucci on Saturday? It’s shaping up to be an epic fight between the RC213Vs and the Desmosedicis, without forgetting two Yamahas lingering inside the top ten…

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