Thursday, October 22, 2020

Morbidelli strikes back to lead Zarco and Binder on Day 1 in Barcelona

Sep 26. 2020
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On form on Friday, both the Italian and Zarco bounce back from crashes to head the field – as Binder leaps up the timesheets to complete the top three

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was struggling with illness the week after his incredible maiden MotoGP™ win in the San Marino GP, but now he's back – and back on top. The Italian shot to P1 in the afternoon on Friday to rule the roost, a tenth ahead of Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing), with rookie Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) searing up to third by the end of the day's action.


The morning, however, belonged to Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) as the Frenchman went faster and faster to end the session over four tenths clear of nearest rival Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). Dovizioso, in turn, was a couple of tenths clear of Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) down in third, and the two spent a while together on track, whether by accident or design.

It was an uncharacteristic start to the event for Mir just before that, however, as the Spaniard crashed at Turn 5 unhurt, although upon getting back on the Mayorcan went quicker.

Fourth place went the way of Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) as last week's winner was just 0.045 off Mir, that making the top four in the title fight also the top four in FP1. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was less than a tenth off Viñales, in an impressive fifth.

Morbidelli, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) completed the top ten, Crutchlow impressing on his return from injury.

As well as Mir's crash, there was a tumble for Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) at Turn 2, rider also ok.


In the much windier afternoon, Morbidelli made sure Petronas Yamaha SRT were top in both sessions of the day. Morbidelli, Binder and Rins all rose into the top four to slot in behind FP1 pacesetter Quartararo initially, with Viñales and Rossi also improving their times. After the first few bouts, Dovizioso, Quartararo, Mir and Aleix Espargaro were the only riders inside the top 10 who hadn't gone faster in the first 15 minutes of FP2.

Morbidelli was then down at Turn 10 – unhurt – with 24 minutes to go. Before that, Zarco also crashed at Turn 5 – rider ok – and Repsol Honda Team’s Stefan Bradl also went down, the latter at Turn 2. Lecuona later suffered a second crash of the day. Wind or grip? The session was certainly a tougher one in terms of tumbles.

Heading into the final 10 minutes of FP2, there were 12 riders within a second and with automatic entry to Q2 already on everyone's minds, that meant one thing – cue the time attacks!

The first benchmark came from Binder as he leapt up from outside the top 20 in FP1 to lead the way, four tenths clear. Morbidelli and Zarco were on a charge but lost those laps after Yellow Flags for Lecuona's crash, but next time around the duo became the first and only riders into the 1:39s, demoting Binder to third overall. Viñales also struck late to slot into fourth, ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). Every rider bar three improved their time in the afternoon by the time the flag came out: Dovizioso, teammate Danilo Petrucci and Quartararo were the outliers.

Overall then, it's the FP2 fastest five of Morbidelli, Zarco, Binder, Viñales and Nakagami who are also fastest overall, with Quartararo's FP1 time slotting him into sixth on the combined timesheets. That shuffles Mir down to P7 overall, ahead of Pol Espargaro, Alex Marquez and Rossi. The latter duo are the most successful on the grid at the track across all classes, with three and five wins, respectively.

Next up is another group who all improved, but remain outside the top ten: Rins is 11th and the first man looking to move forward in FP3, ahead of Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), Crutchlow and Aleix Espargaro.

Dovizioso, who didn't go faster in the afternoon, ended the day in P15 overall. For him more than many, FP3 is a chance to shoot back towards the top and it starts at 9:55 (GMT +2). Will he make it through? Find out then, and tune in for qualifying from 14:10 as the grid for the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya gets decided.

Click here for combined timesheets

MotoGP™: the five fastest on Friday

Franco Morbidelli* Petronas Yamaha SRT - Yamaha - 1:39.789

Johann Zarco* Esponsorama Racing - Ducati - +0.109

Brad Binder Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM - +0.219

Maverick Viñales Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - +0.419

Takaaki Nakagami* LCR Honda Idemitsu - Honda - +0.623

*Independent Team rider

Lowes leads from Marini on Day 1
The Brit edges ahead of the Championship leader, with Schrötter completing the fastest trio on Friday

Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was back on top on Friday at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, the Brit ahead of closest challenger Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) by two tenths by the end of play. Completing the top three was Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) as the German once again showed some solid speed, fastest in the afternoon.


Lowes kicked off the weekend fastest with a 1:44.122 to lead Championship leader Marini  from the off, the two split by exactly two tenths in FP1. Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took third as he found some solid form, but the Japanese rider was over half a second off Lowes’ lap. Speed Up machinery made a resurgence in fourth and fifth, meanwhile, with impressive rookie Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team Moto2) getting the better of Fabio Di Giannantonio (HDR Heidrun Speed Up) as the two completed the top five. 

