With the Moto2 championship only being decided during the previous round of the season, as Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) became the double champion after winning in Sepang, the 600cc class began preparations for the season finale at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia ahead of the Gran Premio Motul de la Communitat Valenciana, in Spain.
Many changes ahead for the Moto2 class
The remainder of the championship standings are yet to be confirmed and it will come down to the final round to make those ultimate decisions. It is the last Moto2 race for several riders as some are leaving since they are being promoted to the Moto2 class, along with others switching teams and some not continuing, and so it is the final chance for many to get that result for their teams to show their gratitude.
Oliveira returns and wildcards are competing for the season finale
Miguel Oliveira returns from injury aboard his Leopard Racing KTM, after missing the last few rounds as he recuperated. There are some wildcard appearances in the 600cc class; Federico Fuligni will be aboard the Team Clattl Kalex, and Hugo Clere is boarding the Promoto Sport Trasflormers. Unfortunately for Petronas Raceline Malaysia rider Hafitzh Syahrin, he was forced to sit out of Free Practice as he was suffering with a stomach flu.
The sun was shining, and there were hardly any clouds in the sky, which makes a huge change from the previous rounds the Moto2 class have experienced of late, and when they took to the track for day one of Free Practice, it was long-awaited dry time on track.
Nakagami incident causes session to be red-flagged
Within minutes of Free Practice 1, Idemitsu Honda Team Asia rider Takaaki Nakagami came into trouble. His incident began at turn eight where he clipped the kerb and had a wobble, but he continued to push on as he brought the engine and tyres up to temperature. But then corners later, at turn 14, his engine blew spitting fluids all over his rear tyre, causing the rear to slide and re-grip which resulted in the Japanese rider being thrown over the bike.
They both slid into the gravel, and as the Marshals removed his bike to the safety area, they noticed the spills and damage and the session was red-flagged. Just prior to the red flag, wildcard rider Clere had crashed out at turn four of the circuit.
Riders returned to the pits with 36:55 minutes of the session remaining, after the track was inspected and declared fit for racing again. Safety officer Loris Capirossi, who has just had his number retired from racing in honour of the legend, was one of those who was on track to inspect it before things started up again.
Several riders challenging for the top spot
Before the session was stopped, Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) was on top of the time sheets. He was then challenged by the likes of Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team), Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) and soon Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), who has been on great form of late and is still working hard to win his first Moto2 win, came into the mix.
Over half of the first practice session had ran smoothly after the first hiccup and Folger made his way back up to the top spot. AGR Team rider Marcel Schrotter was also able to demonstrate what he was capable of in Valencia as he shot up to third. Luthi was thrashing his Kalex everywhere, which was unusual to see as he is normally such a neat and controlled rider. But as he pushed he wobbled, wheelied and went wide; despite this he was still able to slot into behind Folger in second.
With just eight minutes of FP1 remaining, Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) shot to the top with a time of 1:35.630. Moments later, Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) crashed out at turn two of the circuit; fortunately he was unhurt. Pasini and Corsi also almost came together as they both went to take the same line into a corner; Pasini was forced to bail and run wide.
Luthi on top at the end of Moto2 Free Practice 1
Luthi reclaimed the top spot as FP1 drew to a close with a time of 1:35.513. It was enough to secure him the top spot until the end of the session; Corsi was forced down to second and Folger down to third. Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) was fourth quickest ahead of Pasini, Mobidelli, Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP), Zarco, Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team) and Schrotter completed the top 10. The top 18 riders were covered by less than one second.
Conditions improved further
Temperatures had increased by the time the riders made their way out on track ready to begin Free Practice 2. It was a chance for riders to cover as much race distance as possible, and it was Morbidelli who was on top of the timesheets midway through the session after lapping consistently in the 1:35 minute range. It is the Italian’s last chance this season to claim his first victory and what an end to a season he has finished so strongly it would be for him.
Several riders, including Luthi and Jesko Raffin (Sports-Millions-EWME-SAG) had lap times cancelled by Race Direction for overuse of the track. Should riders run over the kerb and enter the areas indicated with a different coloured paint, their times are cancelled as they are thought to have gained an advantage at some points.
Morbidelli quickest in Valencia at the end of day one
Riders constantly chipped away, adjusting settings, running tyres in and getting much needed track experience as they familiarised themselves in Valencia. As usual, all the action came in the final stages of the session, as Morbidelli clinched the top spot at the very end of the session. His time of 1:35.443 was enough to make him the fastest man on track at the end of day one. It looked to come under threat by Nakagami, but the Japanese rider had to settle for second.
Zarco was able to improve on the previous session and was third quickest ahead of Julian Simon (QMMF Racing) as the fastest Speed Up rider, and British rider Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) who finished day one in fifth on the timesheets. Corsi was sixth ahead of Simeon, Lowes, Folger, and Spanish rider Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) completed the top 10.
Luthi was 11th quickest at the end of FP2 ahead of Cortese and Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) in 13th as the quickest Tech 3 rider. Battling for second in the championship, Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40), was 4th quickest at the end of FP2 ahead of AGR teammates Schrotter and Axel Pons. Axel’s brother, Edgar Pons (Paginas Amarillas HP 40), was just behind him in 17th. Oliveira was 18th ahead of Raffin and Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) who completed the top 20.
Australian rider Remy Gardner (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) was 21st ahead of Baldassarri, Pasini, Luca Marini (Forward Team) and Isaac Vinales (Tech 3 Racing) in 26th. Youngster Iker Lecuona, who is replacing Dominique Aegerter who was sacked by the CarXpert Interwetten team when he announced that he had signed for another team next year, was 27th and wildcards Fuligni and Clere completed the timesheets.