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16 days ago
By motogp.com

Same track, seven months on: analysing the two Fridays

Portimao’s rollercoaster hosts its second Grand Prix of the season, but what’s changed when we compare the two Fridays?

For the second time this season, the MotoGP™ riders are tackling the magnificent Autodromo Internacional do Algarve after first experiencing the thrills of the rollercoaster this season back in April. Seven months later, we’re back for the Grande Prémio Brembo do Algarve, so has anything changed? Let’s take a look at how two Free Practice Fridays compared.

Familiar faces at the front

Well, starting with something that hasn’t changed – Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) are in the top five. All four riders are up the sharp end once more in Portimao, just like they were after the opening two Free Practice sessions at the Portuguese GP.

 

The pace is quicker than what we saw a few months back too. Quartararo’s 1:39.390 is nearly half a second faster than Pecco’s Portuguese GP FP2 time – a 1:39.866. On that Friday, the Italian was the only rider to dip into the 1:39 bracket, but the top six on Friday at the Algarve GP are all into the 1:39s.

Difficulties for home hero Oliveira

Back in April, Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was able to make a solid start to proceedings at his home track, one he famously won at in 2020. P9 was the Portuguese star’s efforts after FP2 earlier this season, a provisional automatic Q2 position, but it’s a contrasting story this time around.

Unfortunately, Oliveira is P19 at the end of play on Friday – 1.545s off Quartararo’s 1:39.390. But it’s not just Oliveira that’s struggling, KTM endured a difficult day at the Algarve, with Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) in P13 acting as the leading Austrian factory rider. Work to do for the orange army heading into qualifying day then, can Oliveira find some pace to give the home crowd something to cheer about?

Pol Espargaro and Honda making strides

Fresh from his best-ever MotoGP™ finish – a P2 at Misano – Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) has hit the ground running in Portimao. The Spaniard is P5 on Day 1, 0.4s away from top spot, with fellow HRC riders Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) also happily inside the top 10.

But at the Portuguese GP, it wasn’t such a promising Friday – for Pol Espargaro especially. At the end of FP2 at Round 3, Pol Espargaro was P12 and 0.8s shy of the pace, with the Spaniard admitting before this weekend that he had “many problems” on the rollercoaster with the RC213V. It seems the number 44 and Honda are set for a better weekend, with the Japanese manufacturer aiming to end a tricky season on a high. 

Friday is just the start of the weekend though. Qualifying day is appearing on the horizon, so will we see some changes to the pecking order? It’s safe to say we probably will.

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