The top 14 were within a second in FP1 and with Lowes half a second faster than Nagashima, that meant it was just half a second covering P3 to P14!

There were three crashes but two crashers in the session, with Andi Izdihar (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) taking a tumble at Turn 10, before Simone Corsi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) followed suit not long after. Corsi also later crashed at Turn 5, rider ok.



The afternoon saw Schrötter take to the top, with the German 0.066 ahead of Di Giannantonio in the session. Home hero Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) slotted into third, ahead of Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) and second in the Championship, Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), as the latter made a leap up the timesheets in the session at least, from P13 in FP1.

Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) crashed at Turn 2, before Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) did the same shortly after, riders ok. Gardner has been given a six-place grid penalty for the incident after crashing whilst not respecting a Yellow Flag.

Overall then, it's Lowes and Marini who lead the way thanks to their fastest times in FP1, ahead of Schrötter by virtue of his fastest lap in the afternoon. Di Giannantonio was consistently quick in both sessions but his FP2 best puts him in fourth, with Nagashima completing the fastest five on Friday by virtue of his FP1 lap.

Rookie Canet ends the day in sixth ahead of Marco Bezzecchi, both also courtesy of their FP1 laps, ahead of Xavi Vierge in eighth. 

Next up was the returning Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as the Spaniard's FP1 best put him P7 in that session and P9 overall, a solid day's work as he gets back on track after missing two races.

Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) completed the top ten on Day 1, but by an infinitesimal 0.002 – with Bo Bendsneyder (NTS RW Racing GP) missing out by the equally tiny margin of 0.005! 

That leaves Bastianini down in P12 overall – one better than FP1 – and the 'Beast' will be one of many looking for more on Saturday morning as he attempts to hunt down Marini's five-point title lead. Find out how FP3 shuffles the entrants to Q2 at 10:55 (GMT +2), before qualifying for Moto2™ begins at 15:10.

Click here for combined timesheets

Moto2™: the five fastest on Friday

1 Sam Lowes EG 0,0 Marc VDS - Kalex - 1:44.122

Luca Marini Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex +0.200

Marcel Schrötter Liqui Moly Intact GP - Kalex - +0.409

Fabio Di Giannantonio HDR Heidrun Speed Up - Speed Up - +0.475

Tetsuta Nagashima Red Bull KTM Ajo - Kalex - +0.508

Fernandez on formidable Friday form
The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider ends the day with a little breathing space once again, ahead of Masia and Fenati

Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is making something of a habit of going fastest on Friday, and the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya was no different as the Spaniard ended the day with a fairly comfortable margin ahead of compatriot Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing). Last week's winner, Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), completed the top three on the combined timesheets.


FP1 saw a familiar name at the top once again: Fernandez. The Spaniard made it three FP1s in a row at the top, and was the only man to dip beneath the 1:49 barrier as he pulled four tenths clear with a late 1:48.853. Husqvarna history maker Fenati was the man in second in the session, ahead of his compatriot Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) a further tenth back in third.

Masia ended FP1 0.575 seconds adrift in fourth, but he had some close company courtesy of Petronas Sprinta Racing's John McPhee. Championship leader Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) was next up in sixth, with his closest rival as it stands, Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia), down in an uncharacteristic P25.

There were no crashes in the session.


In the afternoon, the wind was higher to complicate life for the lightweight class, and early on Fernandez stole a few more headlines but this time with a spectacular save. Ultimately it was Masia who came out on top in FP2 though, 0.284 ahead of Darryn Binder (CIP - Green Power). Carlos Tatay (Reale Avintia Moto3) was the only other man within half a second of the top after he put in an impressive session, with the three men at the top of the Championship all a little further back: McPhee took P10, Ogura P13 and Arenas P14. For Ogura, however, that was a move forward after his P25 in FP1.

The main headlines from FP2, however, were the crashes. First to go down was Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) as he tumbled at Turn 3, before McPhee went down at Turn 10. Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Stefano Nepa (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) were then both caught out at Turn 1 a few minutes apart, before another crash at Turn 10, this time for Arbolino. He headed to the Medical Centre but was given the all-clear. Masia then crashed at Turn 7, before Davide Pizzoli (BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy) was the final crasher of the session, at Turn 10.

Ryusei Yamanaka (Estrella Galicia 0,0) avoided a crash with a miracle save, adding to Fernandez' earlier efforts in the sweepstakes for biggest spectacle of the day.

