Dramatic Final practice session for the MotoGP class

There was plenty of drama during the last two Free Practice Sessions for the MotoGP class as concerns grow about the new Michelin Tyre manufacturers following an incident with British rider Scott Redding.

Dramatic Final practice session for the MotoGP class
Marc Marquez impressed again | Photo: Repsol Honda Racing

It was a much cooler setting for the riders at the Termas de Rio Hondo which meant riders had to now deal with cooler temperatures and a stronger breeze in Argentina.

Repsol Honda rider leads in FP3

Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez set the pace early on with a time of 1:40.821 which became the time to beat in penultimate session before qualifying. Marquez came off the track early in Free Practice 3 (FP3) and ended up in the ‘run-off’ area, he was being chased early on by Avintia Ducati rider Hector Barbera who also had a moment as he seemed to be taking completely different lines as he chased the Spaniard. Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa appeared to be having similar problems turning the RC212V.

Jack Miller fell at Turn 1 from his Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda, he slid off the track but was able to fall back onto his feet and walk to pick his bike up; his previous leg injury appeared to not to be affected.

Champion Lorenzo still not happy

Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo did not appear happy again with the handling of his M1; he was able to improve his position to third midway through FP3 after finishing 14th on day one but appeared to be struggling to turn and did not look as neat as Lorenzo normally does. His last visit to the pits seemed to do trick and he finished FP3 in second. It is the last sector of the track where the Yamaha appears to struggle which stopped him from finishing first.

All of the action of FP3 came in the last ten minutes of the session as riders pushed to ensure they were in the top ten so they could be present for Qualifying 1 (Q1). The battle seemed to be for the last three places as many riders improved their times.

Many riders seen  ‘wrestling’ with bikes as Crutchlow shows what he is capable of

As the riders appear to be coming out of the last corner of the track, which is a slow one, they appear to have to wrestle the bike as they enter the start-finish straight; the rear end of the bike appears to be troubling some riders. Turn 1 caught Marquez out with just over seven minutes to go, he appeared to be starting a flying lap and went in too hot losing the rear end and ending up in the gravel. He was able to run back to the pits to swap bikes returning to the track almost immediately. It was not long before he ran wide on the track again at turn five as he continued to push.

LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow continued to push throughout FP3, so much that he found himself in the run-off areas. He did a late flying lap which secured his place in Qualifying 2. The two Repsol Hondas, Ecstar Suzukis, Ducatis and Movistar Hondas made the top ten along with Crutchlow and Barbera whose final lap secured his place.

Dramatic FP4 halted due to worrying incident involving Scott Redding

Free Practice 4 (FP4) was the final chance for the MotoGP riders to confirm the final bike settings and tyre choices for the race. The track was much cooler which meant that data collected from day one may have been useful for riders as conditions were different and looked set to get worse as riders continued to practice the quick changes from bike to bike should the flag appear. This was the cleanest the track had been so far since they had started the meeting here.

With twenty minutes to go the final practice session had to be red flagged following an incident with British rider Scott Redding. The Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati crashed out on turn 6 following an incident that has left everyone worried about the Michelin tyres; who are the new sponsors. Redding appeared injured as he climbed off the bike and walked to the safety area; he was seen checking his back as he walked doubled up in pain (he was able to return to the track when the session restarted).  Redding had to swap to his other bike due to the state his other one was left in; anything above the vicinity of the rear tyre had been bent upwards.

Scott Redding is ready to race | Photo: Mirco Lazzari
Scott Redding is ready to race | Photo: Mirco Lazzari

Tyre had delaminated

The session had to be stopped as there was debris on the track; the tyre had delaminated and was hazardous to all riders. It was only a short delay as the track was cleared and riders were soon back out on track to complete FP4.  With approximately fifteen minutes to go Marquez set a low 1’40 minute lap which was at least one second faster than anyone else on the track. Aspar Team MotoGP rider Eugene Laverty soon made his presence felt with a flying lap that temporarily left him in fourth.

Session ref-flagged for second time with minutes to go

With just over four minutes to go the session was ‘red-flagged’ again due to ‘safety conditions’. There was no debris anywhere to identify an incident that may have occurred and so the concerns grew over the tyres. The Ducati of Redding was then seen returning to the pit garage and was concealed under a red blanket as crowds swarmed around to see the state it had left in. The garage was then closed so the team could work on the Ducati.

BT Sport commentator Gavin Emmett announced that he had seen the tyre as he chased it back to the pits and confirmed that the tyre was completely delaminated. Emergency meetings took place around the circuit; Race Direction were seen engaging in intense discussions with Michelin.

Session restarted but drama continued

Once the session restarted with just over two minutes to go it was Lorenzo who added to the drama of FP4 as the front end folded underneath as he entered turn one; the M1 slid into the gravel trap where it then continued to destroy itself as it catapulted; Lorenzo was unhurt.

Past rivalry continues in Argentina as session finally comes to a close

In the final stages Marquez was seen chasing his rival Valentino Rossi and just like back in 2015 Marquez was all over the back of Rossi coming rather close for comfort. Rossi soon caught the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha of Bradley Smith and overtook but then went wide allowing Smith and Marquez to go through.

Eventually the dramatic session came to a close as riders once again practice their starts at the end; Marquez remained the fastest as no-one was able to get near his time. The MotoGP class now had to make the important decision over which tyre choice to make knowing that the rear Michelin had failed dramatically for the Ducati of Redding but not yet knowing what was the cause!