Tito Rabat continues to rule the Moto2 class with an iron fist. The Marc VDS Racing rider topped the final session of free practice at Barcelona by another large margin, this time over half a second. Mika Kallio is once again the man in second, the Marc VDS man finishing just ahead of Jonas Folger, who continues to make a big impression in his Moto2 rookie year. Johann Zarco was the first of the Suters home, while Mattia Pasini ended the session in fifth.
Stefan Bradl has topped the timesheets in the third session of free practice for the MotoGP class. The LCR Honda rider looked destined to have to battle through Q1, but a blistering lap at the end of the session saw him leap to the stop of the standings. Bradl dislodged Marc Marquez, who had been fast early and was circulating fast throughout, but ended the session in 2nd. Bradley Smith improved on his own very impressive time from yesterday, grabbing 3rd ahead of Dani Pedrosa, the Repsol Honda rider having found a big improvement since Friday.
The Movistar Yamahas ended the session in 5th and 6th, Jorge Lorenzo finishing ahead of Valentino Rossi, though both men showed a decent race pace later in the session. Aleix Espargaro was the only rider not to improve his time from Friday, but still managed a 7th fastest time and is through to Q2 on merit. Yonny Hernandez posted a very impressive lap on the Open Pramac Ducati, though his best times were posted in Rossi's slipstream. Hernandez still finished as best Ducati, ahead of factory rider Andrea Dovizioso, and the second Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Pol Espargaro.
After yesterday's KTM domination of Moto3 - the Husqvarna of Niklas Ajo is just a KTM in disguise - it was Honda's turn to strike back in FP3. Alex Marquez ended the third session of free practice on top of the timesheets, pulling a gap of over half a second over the competition. Brad Binder ended in 2nd on the Mahindra, the South African having a very strong run at Barcelona. Two more Hondas followed, with Efren Vazquez finishing ahead of Alex Rins, while Niccolo Antonelli ended the session in 5th as the first KTM rider.
2014 Barcelona MotoGP Friday Round Up: A Sweltering Track, Changing Riding Styles, Ducati's Diabolical Dilemma, And Hayden's Wrist
If you thought that Barcelona could be a track to throw up a few surprises, the first day of practice proved you right. Not in Moto2, of course: Tito Rabat's dominance was crushing, making Marc Marquez' earlier reign of terror look like a close fought battle. In Moto3, Finnish youngster Niklas Ajo topped the timesheets, putting the Husqvarna name at the forefront. That was unexpected, though given the fact that the nominally Swedish Husqvarna is nothing more than a rebadged KTM straight from the factory in Mattighofen, Austria, it should be less of a surprise.
The biggest surprises were perhaps in MotoGP. That Aleix Espargaro would be quickest in the morning is to be expected, especially as he put on the super soft tire available to the Open bikes to set his time. But for Bradley Smith to go fastest in the afternoon was a major change of fortunes, and just reward for the effort Smith and his crew have been putting in over the past few weeks. His fast time was set with a fresh soft tire, but given that this compound – Bridgestone's medium tire, the hard being the other option available to the Factory Option teams – has real potential to be the race tire, it is not quite as simple as Smith having pushed in qualifying trim.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Barcelona:
Tito Rabat continues to rule the Moto2 class with an iron fist. The Marc VDS Racing rider ended the second session of free practice with the same margin as he had in the morning: over a quarter of a second. This time it was Jonas Folger who was 2nd, the German continuing an impressive weekend. Speed Up's Sam Lowes took 3rd, putting in a very strong showing at Barcelona, while Maverick Vinales ended the session in 4th.
Bradley Smith has topped the timesheets in the sweltering afternoon session at Barcelona, the Monster Tech 3 rider posting a quick lap late in the session to take top spot. Smith was challenged by LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl, the German having led earlier in the session, but Bradl came up just short, Smith holding on by seven thousandths of a second.
Marc Marquez set the 3rd fastest time, an improvement both in time and position from this morning, the Repsol Honda rider just edging Movistar Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo. Pol Espargaro had an impressive afternoon session, taking 5th spot ahead of Valentino Rossi, who ended the day as last of the Yamahas, half a second off the time set by Smith. A fleet of Ducatis followed Rossi with Andrea Dovizioso at its head, in front of Yonny Hernandez on the Open Ducati GP13 in 7th, and Andrea Iannone on the second Pramac Ducati in 8th. Dani Pedrosa rounded out the top 10, the Repsol Honda rider struggling to find his form at his home Grand Prix.
