Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class in Misano:
Franco Morbidelli was on fire as the intermediate class took to the track, the Italian rider going straight to the top of the timesheets and keeping Johann Zarco in check, both metaphorically and literally, the Estrella Galicia rider following the world champion around the track. The duo were at the top until the very last lap, when the man who dominated Friday in Misano, Takaaki Nakagami, showed his hand and surpassed both by over a tenth of a second.
With Morbidelli second and Zarco third, fourth position went to Lorenzo Baldassarri, who improved on his last lap to trail the top three by less than a tenth. An early time kept Thomas Luthi within three tenths of the leader, with Jonas Folger and Alex Marquez another tenth back, the two separated by barely five thousands of a second.
The Saturday morning session started off light, teams working on race pace in the beginning, only a few riders here and there improving their Friday times early on, including Valentino Rossi, his pal Aleix Espargaro and teammate Maverick Viñales.
With eight minutes to go, the fight for a place in the top ten heated up as usual and the world championship leader was the first to put the fight talk on track and set a 1:32.4, the fastest time of the weekend so far. That meant Marc Marquez led both the session and the combined practice times.
Another sunny morning opened Saturday proceedings for the Moto3 class, which meant the usual suspects fought to have their name at the top of the hierarchy.
Brad Binder, Jorge Navarro and Enea Bastianini juggled the top three for much of the session, before the South-African pulled a Lorenzo to set several sublime laps that beat the best time of the weekend, a mix of mid and high 1:42s. Meanwhile, the Honda boys were playing around with new fairings and let Joan Mir steal their thunder with a fast lap only a tenth away from the circuit record. The Spaniard went straight to the top of the timesheets and stayed there until the flag.
Every day that sees MotoGP motorcycles circulating in earnest is an interesting day, but some are more interesting than others. Friday at Misano was one of those days which last, throwing up surprises and shattering preconceptions. We found out that we need to throw overboard a lot of the things we thought about the current state of the MotoGP championship.
First, to the things which were not a surprise. That Yamahas should top both sessions of free practice, and establish themselves as favorites for the race was entirely to be expected. That Valentino Rossi should impress is no surprise either: Misano is his home race, and a win here is his best chance of getting back into the championship. Jorge Lorenzo finding his feet again, and laying down a withering pace raised one or two eyebrows among those who had written him off. But the real shocker was Pol Espargaro topping the second session of free practice, and ending the day faster.
Have Yamaha smuggled a few go-faster bits into the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha garage? The answer to that question is quite simply no. Espargaro's pace has a very simple explanation: the Spaniard has been strong throughout this season, the switch to the Michelins playing to his strengths. "This is a track where I am fast," Espargaro told us. "If we add here the new tires which are really grippy on the rear and quite good performance on the front, I feel like I can ride in my style, aggressive and opening the throttle really early with full lean angle. I feel really comfortable riding the bike."
Johann Zarco started the session at the top before Takaaki Nakagami built up momentum to lead another session on the Adriatic coast. The Japanese rider’s domination in the final sector kept Zarco’s attempts at bay until the end, registering a red hot last lap that put him over three tenths over the championship leader and the only rider into the 1:37s.
Much like in the morning session, Lorenzo Baldassarri left it late to challenge the top three but managed to put in a fast final lap that placed him one tenth off Zarco. Alex Rins and Thomas Luthi were next best, although Luthi failed to improve on this FP1 time.
If keeping count of cancelled lap times, you might have been under the impression that you were watching a Moto3 session this afternoon, but no, it was indeed the big boys being naughty in Misano.
After Jorge Lorenzo held the lead for a significant portion of FP2, it was Pol Espargaro who took an extra step from this morning to lead another session for Yamaha. Following the world championship leader on track, Espargaro put in a lap almost half a second faster than Lorenzo’s previous benchmark, becoming the first man into the 1:32s. While the rest chipped away at his lead, he still kept top position as the checkered flag came out.
With the track reaching over forty degrees as the afternoon sessions started, the Moto3 grid struggled to reach the morning times but had a good look at the tyres in potential race conditions.
Otherwise, the lap cancellation festival continued. Morning leader Enea Bastianini looked in good form despite some cancelled lap times of his own seeing him linger towards the end of the top ten before a final charge that gave him back top spot on the timesheets.
A hot day in Misano was led by a Takaaki Nakagami in hot form on a track that he seems to enjoy, with two podiums in the past three years. The Japanese rider set a string of red sector times in his last run, putting him ahead but within a tenth of this closest challengers.
Thomas Luthi was also in great shape after the Silverstone win, finishing second after leading much of the session. A little tumble in turn ten didn’t seem to bother him much, although he failed to improve his early time in subsequent runs.
A toasty (at least by Silverstone standards) twenty-four degrees welcomed the MotoGP class in Misano, the riders using the session to get used to the new construction of the front tyres brought by Michelin.
Very close times at the top saw homeboy/man Valentino Rossi take a popular late lead of the session, a tenth ahead of another Yamaha – a top two that seems predictable but what is less predictable is the name of that second Yamaha rider: Pol Espargaro. The Spaniard had a fantastic start to his weekend, constantly challenging at the top of the timesheets and leading several times.