Moto3: Bastianini steals the top spot on day one in Valencia

For the final time this year, the Moto3 class were preparing ahead of the last race of the season set to take place in Valencia. On their return to Europe for the season finale the sun was shining, there were hardly any clouds, and there certainly were no signs of rain as they made their way out on to the Ricardo Tormo track for Free Practice 1.

Bastianini majes his return for the final round

Enea Bastianini (Gresinin Racing Moto3) was back for the final race. Having broken his collarbone at a previous round, he missed several but was declared fit to compete in Valencia, a race he needed to finish well in should he retain second in the championship.

The Valencia GP will be the last round in the Moto3 for many as the provisional entry lists have been released recently and a lot are promoted to the Moto2 class, some are switching teams, some are staying put, and there will be new faces and teams in the Moto3 class.

Further disappointment for Peugeot MC Saxoprint

Just 10 minutes into the session, the Peugeot MC Saxoprint team suddenly had a lot of work to do. They are already without John McPhee who is still stuck out in Melbourne as the injuries he sustained from his major crash at Philip Island have prevented him from flying anywhere. Albert Arenas was travelling down the start-finish straight to complete another lap when he was seen with smoke pouring out the back of his bike. He pulled off the line at turn one and fortunately he had not left a trail of oil behind him as he safely returned to the pits.

Then moments later, Vicente Perez, who is standing in for McPhee, crashed at turn 10 of the circuit. As he switched from left to right through the chicane he slid off and ended up in the gravel. He seemed unhurt and was straight back to his feet, however his bike had to be recovered.

Huge high-side for Navarro

Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) had a huge crash at turn one when they just passed the halfway mark. He was travelling down the start-finish straight and was on the brakes early when the back end of his Honda slid and then re-gripped causing him to have a huge high-side. He was thrown up and out of his seat and landed hard on the ground and then both he and the bike slid into the gravel.

He had to be escorted to the safety area by medical marshals and then returned to the pits on a scooter. He was taken to the medical centre to be checked. Navarro is in battle with Bastianini for second in the championship, and it was not the start to the final race meeting that he needed.

Juanfran Guevara became the first rider to lap under 1:41 minutes with approximately 16 minutes to go setting a time of 1:40.970 on his RBA Racing Team KTM. None of the riders currently competing in the class have actually won in Valencia.

Lack of right-hand corners catching riders out with cold tyres

With just 15 minutes to go, Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) crashed at turn four of the circuit. He appeared unhurt but the bike was damaged as they recovered it from the gravel trap at the first right hander. The riders run anti-clockwise at the Spanish circuit meaning the corners are predominantly left-handed and so the right hand side of the tyre is cooler by the time they approach it.

Enzo Boulom (CIP Unicorn Starker) crashed at turn 10 with less than 10 minutes to go at the fast right-hander. Leaving the chicane, as he braked for the right-hander, the front end tucked and he slid out and into the gravel. He appeared uninjured as he was straight back to his feet after the incident.

Last minute challenge at the end of FP1

During the final few minutes of the session several riders challenged for the top spot on the timesheets as they continued to improve their lap times. The 2016 Moto3 champion, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), was the only rider earlier on in the session who was able to beat Guevara to the top spot. But the final few minutes saw them both challenge for the lead along with Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) and Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA Racing Team).

With less than two minutes to go, and not what he needed as he nursed an injury, Bastianini crashed out at turn 10 of the circuit. Again as he touched the breaks entering the right-hander the front end tucked under and he slid out and into the gravel. The airbags in his leathers seemed to have done their job as he appeared unhurt,

The flag went out to end the session, just as Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) was on target to set the quickest time, and probably the first lap under 1:40 minutes. However, he entered the pits as his bike had broken down and he had to free-wheel it back to the pits.

Double success for the RBA Racing Team

Guevara finished as the fastest man on track with his time of 1:40.333 at the end of Free Practice 1. He was joined at the top by his teammate Rodrgio who was second quickest. Brad Binder was third ahead of Quartararo, Mir and Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing). Loi, Francesco Bagnaia (Pull & Bear Aspar Mahindra), who got a go of the MotoGP Ducati in Valencia as a result of winning a bet with his bosses that if he won two races he could have a go, snuck into eighth in the final stages. Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Nicolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) completed the top 10.

Track busy for FP2 in warmer temperatures

The RBA Racing Team duo remained on top for the majority of the day, as when the 250cc class took to the track for Free Practice 2, the temperatures had also increased since the morning’s cooler conditions, and the two were able to continue with their great pace. Guevara remained on top having improved on his own time, and Rodrigo was still in second.

The track is always busy during the sessions leading up to the race, and Jorge Martin (Pull & Bear Aspar Mahindra) was forced to run off as several riders looked for the same piece of track, in the hope of setting their best times of the day. Several riders were penalised and had lap times cancelled due to overuse of the track, as they ran on to the blue painted areas after the kerb; Tatsuki Suzuki (CIP-Unicorn Starker) and Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) were some of those who had to start all over again.

Mir breaks through the barrier

Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) was the first rider of the day to lap under 1:40 minutes with his time of 1:39.975. He was soon joined by Brad Binder who took the top spot from him. Navarro, who had been given the all clear after his crash previously in FP1, was able to put in some fast laps as did Suzuki but his lap was taken off because of overuse of the track.

Mir retaliated and was almost able to regain the top spot but his lap time was spoiled by a poorer performance in the latter two sectors; on his next lap though he went back to the top. It was again put at risk as Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) and Quartararo completed fast times, however Quartararo’s was again taken from him. Shortly after, when he continued to push he was lifted up and out of his seat but was able to recover.

Bastianini completes final flying lap

The flag went out to end the session, and it seemed as though everything was decided as riders began to pull into the pits and practiced their starts, but Bastianini wasn’t finished. The Italian was flying and managed to cross the line with a time of 1:39.556 which turned out to be the fastest by anyone in the class all day.

He was the top man as the day came to an end which makes his chances for securing second in the championship look that much more possible. Guevara was the second quickest on the day as he also completed a late fast lap pushing Mir down to third on the timesheet, Brad Binder was fourth quickest and Oettl completed the top five.

Navarro was sixth quickest ahead of Quartararo who had to settle for seventh after having so many laps cancelled. Martin was eighth quickest ahead of Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing) and Rodrigo who completed the top 10. Antonelli was 11th, and on his wildcard appearance at the season finale in Valencia, Perez finished an impressive 12th; a very promising start for the Spaniard.

Great performances from wildcards on day one at Valencia

Bagnaia, who got a go of the MotoGP Ducati was 13th ahead of Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate), Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Sky Racing Team VR46), Suzuki, Migno who was 17th, Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), wildcard Raul Fernandez who is replacing injured Maria Herrera on the MH6 Team KTM, and rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) completed the top 20.

Behind him, Loi was followed by Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3), Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing) and Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia) in 25th. Arenas was able to overcome his engine issues to finish 26th ahead of Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold), wildcard Karel Hanika (Freudenberg Racing Team), Adam Norrodin (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) and Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate) who made up the top 30. Wildcard rider Daniel Saez (GA Competicion), Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia), Lorenzo Petrarca (3570 Team Italia), Stefano Valtulini (3570 Team Italia) and wildcard Enzo Boulom (CIP Unicorn Starker), completed the timesheets.