As it stands, Aleix Espargaro, Smith, Bradl, Marquez, Lorenzo, Iannone, Rossi, Pol Espargaro, Pedrosa and Dovizioso are through to Q2 tomorrow afternoon. The riders get one more chance tomorrow morning, where the cool temperatures should allow for times to be improved upon.
Niklas Ajo has put his Avant Tecno Husqvarna on top of the Moto3 timesheets at Barcelona, the Finnish youngster taking over the lead at the end of the session. Ajo edged out Red Bull KTM's Jack Miller, the Australian just fourteen thousandths of a second slower than the Finn. Miller held off Isaac Vinales by the very slimmest of margins, one thousandth of a second, while the Italian duo of Niccolo Antonelli and Romano Fenati took 4th and 5th respectively. Alex Marquez was the first Honda home in 6th, four tenths behind Ajo.
The Marc VDS Racing team's domination of the Moto2 class continues unabated. Tito Rabat took the lead early, and only had his teammate Mika Kallio to contend with. As the session went on, even Kallio could not withstand the unrelenting pace of Rabat, the championship leader pulling out an advantage of nearly three quarters of a second. Kallio took 2nd, ahead of an impressive Jonas Folger, the German sporting new sponsorship after a string of good results. Mattia Pasini held on for the 4th fastest time, ending ahead a brace of Swiss Suters, ridden by Dominique Aegerter and Tom Luthi.
Aleix Espargaro leads the way after the first session of free practice for the MotoGP class at Barcelona. The NGM Forward rider put in a fast final lap to leap to the top of the timesheets, putting over seven tenths of a second between himself and Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo had led for most of the session, taking over from Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi, but was focused more on race pace than on posting a single fast lap like Espargaro.
Lorenzo ended the day in 2nd, but teammate Rossi was dropped down to 4th, after Andrea Iannone busted into 3rd place with a flying lap set behind Marc Marquez. The lap took its toll on Iannone, the Pramac Ducati rider running off the track half a lap later, the incident causing a puff of smoke to rise from his Desmosedici.
Stefan Bradl was the first of the Hondas, the LCR Honda man needing a good weekend to get his season back on track. Behind Bradl, Dani Pedrosa led Marc Marquez, the Repsol Hondas being uncharacteristically far down the standings. Alvaro Bautista completed the Honda freight train, the Gresini man ending the session in 8th.
Romano Fenati kicked off the Barcelona round of MotoGP in the same style which he left Mugello, topping the first session of free practice for the Moto3 class. Fenati led a trio of KTMs, finishing a little ahead of Isaac Vinales and Jack Miller. Fenati and the KTMs took over after a late charge, the Hondas of Alex Rins and Alex Marquez leading early, before succumbing to the KTMs.
Surprise of the early morning session was Brad Binder, the South African topping the timesheets at one stage, before being overhauled by the KTMs and Hondas. The Ambrogio rider ended the session as first Mahindra in 7th.
It is becoming customary for any MotoGP preview worth its salt to begin with a single question: can anyone beat Marc Marquez this weekend? That same question was put to the riders during the pre-event press conference, to which Valentino Rossi gave the most obvious answer. Of course it was possible, he said. 'It is nothing special. What you have to do is do your maximum and improve your level.' The only trouble is, every time Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo or Dani Pedrosa improve their level, so does Marc Marquez. But it is still possible, Rossi believes. 'We are not very far. It is not easy, but nothing special.'
Barcelona, like Mugello, is one of the tracks where Marquez is perhaps more vulnerable. It is a circuit where the reigning champion has always struggled – though for Marquez, 'struggling' means only managing podiums rather than wins – and where the Yamahas, especially, have been strong. Valentino Rossi has won here nine times, and Jorge Lorenzo, who has been either first or second at the track for the past five years. The track flows, and has a little bit of everything. A long, fast front straight, some elevation change climbing up into the two stadium sections, the two 'horns' of the Catalunya bull which the Montmelo circuit most resembles, a couple of esses, and long, flowing combinations of corners. Those corners more than compensate for the front straight. Jorge Lorenzo reckoned that the Yamaha had a top speed deficit of perhaps 4 or 5 km/h on the Honda, but that at Barcelona, this was less of an issue than at other tracks. After all, he pointed out, there are some 3.7 kilometers of corners in which to catch a Honda ahead of you.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of this weekend's Grand Prix at Barcelona:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's Catalunya Grand Prix at Barcelona: