2015 Indianapolis MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Marquez' Return, Lorenzo's Standstill, Rossi's Qualifying, And Moto3 Money Troubles
After practice on Friday, it looked like the MotoGP race at Indianapolis was going to a knock-down, drag-out battle between Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo, both men very evenly matched. A day later, and it looks like the battle could be much bigger than that, with Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi on the same pace, and maybe even Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith, and if things go right for him, Aleix Espargaro involved in the fight. Unfortunately for the fans, the battle will be for second, as one man has moved the game on. Marc Márquez' reign in the USA is looking increasingly secure.
The Repsol Honda rider upped his game on Saturday, topping both free practice sessions comfortably, his pace in FP4 particularly fearsome. He finished FP4 over six tenths ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, setting his fast lap on old tires, in full race trim, on the second lap of a long run. His pace was solid, all mid to high 1'32s, where Lorenzo was cranking out low 1'33s. He then followed it up in qualifying with a display of supremacy which belied the ease with which he took pole. After going out and setting the pole lap on his first flying lap, he returned to the garage where he sat calmly for five minutes, unperturbed by the happenings on the track. He returned for another try, even though it was not needed, and set another lap faster than any other rider would manage.
In the press conference, Márquez explained that he was once again comfortable on the bike, and that his team had found another step forward. The language he used to describe his situation was both modest and inaccurate. "Yesterday, I saw that Jorge was really strong," he said, "but today we got closer and we had a similar pace." In truth, Márquez and Lorenzo had similar pace on Friday. On Saturday, Márquez was head and shoulders above the rest.
Press releases from the teams, Bridgestone and the circuit after qualifying at Indianapolis:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Indianapolis:
Results and summary below:
Marc Marquez made it immediately clear that Sunday was not going to be the Jorge Lorenzo show with a series of blistering FP4 laps Saturday that put him six-tenths of a second clear of the field. Jorge Lorenzo, fastest in previous practices, managed a distant second and the riders worked less on fastest single laps than on on race setup. Dani Pedrosa improved his showing with third-quickest in the session.
Valentino Rossi, who has struggled with the bike all weekend, managed to hang on for fourth-fastest but with a lap time -- 1'33.224 -- that is slower than his FP3 best. Andrea Iannone finished the session with the fifth-fastest time.
Championship leader Danny Kent set the new Moto3 single-lap record while grabbing pole position Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kent's 1'40.703 bettered Jack Miller's lap record from one year ago and left him eight-hundredths of a second clear of Miguel Oliveira (2nd).
But the biggest surprise of the session was Zulfahmi Khairuddin who grabbed a tow from Niccolo Antonelli to jump from 17th to second on the grid on his final lap. (At the session's end he was bumped to third by Oliveira.) This is, by far, Khairuddin's best qualifying postion of the year having only once before made it into the top 20.
Enea Bastianini managed fourth and Moto3 rookie Fabio Quartararo rounded out the top five.
The session marked Kent's fouuth pole of the 2015 season. He has five wins this year to lead the championship by 66 points.
Alex Rins has ended the final session of free practice for the Moto2 class on top of the timesheets. The HP 40 Pons rider fired in a quick final lap to sneak ahead of Franco Morbidelli, who had in turn edged ahead of Tito Rabat. It was Tito Rabat who had made the early running, grinding out his usual long and punishing runs, with only Alex Rins briefly interrupting his flow. But fast laps by Morbidelli and then Rins pushed Rabat down to 3rd at the end.
The top 3 all had a comfortable cushion over the rest of the field. Sam Lowes finished in 4th, half a second shy of Rabat, and a few hundredths ahead of Jonas Folger. Johann Zarco had another difficult session, stuck in the pits for nearly 20 minutes, and only managing to set the 10th fastest time.
Marc Marquez turned the thumbscrews in the final session of free practice for the MotoGP class, the Repsol Honda rider setting a blistering pace even in race set up, with only Jorge Lorenzo able to follow in the first part of FP3. Marquez remained ahead in the final part of the session, as riders started chasing quick times looking for safe passage straight into Q2. They came close, but nobody could quite match the pace of the man who has never lost a MotoGP race on American soil.
Bradley Smith was the man who got closest, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider bagging 2nd spot just three hundredths of a second behind Marquez. The gap behind Smith was much larger, Andrea Iannone taking 3rd nearly three tenths behind Smith and a third of a second behind Marquez. Dani Pedrosa had decent race pace during the first part of FP3, and pushed on to grab 4th spot once the final dash for Q2 started.
Pedrosa finished ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, the Movistar Yamaha rider ending up in 5th, just over four tenths behind Marc Marquez. But Lorenzo chose to focus on race pace, never bothering to push for a quick lap. Lorenzo used the second half of FP3 to do a long run of 14 laps, most of which were in the low 1'33s. Cal Crutchlow finished in 6th, just a few hundredths behind Lorenzo.
Danny Kent has once again topped the timesheets at Indianapolis, putting a big chunk of time between himself and his rivals. The Leopard Racing rider spent most of FP3 inside the top five, as he continued to work on old tires, before putting on fresh rubber at the end to take the lead and gap the opposition. He ended the session just under half a second ahead of the rest.
Jorge Navarro was the man in second, the Estrella Galicia rider also putting in a late charge, but not fast enough to get close to Kent. Niccolo Antonelli took the third spot, a tenth of a second behind Navarro, and another tenth ahead of Kent's teammate Efren Vazquez. Two former Red Bull Rookies took 5th and 6th positions, Philipp Oettl ending FP3 ahead of Jorge Martin.
It was a tough session Romano Fenati. The Italian did well early in the session, before crashing with a few minutes to go. That ruined his chance of getting a late run on new tires, and as his third crash of the weekend, it must have started to dent his confidence.
2015 Indianapolis MotoGP Friday Notes - Marquez vs Lorenzo, The Mystery Of Tires, And Weird Silly Season Rumors
Every race track has something special, but each is special in a different way. There are the tracks which are notable for the speed, such as Mugello, Termas de Rio Hondo, or Phillip Island. There are tracks which have a spectacular setting, such as Phillip Island, Mugello, or Aragon. There are tracks which are notable for their layout, either fast and flowing like Assen or Brno, or tight and treacherous such as the Sachsenring. And then there are tracks which are so unlike anywhere else that motorcycle racing goes to that they have a character all of their own. Like Indianapolis.
What makes Indy such a unique challenge? "The special thing about this track is that during the weekend, the grip is improving a lot, so this is one point you must understand during the weekend how the grip improves," Marc Márquez said. Understanding this, that the track you roll out onto on Friday morning bears no relation to the track you will be racing on come Sunday, presents a very specific challenge. It rewards riders and teams who understand how a track matures and changes, can anticipate what is coming without getting ahead of themselves and paying the price for overestimating the available grip. A number of riders did that on Friday morning, especially in Moto3. Getting it wrong in the afternoon was worse, as Pol Espargaro demonstrated by opening the gas just a little more than the tire could cope with, and finding himself being spat off his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha and onto the hard, unforgiving tarmac. The fault was all his, Espargaro said.
Before the track was resurfaced, he would have had something else to blame, but the changes mean that the tarmac is much more predictable, with a single type of asphalt all around the infield. "Consistent" was the word used over and over again by rider after rider when asked to describe grip levels. They meant around the track, rather than all day, however. Because the road course at IMS sees so little use, it is dusty and green when MotoGP rolls into town, needing sweeping and some rubber laid down on it. That takes the best part of the first day, with the added complication of drastically rising temperatures from morning to afternoon.
Press releases from the teams and Bridgestone after Friday practice at Indy:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
Tito Rabat has taken charge of the Moto2 class, controlling FP2 from the middle of the session. The reigning world champion was fast throughout practice, and set a pace which no one could get near. Sam Lowes got closest, the British rider ending the session in 2nd, but still nearly a third of a second off the pace of Rabat. Takaaki Nakagami was a surprising 3rd, though the Japanese rider has form here, having been on the podium once in 2013.
After leading the session early, Alex Rins found himself relegated to 4th, as other riders upped their pace. Rins ended the session just ahead of Johann Zarco, the championship leader finding some speed towards the end of the session, though he spent a lot of time in the pits with his team working on the bike. Mika Kallio ended the session in 6th, whil Jonas Folger was 7th.