A brave Moto2 class took to the track at the seventh round of the Championship at the Circuit de Barcelona, with the memories of the incidents from the previous day weighing heavily on everyone’s minds.
The race will go on in Salom's memory
Number 39 rider Luis Salom (SAG Team) crashed at turn twelve of the track during the second Free Practice session and despite the efforts of the medical teams at the track and the local hospital, the 24-year-old Spanish rider sadly lost his life as a result of his injuries. Only six incidents have occurred at this corner over the last ten years and so they were rare compared to other areas on the track. Due to the incident - damage to the air-fence and the fact the medical helicopter was deployed - the session was abandoned as everyone tried to come to terms with the sad news that came across the paddock.
After receiving consent from Salom’s family and following a Safety Commission meeting which included ten riders, it was decided that the races would still go ahead and as a precaution the track was modified in attempt to make it safer for the riders. Sector four was changed so that all races would be ran on the Formula 1 version of the circuit. Turn ten was made tighter, and the ‘old’ turn 12, where Salom crashed out, was bypassed and a chicane was included to slow riders down. All riders from all classes were given extra time to practice on the modified track and race lengths will be shortened to accommodate the changes. All riders made their own tribute to their former competitor in one way or another as Salom’s bike was left stood in his pit garage as a tribute from his team.
Difficult final Free Practice session for the Moto2 class
The third and final Free Practice session of the seventh round was extended by 15 minutes so that riders had an hour to familiarise themselves with the new final modified sector of the track. The chicane added a few seconds to the lap times from the previous day and it was Spanish rider Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) who set the marker for the riders to beat as he was the first to lap below 1:52 minutes within seven minutes of the session.
Final sector proving difficult
Garage Plus Interwetten rider Thomas Luthi looked strong especially and was lapping faster than Rins in the first three sectors but understandably the last sector spoiled his lap time. As he attempted to overcome the challenges he faced there, he ran off the track as he missed the chicane at one point. Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and 2015 Moto2 Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo MotorSport) were on the pace as well as Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) who brought the fastest time down to a low 1:51.
Morbidelli had his first crash of the day at turn three as he tried to improve his time, fortunately he appeared unhurt however his day was not going to get any easier. Luthi managed to improve at sector four and became the first to lap below 1:51, Zarco soon joined him and managed to improve further on his own time.
Moto2 rookie Miguel Oliveira (Leopard Racing) was forced to run off the track at turn one when he went into the corner too hot midway through the session. Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) also ran straight on in the last sector and had to swerve to avoid the cones left in place to remind riders of the changes to the track. Lowes appeared to be very frustrated as later on he was seen angrily gesturing to another rider who had gotten in his way whilst he was on a fast lap which spoiled it for him; his time was then discounted for overuse of the track. Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) also ran deep in the new sector of the track.
Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) came off with ten minutes to go at turn 15; a new corner included on the circuit. The front end of the bike tucked under when exiting the chicane and despite there being a large run off area the bike still managed to hit the air-fence, but luckily Cortese seemed uninjured.
Rins fastest at the end of FP3
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) soon joined the top contenders as they battled to complete the fastest lap time. It was Rins who remained the fastest at the end of the Free Practice session as he and Zarco were the only riders who managed to lap below 1:50 minutes ahead of Lowes. Nakaaki Takagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Morbidelli, Baldassarri, Luthi, British rider Danny Kent (Leopard Racing), Folger and Axel Pons (AGR Team) completed the top ten.
Time for Qualifying
The riders continued to struggle as they took to the track for qualifying as Remy Gardiner, who is replacing Tonucci on the Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2 Kalex, experienced a huge ‘wobble’ heading into the new turn 12. The Australian was forced to run on to the ‘old circuit’ to avoid crashing in the early stages of the session.
Kent then crashed at the notorious turn five of the circuit on his Leopard Racing Kalex. He appeared unhurt as he assisted the Marshals as they tried to retrieve his bike from the gravel trap. Unfortunately for the Brit, a lot of the session was wasted due to this and because of the repairs that had to be done; he was able to return towards the end of the session.
More bad luck for Morbidelli
The Italian experienced his second crash of the day this time at turn nine. This time he had to receive medical attention at the side of the track however he was sat up and it was not long before he was able to get up to his feet and hobble to the ambulance to be checked over further. Morbidelli was extremely lucky considering he had suffered a huge high-side; this occurred after he had ran wide and touched the dirt which caused him to lose the back end of his Kalex, which threw him over the top of it and into the dirt.
Turn nine caught Lowes out later on when he was currently sat in fourth on the leaderboard; the front end tucked under on ‘Sideways Sam’ and he and his bike also ended up in the gravel. Lowes was clearly angry as he was seen throwing his hands up to the sky as he was on his knees in the gravel trap; gladly though he appeared unhurt and was also able to return to the pits where they fixed his bike and got him back out in time for the end of the session. However in his final attempt he made a mistake and was unable to improve.
Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten) almost lost the rear end of his Kalex at turn four but luckily the Swiss man was able to rescue it however he did need to take some time to re-gather his thoughts and momentum.
Final attempt for Rins to clinch pole
Towards the end of the session Rins was able to receive a tow from two riders which allowed him to improve his lap time bringing him up to second on the leaderboard. On his final attempt to clinch pole position he ran wide at turn 11 and ended up in the run-off areas. This in affect distracted Zarco who also went wide following the distraction also forcing him to abort his lap.
Zarco claims pole ahead of Catalan GP
Zarco will start the shortened seventh round of the Catalan GP from pole position ahead of Rins in second and Luthi will complete the first row. Nakagami benefited from lowes crash and managed to take fourth postion from the Brit who will start from fifth ahead of Pons in sixth. Marquez appears to have finally found his form and will start his home GP in seventh ahead of Baldassarri and Schrotter.
Despite crashing Cortese will start from tenth ahead of Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) as the fastest Speed Up rider and Folger in 12th. Hafitzh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) will head the fifth row in front of Aegerter and rookie Oliveira. QMMF Racing Team riders Xavier Simeon and Julian Simon are in 16th and 17th ahead of Morbidelli who ended up having to start from the back of the sixth row.
Luca Marini (Forward Team) is in 20th ahead of Kent who ended up in 21st after his crash, he finished in front of the highest placed Tech3 rider on the grid Xavi Vierge (Tech3 Racing). Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) will start from 23rd ahead of Gardner, Edgar Pons (Paginas Amarillas HP 40), Robin Mulhauser (CarXpert Interwetten), Isaac Vinales (Tech 3 Racing) and rookie Ramdan Rosli (Petronas AHM Malaysia) completes the field in 28th.