Moto2: Alex Marquez quickest at COTA

The dark clouds appeared to have shifted away from the Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas, in time for the first Free Practice session for the Moto2 class as they began preparing for the third round of the season.

Marquez quick in Texas

It remained overcast in parts, and although rain threatened earlier on in the day, the 600cc class were able to continue with another dry session at the 5.5 km track. After completing their opening laps, it was Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider, Alex Marquez, who crashed out of second on the final lap of the Argentinian GP initially claimed the top spot of the timesheets.

Minutes later however, Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team), who was looking comfortable and strong immediately at COTA was able to push him down to second as he managed to break through the 2:12 minutes barrier. His success was short-lived however as Marquez was able to improve further and took the top spot back.

Several Italians crash out

Then, it started to go wrong for some of the Italian contenders who crashed out. Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing) was first to fall with 35 minutes of the session remaining. As he passed through turn 18, the rear of his Kalex slid, and flicked back throwing him up and over the bike; both he and the bike then slid down the road. A few minutes later, Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) came off his Speed Up bike. Fortunately, both riders appeared unhurt and were able to make their way to the safety areas of the track whilst their bikes were recovered.

The session continued, some riders went hot into some corners and were seen running on, put mainly, the 600cc class were able to work on consistently lapping well. Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) was almost lifted up and out of his seat to one point as he made is way down the straight, but he was able to quickly recover ad continue on.

Further crashes at the Circuit of the Americas as bumps catch riders out

Axel Bassani (Speed Up Racing) was not as lucky however as he went down at turn six of the track moments later. There is a bump of the track that catches many riders out, and both Bassani and his bike slid into the run off area beside the turn; he fortunately appeared unhurt.

At turn 18 of the track, Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) crashed out with just a few minutes remaining. As he approached the apex, the front end folded on him causing both him and the bike to slide into the large run off area. He too appeared unhurt, his leathers having done their job well, but the session was over early for him.

With around six minutes of the session remaining, Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) who has won the opening two rounds of the 2017 Moto2 season, made his way to the top of the timesheets as his time of 2:11.642 became the quickest time of the session so far, pushing his teammate Marquez down to second after improving on his time by 0.073 seconds.

Free Practice becomes more intense

Things became more intense as the session came to a close with some of the performances from the riders in small groups comparing more to that of a race rather than a practice session. They were getting extremely close as they practiced various lines.

Oliveira steals the top spot

The flag went out to end the session and it was not long before the riders began flooding across the finish line. Morbidelli looked to remain the quickest, but that was before the wrath of Miguel Oliveira struck. With his final lap he set a time of 2:11.606 on his Red Bull KTM Ajo shaving just a mere 0.035 seconds off his time, but doing enough to finish top at the end of FP1.

Morbidelli had to settle for second, however they still had to find a few more seconds to match the record pace. Thomas Luthi (CarXpert Interwetten) also completed a last flying lap to claim fourth pushing Marquez down to fourth and Pasini down to fifth. Despite their crashes, Baldassarri was sixth ahead of Schrotter. Jesko Raffin (Garage Plus Interwetten), Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) and Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) completed the top 10.

Simon crashes as Free Practice 2 gets underway

Within five minutes of the second Free Practice session for the Moto2 class getting underway, Julian Simon (Tech3 Racing) crashed out. Shortly after beginning his flying laps after exiting the pits for the first time that afternoon, the rear end of his Tech3 machine came round on him at turn 15 and he came off the bike. He was straight up to his feet and worked on recovering his bike as the 600cc class only have the one to hand at a meeting.

Several contending for the top spot

The likes of Morbidelli, and Sky Racing Team VR46 rookie, Francesco Bagnaia were quickly up to pace as they displayed red sectors in their opening laps. Morbidelli was able to take the top spot as Bagnaia slotted in behind him in second. But it was only early, and throughout the session there were many changes throughout the leaderboard.

Morbidelli did not remain on top for long however as Marquez was able to once again make his way to the top of the timesheets. He was receiving competition from Schrotter who was just ahead of him on track. Schrotter went quickest briefly, but Marquez also improved and was able to remain on top.

Riders caught out at COTA

Several riders got caught at various corners all over the circuit. The like of Luthi was seen going straight at turn one for example, and he was able to rescue his Kalex rather than crashing out. Approximately 30 minutes remained when Xavier Simeon (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) came off at turn 12 when the front end tucked under him and he slid out; the marshalls were able to help him get going again.

Ricard Cardus, who is replacing injured Brad Binder on the Red Bull KTM Ajo then went down at turn 13 of the track; he was too able to return to his feet and work on recovering his temporary machinery. Binder crashed in Valencia in 2016 breaking his wrist, he underwent surgery to insert a plate, but in Argentina he revealed it had come loose and he had to be operated on for a third time ruling him out of the Americas GP; the hero still managed to finish seventh in Argentina.

Riders continued to chop and change positions on the timesheets as they were all able to improve further. With 13 minutes remaining however, Tetsuta Nagashima (Teluru SAG Team) came off at turn one of the track; fortunately he also appeared unhurt.

Raffin unable to improve during Moto2 FP2

Only Raffin was unable to improve in Free Practice 2 on his time from Free Practice 1, however his time from FP1 was enough to keep him in 19th overall. Otherwise, the times resulting from Free Practice 2 remained the quickest by the end of day one in COTA.

Three riders lapped under 2:11 minutes

Three riders were able to lap below 2:11 minute laps with Marquez emerging successful and holding the top spot heading into day two. His teammate, Morbidelli was second quickest making it double success for the team. Schrotter was third quickest as the highes placed Suter as they have been reintroduced into the class this year.

Oliveira was fourth quickest on the KTM ahead of Luthi who finished up FP2 in fifth. Pasini was sixth ahead of Hafitzh Syahrin Petronas Raceline Malaysia) and the highest placed Moto2 rookie, Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP40) who just celebrated his 18th birthday in eighth. Despite crashing, Raffin was ninth ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) who completed the top 10.

The remaining results

Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) was 11th ahead of Bagnaia who was pushed down to 12th despite being near the top earlier on. Simeon was 13th ahead of Xavi Vierge (Tech3 Racing) and rookie Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) who made it into the top 15.

Baldassarri was 16th ahead of Corsi, former MotoGP rider Yonny Hernandez (AGR Team) and Raffin in 19th. Luca Marini (Forward RacinG) was 21st ahead of Isaac Vinales (Be-A-VIP SAG Team), Axel Pons (RW Racing GP) and British rookie Danny Kent (Kiefer Racing) in 24th. Simon followed on ahead of Nagashima and Malaysian rookie, Khairul Idham Pawi (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia).

Edgar Pons (Pons HP40), rookie Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team), Iker Lecuona (Garage Plus Interwetten), and rookies Axel Bassani (Speed Up Racing) and Stefano Manzi (Sky Racing Team VR46) completed the timesheets at the end of day one.