After a day of two halves in Barcelona then, it's Fernandez' FP1 time that puts him on top once again, ahead of Masia's FP2 fastest by 0.281. Fenati and Arbolino's best times put them into P3 and P4 overall, respectively, with Darryn Binder ending Friday in fifth thanks to his quickest lap in the afternoon.

Despite his crash, McPhee is the fastest of the Championship-leading trio in P6, but Arenas is less than a tenth off. Both set their quickest efforts in the morning. Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) had a good first day as he slots into eighth, 0.029 off Arenas, with Tatay just another 0.033 off Antonelli, in ninth. Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completed the top ten.

Ogura ultimately ended the day down in P23, and he'll be one of the first pushing to improve in FP3 as the fight to head through to Q2 really gets down to business. Tune in for that at 9:00 (GMT +2), before Moto3™ qualifying starts from 12:35.

Click here for combined timesheets

Moto3™: the five fastest on Friday

Raul Fernandez Red Bull KTM Ajo - KTM 1:48.853

2 Jaume Masia Leopard Racing - Honda +0.281

Romano Fenati Sterilgarda Max Racing Team - Husqvarna +0.390

Tony Arbolino Rivacold Snipers Team - Honda +0.409

Darryn Binder CIP - Green Power - KTM +0.565


Zarco was on metaphorical fire on Friday

Binder blasted into the top three in FP2

Click here for more photos

(link available from Friday 7pm GMT +2, for one week)

Tech talk: Suzuki, Honda and Aprilia weigh in on the 2020 season so far

On Friday at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, it was time to talk technical as Team Suzuki Ecstar Technical Manager Ken Kawauchi, HRC Technical Manager Takeo Yokoyama and Aprilia Racing Track Manager Paolo Bonora joined the first of two Press Conferences this season to take stock of where each manufacturer is this year.

Here are a few key quotes!

KEN KAWAUCHI: "We are satisfied, maybe 80% with the performance! Our step is not so huge but we have been able to improve the bike from last year and also our factory is doing a good job, our riders improved, and the team is doing a good job so we're more or less satisfied with our performance.

"Our goal is always to achieve more horsepower bit by bit but without losing rideability. This year and next year we can't change spec so we're trying to do it very carefully."

TAKEO YOKOYAMA: "When you have a group of injured riders, it's so difficult in every aspect. But we still have good riders. Alex is a rookie but he's growing up and giving us good feedback; Cal, even with the injuries, he's trying a lot and giving good feedback. And Taka you can see, he's growing up a lot and fighting for a good position in the Championship. Even without Marc, it's more difficult it's true but we're receiving a lot of feedback, trying our maximum and we're on our way.

"The Misano test was really successful for us, I think you can see if you compare the Misano 1 result and the Misano 2 result, I think we made some steps forward and this was due to the test in between. The area we're working on... we're actually working a bit on everything! Next year we can't change the engine; we're working a lot on the chassis side, and trying to understand how to use the Michelin tyre, especially the rear where they changed the construction from last year to this year.. but we're working a lot on every aspect."

PAOLO BONORA: "During the winter test, we've seen the RS-GP 2020 made a big improvement compared to the previous one. Unfortunately we had a problem initially at the start of the season with the engine, in the reliability, so we asked the other manufacturers to have the chance to change the piston spec compared to the homologated one and we thank then for confirming that.

"At the moment we're working so hard on the engine side because we saw in Sepang and the first test we did in winter that the bike is good in turning and good in the change of direction. But at the moment we're missing a bit on the engine side, so our key point is to work on the engine. To gain in the horsepower for sure - the horsepower is never too much for the rider! - but also the rideability of the engine, searching to find a better connection in the initial touch of the engine to give the maximum acceleration and maximum confidence to the rider. At the moment we didn't see on track the improvement we've made on the bike, because for sure having only one rider... Bradley is a good test rider, but having Andrea Iannone on track should have been a different situation for us. We're suffering a lot, at the moment we have only Aleix Espargaro who is pushing so hard for the bike development, and we're searching as well to give Bradley the confidence of an official rider to ride the bike.

"Covid-19 created a big difficulty for every manufacturer in engine development, and in bike development. In our case we're trying to do tests as much as we can during race weekends, but as you know it's difficult to test things without losing performance for the rider. So at the moment we're focused on the test team, but having Bradley in the races is difficult for us, but we're trying to manage as best we can to do some tests with Bradley during the race weekends."

Watch the full Press Conference!

Top photo L-R: HRC Technical Manager Takeo Yokoyama, Team Suzuki Ecstar Technical Manager Ken Kawauchi and Aprilia Racing Track Manager Paolo Bonora


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