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It was an intriguing opening day to the Gran Premio TISSOT dell'Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini. The top five were covered by 0.071, seven tenths split the top 18 but some riders made vast improvements from the San Marino GP – while others seemed to be struggling compared to last weekend.
A vast improver is Day 1 pacesetter Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). The South African’s time of a 1:31.628 in FP2 is nearly a second faster than he went in Q1 in San Marino – a marked improvement from Binder, who admits the team managed to find a very important improvement in FP2 to allow him to be comfortable on his RC16 again.
Just 0.002 behind Binder on the combined Friday times at the Emilia Romagna GP is LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Takaaki Nakagami. After a very promising 2020, the Japanese rider couldn’t get out of Q1 having set a 1:32.382. However, a 1:31.630 in FP2 – compared to a 1:32.975 seven days ago – less than a week later shows that Nakagami is back on form at Misano, and HRC need it – Nakagami and Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) are the only RC213V representatives on track with test rider Stefan Bradl joining Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) on the side-lines.
Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) is looking even stronger than he did, his race pace was frighteningly quick. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was happy with his one-lap pace but admits the changes made to the bike – the longer exhaust and carbon fibre swingarm – haven’t done him favours. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) looked strong after Free Practice Friday last week, and does again this week – can he continue that into Saturday?
Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) is also a notable improver. The Frenchman finished 0.444 from top spot in 10th place on Friday at the Emilia Romagna GP, with a best time of a 1:32.072. At the same point during the San Marino GP, Zarco was P14 and 0.860 from P1. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) also looks in better shape – despite finishing on the podium last weekend – and Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) is in the same boat. P7 and P11 respectively for the duo is a vast improvement from P15 and P18, and you have to think both will be in the podium fight – or better – come Sunday afternoon.
Talking of Suzuki, it seems Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) isn’t enjoying his Emilia Romagna GP so far. In his Friday evening interview, the Spaniard said: “In the test, I could do 1:32s easy. Now, in FP1 and the start of FP2, it was a disaster. I was risking my life just to do a low 1:33 or a mid-1:33.” Not a good sign for Rins who was strong in last Sunday’s race, but heading into Saturday, the Suzuki star lingers down in P18 on the combined standings.
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) improved his time from seven days ago, but the nine-time World Champion drops to P15 from his San Marino GP Friday P6. Rossi admits to having a similar feeling to last week, but everyone around him has been able to find pace – work to do for the Italian ahead of FP3 and qualifying.
It’s a similar story for Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3). The rookie also managed to improve his time but finished P14 on the combined times, compared to his impressive P5 last week. Having said that though, Lecuona is just 0.6 off the pace, but finds himself down in P14 – a testament to how competitive the premier class is in 2020.
FP3 is going to be a thrilling watch at 09:55 (GMT+2). The likes of Bagnaia, Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Rossi, Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), Rins and more rapid riders all have to find improvements to get into the automatic Q2, so don’t miss it!
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