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Roberts takes Friday clean sweep in Portimao

Rookie Raul Fernandez is the American’s closest challenger on Day 1, Canet completes the top three

Fastest in FP1, fastest in FP2. It’s safe to say it was the perfect Friday for Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) at the Grande Prémio 888 de Portugal, the American setting a 1:43.144 to beat rookie sensation Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) by 0.317s on Day 1 in the Moto2™ class. Despite a crash in the afternoon, Solunion Aspar Team’s Aron Canet cements a solid P3 at the rollercoaster.

It took a while for plenty of riders to improve on their Friday morning times but when they did, Roberts was in a different postcode heading into the final 10 minutes of the day. The looming dark clouds decided to allow the intermediate class to have a full dry session on Friday afternoon, and Roberts was taking advantage. The number 16 was seven tenths clear of Fernandez in the closing stages, but the superb rookie cut Roberts’ advantage down to three tenths on his last flying lap.

In the end, every rider went quicker than they did in FP1, meaning the standings at the end of play is how the provisional automatic Q2 places look heading into a crucial FP3. Behind third place Canet – who was unhurt in his Turn 5 crash – is the man second in the Championship, Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Last year’s Portuguese GP race winner is six tenths down on Roberts on Day 1, with fifth place Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) less than half a tenth shy of Gardner.

World Championship leader Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) had moved into the top three earlier on in FP2 having finished P6 in FP1, but the British rider slipped to P7 behind sixth fastest Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP40). Reigning Moto3™ World Champion Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team) impressed to finish P8, with Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) and Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) rounding out a top 10 covered by 0.857s.

Roberts has hit the ground running in Portugal, and holds a healthy lead over rapid rookie Fernandez ahead of qualifying day. FP3 might see a shake-up in the combined Free Practice standings though, so don’t miss that at 10:55 local time (GMT+1) on Saturday morning.

Top 10 combined:
1. Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) – 1:43.144
2. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.317
3. Aron Canet (Solunion Aspar Team) + 0.608
4. Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.617
5. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 0.665
6. Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP40) + 0.688
7. Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) + 0.711
8. Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team) + 0.722
9. Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 0.750
10. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 0.857

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