Fifteen Laps at Aragon, warming up a few degrees from the World Superbike race, World Supersport gave us the tough fighting we expect from the class.
With three fewer laps than last year, World Superbike at Aragon took place under a cool 16-degree sun, the earlier and colder start making tyre choice tricky.
Those who fear a Marquez whitewash at the Circuit of the Americas could draw some comfort from the raw numbers on the timesheets as Saturday progressed. Marquez gap from Friday was cut dramatically, first to under a second in FP3, then to a third of a second in FP4, before being slashed to less than three tenths in qualifying. Is the end of Marquez' dominance at Austin in sight?
But raw numbers are deceptive. Sure, the gap in single lap times is small, but there is still no one who can get close to the reigning world champion. Marquez' four flying laps were faster than the best laps by any other rider on the grid. Second place man Dani Pedrosa's fastest lap was still slower than Marquez' slowest. In FP4, Marquez punched out four laps in the 2'03s, while the best anyone else could do is lap in the 2'04s. During the morning FP3 session, Marquez racked up five 2'03s, while only Pedrosa could manage two 2'03s, Stefan Bradl, Andrea Dovizioso and Bradley Smith managing only a single solitary lap under 2'04.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying for Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Austin:
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after qualifying at Aragon:
The front two rows of the morning's final timed practice was headed off by factory braces of Aprilias, Kawasakis and Ducatis, with both EVO Bimotas managing to get into Superpole. The weather was not much of an issue in Spain, being cooler than Friday, in spite of occasional light showers.
Marc Marquez is fastest once again in Austin, the reigning world champion topping the final session of free practice ahead of qualifying. But the gap is definitely closing: his advantage at the end of FP4 was down to just a third of a second, with riders now focusing in this final session on race set up rather than setting a fast lap.
Andrea Iannone ended the session in 2nd, setting an impressive pace using Dani Pedrosa's slipstream. Iannone ended 0.367 behind Marquez, and nearly a tenth ahead of Pedrosa. Stefan Bradl took 4th on the LCR Honda, making it three Hondas in the top four, while Valentino Rossi rounded out the top five.
FP4 also gave a glimpse of possible tire use for the race. Marquez and Pedrosa spent almost all the session on the harder tire, while Rossi and the other Yamaha riders put in the time on the softer of the two options for the Factory Option riders. Iannone, like the other Ducatis, worked with the medium tire, the harder of their two options, the soft wearing much too fast to be able to actually use in the race.
Thomas Luthi set the fastest Moto2 lap of the day to top the timesheet in the third practice session Saturday at Austin's COTA. Luthi's 2'10.871 didn't match the top times from 2013 or even 2014's FP2, but it was enough to put him six-hundreths clear of Maverick Vinales' second-fastest showing.
Tito Rabat, winner in Qatar, finished as the third fastest rider headed into qualifying later Saturday. Jonas Folger (4th) and Johann Zarco (fifth) completed the top five. Zarco, fastest in the prior two practices, was unable to dip into the 2'10s as he did on Friday. In fact, Luthi's top FP3 time Saturday didn't match Zarco's fastest lap in Friday's FP2 of 2'10.839.
Results of both Superpole 1 and Superpole 2: