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2 days ago
By motogp.com

Espargaro takes up the fight to the Bologna bullets

The Aprilia rider denies Ducati a sweep of the top five in Friday practice at Mugello

It’s a good time to be Aleix Espargaro, who has celebrated a new MotoGP™ deal with Aprilia Racing by setting the fastest lap of Friday practice at the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley. In fact, the Spaniard was the only non-Ducati rider in the top six at the end of FP2 at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello. It was the Ducati Lenovo Team’s own Francesco Bagnaia who set the second-fastest time, with his factory-entered team-mate Jack Miller claiming third.

While LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Takaaki Nakagami might have set the pace in FP1, it was not long until his 1:46.662 in that session was bettered by Prima Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco, who set a 1:46.381 on his Ducati, and Bagnaia would move into second spot at the halfway mark with a 1:46.604 and 1:46.538 on consecutive laps.

While LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Takaaki Nakagami might have set the pace in FP1, it was not long until his 1:46.662 in that session was bettered by Prima Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco, who set a 1:46.381 on his Ducati, and Bagnaia would move into second spot at the halfway mark with a 1:46.604 and 1:46.538 on consecutive laps.

When the time attacks came in the final minutes, Bagnaia punched out a 1:45.940 to go to the very top, with Miller following him across the line to set a 1:46.313, and Zarco also in tow as he rolled out a 1:46.349. They were first, second, and third, with more Ducati riders also in fourth, fifth and sixth, but Espargaro had other ideas – he moved the marker to a 1:45.891 in the final three minutes, thanks in part to a slipstream from team-mate Maverick Viñales.

Bagnaia had run off at San Donato (Turn 1) as soon as he set that high-1:45, but regrouped and almost reclaimed the mantle of fastest lap from Espargaro when he clocked a 1:45.957 with the chequered flag out. He would stay second, ahead of Miller and Zarco, with Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) fifth thanks to a 1:46.362 on his Ducati, and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) sixth with a 1:46.395 on his GP21 example.

Seventh went to Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Brad Binder on a 1:46.439, ahead of yet another Ducati rider in the former of Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), while World Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) took ninth with a 1:46.519 on his YZR-M1. For now, the Repsol Honda Team’s Pol Espargaro is the other rider into the Q2 places.

A mixed session for Zarco

Zarco was in the thick of the action, for different reasons over the course of the session. His early flyer was still the benchmark when he tucked the front of his Desmosedici at Materassi (Turn 4), an incident which would not only scuff Pramac’s new purple livery but also caused a brief red flag period to clean up the gravel which had been dragged onto the track.

A nervous wait for those on the outside looking in

With forecasts of possible rain on Saturday at Mugello, the bulk of the Q2 starting line-up may have effectively already been decided. That makes a nervous wait for Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) in 11th position and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in 12th, among others. Marquez was 0.767 seconds off Espargaro’s pace but just 0.040 seconds outside the top 10, having apparently finished the session on the new RC213V chassis. Nakagami found no improvement on his FP1 effort and slipped to 13th on the combined timesheet, while both Rins and fellow Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Joan Mir both have work to do if they are to get into Q2.

Will the rain ruin their plans, or can they fight their way into the top 10? Make sure you tune in to FP3 on Saturday from 09:55 (GMT +2).

MotoGP™ Top 10 on Friday:
1. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – 1:45.891
2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.049
3. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.422
4. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.458
5. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.471
6. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) + 0.504
7. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.548
8. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.582
9. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 0.628
10. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.727

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