After a spot of line dancing ahead of the third round of the season at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas in the United States of America, Leopard Racing team rider Joan Mir, and winner of the opening two rounds of the season, was among the Moto3 riders who got proceedings underway in the sun.
Humid conditions for Moto3 FP1 in Texas
As the riders adjusted, familiarised and experimented with settings at the American track, in humid conditions, it was Mir who led the way at the half way point of Free Practice 1.
He was soon to be knocked off the top spot, just before spots of rain started to fall, by Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider Aron Canet who was first to smash through the 2:17 minute barrier with his time of 2:17.847; the official Circuit lap record in the Moto3 class is held by the late Luis Salom from back in 2013 with a time of 2:16.345, however the fastest Moto3 lap time was set by Danny Kent to claim pole in 2015 with a time of 2:15.344.
It meant that there was still a long way to go yet it was early days. Riders were not put off by the mixed conditions and while some returned to the pits, many remained out to collect vital data and experience ahead of race day. The Texan track is long and enduring made up off many long flowing twists and turns with two straights and four areas to potentially benefit from the slipstream and overtake for the 250cc class.
Fenati joins Canet at the top of the timesheets
Soon enough, Canet was joined in the 2:17 minute lap time by Romano Fenati (Marinelli Snipers Rivacold) who won the Moto3 race with the Sky Racing Team VR46 in 2016 as he pursued the championship before he was let go. Fenati was able to complete a lap time of 2:17.920, but Canet was also fast and able to further improve his time to 2:17.003 which was almost a second quicker with a few minutes remaining; he was able to lap consistently at this time until the end of the session.
Moving up to third with a few minutes remaining, Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) appeared to have returned to form after a difficult start to the season after setting a low 2:18 minute time. As the session came to a close, unusually for the Moto3 class, there were only five riders within two seconds of the leader Canet.
Canet almost on record pace by end of FP1
The flag went out to bring the opening session to and end and as a whole group thundered across the line, there were no greatly significant improvements. Philipp Oettl (Sudmetall Schedl GP Racing) was happy and patted his bike as he was able to finish the session in eighth, but his lap time ended up being 2.337 seconds slower than Canet’s time that ended up not being far off the Circuit Record Lap pace.
The Spaniard set another fantastic lap after his final attempt; he crossed the line having set a time of 2:16.820. It meant he was the only rider able to lap under 2:17 minutes, and his time was 1.1 seconds quicker than second place man Fenati. His teammate Bastianini appeared frustrated with his final lap, but he was still third quickest by the end of the session.
Mir finished up as fourth quickest ahead of Juanfran Guevara (RBA ROE Racing Team), Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA ROE Racing Team), Oettl, John McPhee (British Talent Team) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) who completed the top 10 at the end of Free Practice 1 of the Americas GP.
Canet back on the pace immediately when FP2 gets underway
The second of the two Free Practice sessions for the 250cc class on day one of proceedings at the Circuit of the Americas got underway; the clouds had lifted and become much lighter and temperatures had increased slightly meaning the riders were set to make further improvements on their earlier times.
Within minutes the likes of Canet was lapping back down in the 2:17 minute laps with plenty of time to go. He was looking incredibly neat, tidy and comfortable and had over a second lead on second place. With less than 30 minutes to go, he lapped a 2:16.879, which was not far off his earlier time and further extended his lead, but then he struggled to make the apex at turn one of his next lap. He pulled the front brake but the rear lifted and he ended up carrying straight on; fortunately he did not crash and was able to recover.
Rodrigo experiencing trouble with his KTM
Midway through the session Rodrigo appeared to be having trouble as he had to pull off to the side of the track and return to the pits via the back roads. He was sitting in second as he was forced to pull out.
Just below him, Fenati was on the move and about to set a personal best time. He was just 0.8 seconds slower than Canet by the third sector, but then when he crossed the line he remained third as had lost a further 0.6 seconds; Fenati then went extremely wide at turn on just running shy of the run-off area.
Canet was then seeing an extremely alternative line as he made his way round the circuit once again on his own, he too appeared to be having some slight issues with 10 minutes to go. He chose to return to the pits to fix it before the final time-attack at the end of the session.
Mir on the move as other riders make their way out for final time-attack
The trouble with the final time attack at the end of the session is the busyness of the track. When all the riders make their way out, many try to tag on to the back of a known faster rider, but they are usually not able to benefit as many others have the same idea too. Riders began to make their way out early to avoid this, and the likes of Mir was able to complete a personal best lap time under 2:18 minutes, which took him up to second, but he was still over a second slower than leader Canet.
Teammates Fenati and Jules Danilo (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) were out on track together possibly in an attempt to teach Danilo a thing or two in America. But as Fenati approached turn 10 he had a huge wobble that nearly meant he lost control but fortunately he was able to regain momentum.
What did Canet have for breakfast?
Canet began his final attack and was able to consistently lap within 2:16 minutes. Guevara was able to break through the 2:18 minute barrier moving up to second. With just under a minute remaining, Canet was on for a good lap time and crossed the line in 2:16.750 which was bringing him closer and closer to the records.
Everyone else appeared to be losing time, and although they were setting personal best times, they did not compare to the pace of Canet during the second sector of the track. Both Mir and Fenati were able to close the gap, but still were over three quarters of a second slower than the Spaniard.
Canet ends day one on top in Texas
Canet finished up on top of the timesheets as the session ended and when combining the times; the Spaniard remained untouchable as the only rider able to lap within 2:16 minutes. He looked incredibly promising, should things continue this way through the rest of the meeting then there is very much the chance that he can extend a lead and keep it during the race.
Mir was seconds fastest his time was 0.736 seconds slower than that of Canet. Fenati was third quickest ahead of Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) in fourth. Teammates Guevara and Rodrigo were fifth and sixth ahead of Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) in seventh. Bastianini, McPhee and Nicollo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completed the top 10.
Sasaki the top rookie at the end of the day
Oettl was 11th quickest on day one ahead of the top rookie in the Moto3 class, Ayumu Sasaki (SIC Racing Team) in 12th. Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) was 13th ahead of Danilo and Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) who made up the top 15.
Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was 16th ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) in 17th and Suzuki’s teammate Tony Arbolino (SIC 58 Squadra Corse). Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate) was 19th and rookie Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) completed the top 20.
Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team) followed on ahead of Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Livio Loi (Leopard Racing), Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) and the only female in the pack Maria Herrera (AGR Team) in 25th.
Marco Bezzechi (CIP) was the top Mahindra rider in 26th ahead of Jakub Kornfeil (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) , Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Mahindra Gaviota Aspar), wildcard Gabriel Martinez-Abrego (Motomex Team Moto3), Manual Pagliani (CIP), Albert Arenas (Mahindra Gaviota Aspar) and Patrik Pulkkinen (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) who completed the timesheets at the end of day one.