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With MotorLand Aragon hosting two Grands Prix in a row, it gives us a chance to have a look at who has improved from one weekend to another – and who hasn’t.
Friday at the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel belonged to Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemtisu). Fresh from pocketing a new HRC deal, Nakagami hit the ground running in both FP1 and FP2, eventually taking top spot by nearly two tenths from Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). His 1:47.782 was a whisker away from Viñales' Aragon GP Friday table-topping time, and nearly a second quicker than Nakagami went in FP2 seven days ago – a lap time that placed ‘Taka’ P9. A first premier class podium for the 28-year-old has been on the cards for a while, but none more so than this weekend if the early signs are to be taken seriously.
The top 10 consists of a lot of the same riders that did last weekend, with the likes of Viñales, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Championship leader Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) remaining in the top five. Mir’s teammate Alex Rins rises to P7 from his P10 finish on Friday in Aragon to also enjoy good fortunes once more, but Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) is a bigger improver.
The rookie was the leading KTM rider on Friday at the Teruel GP, finishing P8 overall. The Spaniard was just over half a second away from Nakagami’s P1 pace, setting a 1:48.360, seven tenths faster than he went a week ago. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) are two other riders who cement top 10s again after Free Practice Friday at MotorLand.
A special mention should also go out to Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team), the German claiming a very impressive P11 after finishing P20 on Friday last week. In addition, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) went over a second quicker in Teruel GP FP2 than he did in the Aragon GP FP2 – solid improvement from the South African who was last on Friday's timesheets last week.
So, who didn’t fare so well? To put it bluntly, the Ducatis endured a pretty disastrous day at the office. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) and Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing) finished in the final five positions in a difficult Teruel Friday for the Bologna bullets. Dovizioso and Miller were both slower this weekend than they were at the same stage last weekend, Petrucci is quicker but he’s lower down on the timesheets with the other riders going faster too.
Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) ended Friday at the Aragon GP in P3, but fast forward seven days and the Italian finds himself down in P15. Not the result Morbidelli would have been hoping for but FP3 provides the Yamaha man with a chance to better his 1:48.612, which is four tenths off what he set a week ago.
Of course, Friday isn’t the be-all and end-all. Being fast is what every rider wants, enabling them to kickstart their weekend in the best possible fashion, but lessons can be learned and settings can be altered for a more enjoyable Saturday and Sunday. Keep a close eye on FP3 and FP4 ahead of qualifying to see who is either continuing to look on a roll, who has made good strides forward and who might still be in trouble.
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