Lorenzo fastest on day one after Free Practice ahead of Catalan MotoGP

Lorenzo remains the man to beat after dominating in both Free Practice sessions ahead of the seventh round of the MotoGP season at the Circuit de Barcelona in Catalunya. Maverick Vinales is one to watch.

Lorenzo fastest on day one after Free Practice ahead of Catalan MotoGP
Lorenzo fastest on day one after Free Practice ahead of Catalan MotoGP

It was a bad start to the weekend for Avintia Ducati rider Hector Barbera who crashed on his out lap at the start of Free Practice one at the Circuit de Barcelona where he ended up in the gravel trap. Immediately he added to the workload for his team ahead of the seventh round of the MotoGP at a track which is very familiar to the riders; as nine of the field have the support of their home crowd and many others have experienced success here claiming victories over the years in different classes.

Vinales to man to beat after FP1

Movistar Yamaha rider and current championship leader Jorge Lorenzo set the pace early on in the session with a lap time of 1:42.43 seconds however it was Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales who finished fastest at the end of the first Free Practice session at the Circuit de Barcelona having shaved 0.078 seconds off Lorenzo’s time to take the top spot of the leaderboard. His time was still almost 1.5 seconds slower than the fastest times set here by Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in 2015 of 1:40.546.

Vinales aboard his Suzuki - www.motogp.com
Vinales aboard his Suzuki - www.motogp.com

Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) finished third fastest ahead of Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Pol Espargaro who has just announced ahead of his home GP that he will be joining KTM with his current teammate Bradley Smith when the manufacturer come to the top class next season. He was again the fastest independent rider so far ahead of Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) in sixth as the fastest Ducati so far in fifth as he finished ahead of factory Ducati rider Andrea Iannone in sixth at the end of FP1.

Crashes for riders already injured in previous rounds

Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez almost became tangled with injured Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)  after ten minutes of the session, as he was forced to brake heavily to avoid coming into contact with the fellow Spaniard who was lapping slower than him. Rabat is returning to compete straight away after breaking his collarbone and requiring surgery in the previous round at Mugello and so was nursing his injury as he lapped over three seconds slower than the leaders. Marquez’s fastest time left him seventh as he lapped 0.82 seconds slower than leader Vinales.

To add to his worries Rabat crashed in the final few minutes at turn two and was sent tumbling into the gravel trap and his bike hit the tyre wall. He seemed frustrated but did not appear to be injured more than previous. Also at turn four Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) crashed just previous to Rabat but fortunately he too was unable to walk away and he appeared to not have agitated his recent hand injuries.

Crash involving Bautista, Baz and Miller at Turn  1 of Mugello - www.motorsport.com
Crash involving Bautista, Baz and Miller at Turn 1 of Mugello - www.motorsport.com

Barbera was able to return to track and finished eighth fastest at the end of FP1 ahead of LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow and Aleix Espargaro who completed the top ten. Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)  crashed out at turn two midway through the session; it was certainly not needed as he is already carrying injuries from previous incidents. Apparently, the Australian spoke of how he went deep at turn one and flipped the bike too hard in turn two and he rolled off the side of the tyre.

Lorenzo dominated FP2

Lorenzo took the lead straight away as the riders began the second free practice session of the day. He was straight on the pace he finished at in the first session and was able to chip away at his own time as he lapped consistently. Straight away he was at least a second ahead of Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) in second place. After seven minutes of the second session Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) crashed at turn one, fortunately he appeared unhurt from the crash.

Rossi soon picked up the pace and he became second fastest behind his teammate followed by the Repsol Honda riders Marquez and Dani Pedrosa. Vinales found himself placed between Petrucci and Redding, Ducati riders who were placed higher than the factory of Iannone who was in eighth whilst his teammate Andrea Dovizioso was in fifteenth.

Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa - www.redbull.com
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa - www.redbull.com

Honda's struggling in Barcelona

As riders pushed to improve their times, Marquez found himself having to save his Honda. All the Hondas appeared to be struggling as all riders were able to do was improve their personal bests. Turn ten caused problems for riders including Pedrosa who was forced to sit up at the corner. Miller crashed for the second time at turn three with seventeen minutes remaining in the session, he was able to walk away from the incident but his bike dug into the gravel.

As riders completed their final stint on track, Vinales managed to take the lead setting the fastest lap and breaking into the 1:41 times lapping at 1:41.954. This caused Lorenzo to react and soon the Spaniard was back out attacking the track and after approximately five minutes he managed to reclaim the spot at the top of the leaderboard. He was then able to improve slightly on his own time finishing with the fastest time of the day of 1:41.712; this time was faster than the official circuit lap record set by Marquez in 2014 however it is still over a second slower than the best ever lap time of 1:40.546 set by Aleix Espargaro in 2015 aboard the Suzuki.

Crutchlow distracted by big screens around track

Vinales finished second as the only other to rider to lap under 1:42 minutes. At the end of the session Crutchlow executed a fast lap finishing with a time of 1:42.011; he was the fastest independent rider at the end of day one. However the British rider’s attention was drawn to the monitors around the circuit which pictured his wife Lucy nursing her bump as they are expecting their first child. Crutchlow was seen simulating a bump on the bike and waving as he is clearly excited about his future fatherhood.

Pedrosa got to grips of his Honda

Pedrosa finished fourth fastest ahead of Redding who was the fastest Ducati. Rossi was sixth ahead of the second non-factory Ducati ridden by Barbera. Iannone was the highest placed factory Ducati rider in eighth ahead of Marquez as the third fastest Honda in ninth.

Dovizioso improved his time later on in the session and finished in tenth ahead of Hernandez and Aleix Espargaro in twelfth. Petrucci could manage no better than thirteenth after his crash, he finished ahead of Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP), Pol Espargaro  and the factory Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider  Bautista in sixteenth.

Michele Pirro will be replacing injured Loris Baz aboard his Avintia Ducati, the Frenchman recently underwent surgery to have plates, screws and pins inserted into his right foot following a crash involving three riders at the start of the sixth round in Mugello. Pirro finished seventeenth at the end of day one ahead of Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and the Estrella Galacia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Miller and Rabat who finished ahead of British rider Bradley Smith (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) in last place.