As had been trailed since the start of this year, Triumph have finally been announced as the official engine supplier to the Moto2 class from 2019 onwards. The deal with Dorna will see Triumph supply a specially modified version of the 765cc triple which powers their new Street Triple range of production bikes.
The contenders that announced themselves on Friday were still on top on Saturday morning but with some other names than the EG 0,0 duo making the headlines. As the riders focused on race settings, there were very few changes throughout the top ten during the session.
In the cooler conditions, Aleix Espargaro only needed five laps to improve on Dovizioso’s best time from Friday, the Spaniard showing off Aprilia’s new engine on top of the timesheets for most of the session. But the last ten minutes were reserved, as usual, for a final try at top ten glory, which meant the end of Aleix’s reign.
Valentino Rossi was the first to mount a challenge but coming in two hundredths of a second short. The Italian veteran had another go after putting in a brand new rear for the final three minutes - this time the mission was successful, Rossi taking the lead by over three tenths of a second.
A clear blue sky and some fewer degrees were in store for Saturday morning, as the Moto3 class started the proceedings for qualifying day. The conditions meant that many riders took their time before improving on their Friday benchmarks.
Joan Mir’s position at the top of the standings was only challenged briefly by Jorge Martin but a healthy tow every now and again meant that he quickly recovered to top the session by little over a tenth. Nicolo Bulega appears to be a serious challenger this weekend, the Italian finishing the session second, with compatriot and FP1 leader Romano Fenati right in the mix in third.
Riders never really know how badly injured they are until they get on a MotoGP bike and try to ride. That was what happened to Valentino Rossi at Mugello on Friday. He had expected to have a lot of pain breathing from the exertion of hustling a MotoGP machine around Mugello. "This track, Mugello, with a MotoGP bike, with this temperature is already very difficult physically even if you are at 100%," Rossi said.
It turned out that it wasn't the pain from the chest and abdominal injuries which were giving him the most problems in the morning. "This morning, I had a problem with my arm, especially in acceleration. When I open the throttle and I had to hold onto the handlebar with all my strength, I had a lot, a lot of pain," he said.
When you open the throttle on a MotoGP bike, though you push yourself forward on the balls of your feet as hard as you can, you still need to hang on to the handlebars with every ounce of your strength. The battering Rossi's body took in the motocross crash just over a week ago took its toll, and made him suffer. "Sincerely, I didn't expect this, maybe I expected something else."
Overcoming injury seemed to be the theme of the day in the intermediate class, with the leader as the first example. