The MotoGP class were welcomed to the opening day of Free Practice at the Autodromo del Mugello, with sunshine and perfect conditions for riding a motorbike; a difference from a fortnight before in Le Mans.
MotoGP paddock mourning the death of Nicky Hayden
So much had happened in those two weeks. Sadly, the MotoGP class are all now mourning the death of MotoGP legend Nicky Hayden. Their former competitor, fondly known as the ‘Kentucky Kid’ sadly lost his fight against the injuries sustained following a road traffic accident that involved him coming into contact with a car driver as he trained down the Rimini coast.
Nicky was buried on Monday 29th May 2017; his ceremony was streamed to share the celebration of his life with his fans that adorned the world. He fulfilled his life-long dream by becoming MotoGP World Champion in 2006 and will be remembered as a MotoGP legend to generations to come. Our thoughts remain with Nicky and his family, friends and fans.
Training incident leaves Rossi injured after disastrous end to Le Mans
Also, ahead of his home round, since the MotoGP in Le Mans where he crashed out of the podium with corners of the race to go, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) has suffered a training incident in a motocross exercise which left him visiting the Ospedale Infermi hospital in Rimini for a check-up, where he was reported to have suffered trauma to his abdomen and chest that has left him in severe pain almost a week on.
The Italian, who who was declared fit before the press conference, and is hoping to perform well in his home GP, picked up a mild thoracic and abdominal trauma, and his slight liver and kidney lesions fortunately did not end up becoming complicated further. This will have just added to his disappointment after the fifth round resulted in a heart-breaking crash.
The party atmosphere at his home track is sure to help motivate the Italian however as the stands on the opening day of Free Practice ahead of the Gran Premio D’Italia Oakley were adorned with a sea of yellow. The sun was out, the temperature was up, and it was time to race in Nicky’s honour; the late MotoGP legend, Marco Simoncelli is also remembered greatly in Mugello.
Contract extension for Jonas Folger
There was some good news however as MotoGP rookie, Jonas Folger also has had his contract extended through to 2018 with the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team; a couple of weeks after his teammate, Johann Zarco had his extended. Their contract extensions mean they are now brought in line with the majority of the factory riders in the paddock.
Issues in pit lane for Lowes and Lorenzo
Free Practice 1 got underway and immediately Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was experiencing issues as he needed pushing back to the pits. He was not the only one, as Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) also required assistance in the same manner.
Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) was the quickest on track initially however he was soon overtaken by Ducati Team test rider, Michele Pirro (Ducati Team) who is making a wildcard appearance at the Italian track.
Hector Barbera (Reale Avintia Ducati) was the next to visit the top spot when he surpassed Pirro’s team. But Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) soon became the first to lap under 1:49 minutes with a time of 1:48.088 which meant he was top of the pile for a brief while before Pirro completed two laps to leave him up there instead.
Folger breaks throught the time barrier
Folger became the first rider to lap under 1:48 minutes when he went to with a time of 1:47.974 with 33 minutes to go. However a minute later, he was joined by Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) lapped at 1:47.669; Pirro and Dovizioso slotted him behind him moments later.
Things settled down regarding lap times at the top of the leaderboard. Rossi, Crutchlow and Zarco where out on track together pushing each other on, as Zarco had a slight bobble when he approached turn eight of the track. A short break towards the end of the session allowed the riders to prepare for the final surge where many riders went on to complete Personal Best times.
Dovizioso back to the top with four minutes to go
With four minutes of the opening session remaining, Dovizioso once again claimed the top spot at his home track as he set what would end up being the fastest time of the session with a lap time of 1:47.394. His test teammate, Pirro’s time brought him up to second moments later pushing Vinales and Zarco, who had just improved, down to third and fourth on the track.
Barbera’s time from earlier meant that he finished the session as fifth ahead of Lorenzo and Petrucci who made it five Ducatis in the top seven. Rookie, Folger was eighth ahead of the 2016 MotoGP champion, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) and Crutchlow who completed the top 10.
