After the Friday washout, the paddock would have been relieved to see that a bit of mist was all they had to contend with this morning. Jorge Martin was one to welcome the dry conditions most, the Spaniard finally able and willing to run for the entire length of the session. The Gresini rider led the beginning of the session and bookended his morning by taking back the lead on his final lap in full qualifying trim.
Motorland Aragon, Spain
I, along with almost every photographer and a good part of the journalists present at Aragon, made my way down to the pit lane on Friday morning, to watch Valentino Rossi's first exit on the Yamaha M1 since breaking his leg in an enduro accident. It was overcast but dry, and there was a real sense of anticipation as Rossi limped to his bike, swung his leg awkwardly over it, then exited the garage smoothly and headed off down pit lane.
Before he and the rest of the MotoGP field had reached the exit of pit lane, the rain had started to fall. Not hard enough to leave the track properly wet, but enough rain to make using slicks impossible. FP1 was a wash. Fastest man Marc Márquez was 13 seconds off lap record pace.
The track dried out again during the lunch break, but once again, just as the MotoGP riders were about to head out, the rain started to fall. They found the track in FP2 much as they had left it in FP1: too wet for slicks, not really wet enough for a proper wet test. And with Saturday and Sunday forecast to be dry and sunny, any data collected was of very little use indeed.
With actual sunshine being back for the start of the Moto2 session, it was the first real dry session of the weekend. Occasional spits of rain did return but the intermediate class was not intimidated and continued to drop their times throughout the session.
Once again the weather screwed with the premier class, the sunshine that covered the Moto3 session mixing with spots of rain in the kickoff of FP2. That meant the first few minutes of the session were lost to setup changes and tyre swaps, only a handful of riders going around straight away on rain tyres.
The title contenders were cautious, first Valentino Rossi then Maverick Viñales and Marc Marquez joining the track ten minutes into the session. Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa bided their time a bit more while watching their rivals kicking up significant spray.
A touch of sunshine finally broke through the clouds over the Spanish circuit just ahead of the Moto3 class giving it another go for the day. Despite the widespread dry sections, the damp patches encouraged riders to make a few laps on rain tyres to begin with.
The likes of Canet, Fenati, Mir and Bastianini only joined the track in the final fifteen minutes, with Martin only putting in a couple of laps at the very end of the session. On a drying surface, FP1 leader Canet established himself as the fastest man by topping the timesheets soon after. World championship leader Mir had some legitimate claims at the top honour as well, but his enthusiasm came with a few trips outside track limits. After posting the first time of the afternoon into the 1:59s, that lap got cancelled, but a final push from the Spaniard put him back into contention and saw him finish the session at the top of the standings.
An overcast Motorland Aragon welcomed the intermediate class riders, spits of rain falling here and there and leaving the tyre choice unequivocal. Wet rubber gave Miguel Oliveira some time in the spotlight, the rain becoming more consistent just as the Portuguese rider took over at the front before the mid-session break.
In worsening conditions, no one looked to threaten his lead until the final ten minutes, when Tom Luthi found some pace on a track that’s not necessarily his favourite. The Swiss rider was the first to drop into the 2:09s, four tenths faster than his rivals, who did not get a chance to retaliate as heavy rain returned in the final minutes.
The rain gods may have forgiven the lightweight class but found some more enjoyment taunting their MotoGP colleagues, big drops of rain falling just as the premier class riders left the pitlane for the first time. After a slow procession around the track, they all returned to their garages, waiting for the conditions to settle.
The eagerly awaited dry time never came, with more spits of rain hitting the track in the final ten minutes, which meant another run on rain tyres. Marc Marquez improved his time further to end the session first, nearly half a second ahead of teammate Pedrosa, with Zarco in third breaking the Honda trio and pushing Miller into fourth spot.
Rain is no stranger to the paddock this season and even Aragon got its share as the weekend started. With rain falling in the early hours of the day, the circuit got a chance to dry up but the clouds and the extra jumper remained in the eighteen degrees. Despite the imperfect conditions, the lightweight class behaved and few incidents or off-track visits punctuated the morning’s action.
Aron Canet ended the session at the top of the timesheets, despite a late charge from Joan Mir bringing him within nine thousandths of second of that honour. Niccolo Antonelli found himself on Canet’s tail in the final laps and was aided to an encouraging third place.
Preview press releases from some of the MotoGP teams and Michelin:
Repsol Honda Team head to Aragón leading the Championship
The Repsol Honda Team are on their way to the ultra-modern facility of MotorLand Aragón after regaining the Championship lead two weeks ago at Misano, where Marc Marquez won his fourth race of the season.
What is Valentino Rossi doing back on a race bike just 22 days after breaking both the tibia and fibula in his right leg? The answer is simple enough: racing. How on earth can he be thinking about racing so soon? Quite simply, because his leg is in much, much better shape than he expected it to be.
The last time Rossi broke his leg back in 2010, he was in worse shape after the accident. "I remember in 2010 after the surgery I had five or six days where I was very, very bad," Rossi told the press conference. "This time already the next day I was able to come back at home."
That was also the moment when he started to think he might be able to return to racing quicker than in 2010. In the immediate aftermath of the accident, he immediately focused on Motegi as the target for his return. But that changed quickly. "In the first days I understand that I feel a lot, lot less pain compared to last time. So I think that I can make in a shorter time. The first week was difficult, but after the first 10 days I start to improve a lot, also every day, and started to have good feeling from the leg and ankle. And started to think about Aragon."
Before anyone in the paddock saw Rossi, there were few who thought he would be in any shape to be riding. But when he drove up to the paddock and got out of his car, it was clear he was in much better condition than any of us thought. He hopped out with relative ease, and took off with just a single crutch for support. No cast on his leg, just a support bandage.