The final Free Practice session before Qualifying for the Moto2 class got underway at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where it was overcast and cooler in temperature; which had just proven difficult for the MotoGP class as nine riders suffered 11 crashes.
Fortunately things appeared more settled for the 600cc class as it was more about improving on lap times, and the sessions ran much smoother than the MotoGP one, but still had its own incidents. The riders appeared focused and set on improving bikes in time for Qualifying that followed.
Riders avoid a pile-up caused by Cortese
Four riders narrowly avoided a big smash up on track in the first half of the session. Heading into turn 12 of the circuit, Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) was on an inside line on the approach to the left-hander and had completely missed the braking point. He just avoided making a connection with the back of Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing).
Another rider had to sit up to avoid being side-swiped by the Suter rider, and the rider behind had to act fast to avoid being part of the pile. Cortese immediately apologised for the incident as he raised his hand to gesture to the others and accept responsibility.
Conditions meant riders struggled to improve on times from FP2
As they approached the midway point of the final Free Practice session only approximately a third of the riders had actually managed to improve on their times from the two Free Practice sessions that had taken place on day one. Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) remained on top however riders were way off the pace from the previous day that saw him lap a quickest time of 2:10.337.
With just over 10 minutes to go, Morbidelli was able to improve on his time from the first day after lapping at 2:10.309. It meant that there was now 0.324 seconds between him and second place, his teammate Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS). The two remained the only riders who were yet able to lap under 2:11 minutes as Thomas Luthi (CarXpert Interwetten) was just 0.03 seconds off it.
Edgar Pons crashes out towards end of session
Edgar Pons had the first crash of the session with just over seven minutes remaining. The PonsHP40 rider came off at turn one of the track. With less than five minutes remaining, rookie PonsHP40 rider Fabio Quartararo shot up to third when he improved on his time making up for the incident with his teammate.
Late flying laps shake up the timesheets
As the session drew to a close, Marquez was displaying all red sectors and ended up improving on Morbidelli’s time and going top when he lapped at 2:10.164. Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) then set a personal best lap time which was enough to move him up to third on the timesheets pushing Quartararo down to fourth.
On his last lap as the flag came out, Miguel Oliveira, who claimed Red Bull KTM Ajo’s first ever Moto2 pole in Argentina, crossed the line and set his personal best which was enough to slot him in in second. He called it a day then but other riders still had the opportunity to improve as they completed their final laps.
Marquez quickest at the end of Free Practice 3 at COTA
Marquez finished the final practice session on top ahead of Oliveira in second and Morbidelli in third. Nakagami was fourth quickest ahead of Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) who was able to complete a late flying lap. Luthi was sixth ahead of the highest placed rookie, Quartararo in seventh. Simeon, Baldassarri and Axel Pons completed the top 10 at the end of Free Practice 3.
Riders immediately on the place when Qualifying got underway
The riders clearly meant business as they got straight to it when their Qualifying session got underway. Marquez was immediately hot on the pace, but he came across Khairul Idham Pawi (Idemistsu Honda Team Asia) ahead of him, who spoiled his first potential pole position lap. Marquez had to settle for second briefly behind Luthi, before Morbidelli set a quicker time and pushed his teammate down to third.
Close call for Marquez before the Spaniard crashes out
Marquez was wrestling his bike around, as he attacked the bumps he was nearly lifted up and out of his seat. He was flying, as was his teammate, as they both looked determined to claim the pole position in America. On a flying lap, Marquez crashed out at turn 20 as he looked messy and lost control when he tucked the front. He was able to recover the bike and return to the pits as Morbidelli went top after managing to set a time of 2:09.954 becoming the first rider to lap under 2:10 minutes.
Morbidelli was able to again further improve, and he was joined under the 2:10 minute marker by Luthi who was also able to decrease his lap time. With around 20 minutes of the session remaining, Oliveira was forced to make a recovery as he nearly lost control as he headed into turn one of the track.
Marquez reclaims pole position from teammate, Morbidelli
Marquez soon returned from the pits to again begin his pursuit of pole position like his older brother, Marc Marquez had done so in the MotoGP class. He took a much better approach this time, looked a lot smoother and calmer and was able to improve on Morbidelli’s time by over one third of a second, with a time of 2:09.62 that took him to the top with a third of the session to go.
With just over 11 minutes to go, Quartararo was forced to recover from losing the tail end of his machine as he completed a flying lap. He was disappointed and waved his hand in anger at the track, annoyed that he messed up a potential well placed lap.
Battle broke out on track
A battle appeared to break out on track as Morbidelli was forced to work his way past two fellow riders. His pace seemed to completely outshine Pasini and Cortese as he bypassed them, but then the two were able to stick with him on track which only played to their advantage; not only would it help them to improve their own time, but it would give them an advantage in the race as they would learn where he was was stronger and weaker. It was not long until Morbidelli was again able to claim pole, and Pasini slotted in behind him in second.
Kent and Navarro crash out in final stages
Just over seven minutes remained when Danny Kent (Kiefer Racing) crashed out at turn 12 of the track. Breaking a little too early, he tucked the front end and slid out. The bike slid as did he, but he was able to get straight back to his feet and run to the bike to try and recover it. Moments later, Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) came off at turn one of the track; he too appeared unhurt as he was bump started by the marshalls.
Pasini learning a lot from following Morbidelli on track
Back to the Qualifying session, and Pasini was displaying a red first sector as he began his following lap. But then, once Morbidelli moved out of his view, the Italian dropped down to approximately 0.4 seconds slower on the track. Dominique Aegerter was able to make a significant improvement in the later stages with Kiefer Racing as he jumped up to sixth after setting a personal best time with around one minute to go.
Morbidello on pole ahead of the Moto2 race at COTA
Morbidelli is once again on pole ahead of the third round of the Moto2 season at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. He will be joined on the front row by Pasini in second and his teammate Marquez who was third quickest at the end of Qualifying. Nakagami heads the second row along with Luthi and Aegerter (the top Suter). The third row is led by Oliveria in seventh, and alongside him, Xavier Simeon (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) and Cortese will line up.
Ricard Cardus (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who is replacing injured Brad Binder who had to have a third operation on his damaged left wrist as the plate had become loose in Argentina, has qualified in 10th ahead of Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Xavi Vierge (Tech3 Racing) who completes row four as the top Tech3 rider.
The remainder of the grid
Rookie, Navarro starts from 13th on the grid ahead of Baldassarri and fellow rookie, Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46). Quartararo, another rookie, will start from 16th ahead of Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) and former MotoGP rider, Yonny Hernandez (AGR Team). Hafitzh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) begins row seven ahead of Axel Pons (RW Racing GP) and Julian Simon (Tech3 Racing).
BE-A-VIP SAG Team rider Isaac Vinales qualified in 23rd ahead of Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) and British rider Kent in 24th. Jesko Raffin (Garage Plus Interwetten) will start from 25th ahead of Edgar Pons (Pons HP40) and rookie Tetsuta Nagashima (Teluru SAG Team). More rookies complete the grid including, Pawi in 28th ahead of Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team), Iker Lecuona (Garage Plus Interwetten), Stefano Manzi (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Axel Bassani (Speed Up Racing) in 32nd.