Temperature increase ahead of Free Practice 2
The temperature increased in time for Free Practice 2 for the MotoGP class, and just coming up to 10 minutes in the session, Italian rider, Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) went to the top of the timesheets when he lapped at 1:48.067. Then, Petrucci appeared to be experiencing trouble as he was seen pushing his Ducati along the grass at the side of the track before being assisted by the Marshalls.
Crashes for the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini boys
Then, Aleix Espargaro crashed out of turn five of the track. He fell way before he entered the turn, and both Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and a Suzuki rider did well to avoid him. Crutchlow appeared stunned as he came to a halt at the side of the track looking for more debris to head his way. Aleix was up to his feet and quickly returned to the pits via scooter.
Then, things went from bad to worse for the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini as he crashed out in sector two. His leathers were incredibly dusty down the back as he looked for a way to return to the pits, he appeared frustrated as he wasted time going the wrong way.
Bautista goes top
Continuing with his great form since moving back to the Italian manufacturer, Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati Team rider, Alvaro Bautista became the first to lap under 1:48 minutes less than 12 minutes in with a time of 1:47.908.
Big crash for Vinales
Emerging from a cloud of smoke and dust, Vinales, who had just moved up to second crashed out at turn nine of the track. He appeared hurt, or at least winded, as he kneeled in a safe place at the side of the track where he regained his composure after his airbags had gone off.
The Spaniard had lost the front on the approach to the turn, he touched the white line and went down and both he and the bike catapulted into the gravel; the bike was destroyed. Fortunately, Vinales was able to return to the pits via scooter. He was slammed down hard on the tarmac and also was hit by the rear of his bike, and went straight back to his mobile home rather than the garage.
Dovizioso reclaims top spot
With under 22 minutes remaining, Dovizioso returned to the top of the timesheets as he set a time of 1:47.864. He then went on to improve by a further 0.338 seconds consolidating his lead. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was able to improve and jumped up to second behind him, and Bautista managed to also force Bautista down to fourth on the timesheets.
The final few minutes was the last chance for riders to complete a time attack in Mugello on the first day. Crutchlow was looking incredibly strong as he displayed a red second sector, which he then confirmed with a red third sector indicating he was fastest on track. He crossed the line with just under three minutes to go with a time of 1:47.365 which was below the Circuit Record Lap time set by Marquez during the race in 203 of 1:47.639.
Several riders were able to complete personal best times, indicated by yellow in the timing sheets, as the session began to draw to a close. The flag went out to end the session but it was far from over as the riders continued to push.
Crutchlow ends day one on top of the timesheets in Mugello
Although riders did improve no one was able to come near to British rider, Crutchlow’s time who celebrated ending the day on top with a wheelie and peace sign; he was clearly pleased as he ‘conserved the front tyre’ round the remainder of his cooling down lap as he continued to do a wheelie around the track in celebration.
Dovizioso was second during the session and on combined times at the end of the opening day ahead of Folger who remained as the top rookie in third with his time from FP2. Zarco finished FP2 in fourth ahead of Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) in fifth. Barbera, Bautista, Iannone, Pirro and Petrucci completed the top 10.
The remainder of the results
Lorenzo was 11th ahead of injured Rossi who improved later on in the day to finish 12th. His teammate, improved once he finally returned to the track after his crash to finish 13th ahead of Marquez, Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing), Aleix Espargaro, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS teammates Jack Miller and Tito Rabat, and Loris Baz (Reale Avintia Ducati) and Lowes who completed the top 20.
Karel Abraham (Pull & Bear Aspar Team) was 21st ahead of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammates, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith. Sylvain Guintoli is once again standing in for injured Alex Rins with Team Suzuki Ecstar and completed the timesheets in 24th.
Analysing the lap times at the individual sectors, Dovizioso proved quickest in the opening sector of the Italian track. Iannone is dominating in sector two, and rookies Folger and Zarco are dominating in the final two sectors. Crutchlow’s quickest lap saw him third quickest through sector one, and second quickest between sectors two and three.