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After finishing Free Practice 1 comfortably fastest at the Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) suffered a Turn 8 fall and could manage only fourth in FP2, behind no less than three Yamaha runners. Whilst Marquez remains undeniably the man to beat, Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), teammate Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) are expected to be his main challengers for the podium places this weekend.
Only two of MotorLand Aragon’s seventeen corners are officially named, including Turn 10 after Marc Marquez. This is a place that the reigning World Champion has regularly made his own, and few would bet against him celebrating a 200th Grand Prix start with his fifth premier class victory at the Alcañiz venue. The Spaniard stunned his rivals right from the blocks on Friday, taking them apart with a 1.6 second advantage over his nearest rival in FP1, only Viñales was within two seconds of him.
FREE: Time attack! The last 3 minutes of FP2
After FP2, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) observed that the only man who can beat him this weekend is the man himself, while Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) highlighted his rival’s stunning Friday pace as genuinely representative of what we could expect to see for the rest of the weekend.
But during that second session Marquez did beat himself, tumbling into the Turn 8 gravel before scraping himself up in typical fashion, running back to pitlane and emerging to run an admittedly slower final stint.
Yamaha’s pretenders used that as a springboard to show they have far from given up on applying pressure to the series leader, three of them finishing the second session ahead of Marquez and the gap on the combined timesheets reduced to a somewhat less startling 1.1 seconds.
Rossi in the top 3 after Friday morning problems
Rossi fought back from a truncated FP1, in which mechanical problems restricted him to just nine laps of running, to take third overall. He commented:
“I’m very happy because this morning we had a lot of problems. But in the afternoon in FP2 we were able to improve the electronics, the engine braking and the acceleration of the bike and I feel better. We have a lot of work to do still but it's important to be in the top three on Friday.”
Viñales also made good progress on the day, finding the best part of half a second from the end of Free Practice One to the chequered flag in FP2. And as he and teammate Rossi evaluate new parts on their Yamaha YZR-M1s, both may hope to take advantage of these vital upgrades. As Viñales observed:
Viñales: "The Yamaha is good in the rain"
“We are trying a lot of new parts so I´m working a lot on the bike. I’m not really concentrating on my rhythm or on fast laps because I need to work a lot on the bike trying to understand which direction to go with this new bike. We need to keep working, keep exploring the new bike, and see if tomorrow we can get an advantage with the new exhaust.”
Various riders observed that opportunities to make further gains against form man Marquez could be limited by forecasted wet conditions in FP3. But again, both riders are confident that they should be able to challenge. As Rossi points out: “Usually when you improve in the dry it is the same in the wet, but maybe tomorrow we will have the chance to understand if we are stronger in the wet.”
Viñales is equally confident when he says: “In the rain we've improved a lot so I'm not very worried, I know we can be in the top five in the rain. But our main goal is to be on the first row, starting well and trying to go forward.”
What happens if it rains on Day 2 at MotorLand Aragon?
So whatever the weather in Aragon for the remainder of this weekend, expect Yamaha’s men to come out swinging if they can keep home hero Marquez within their reach.
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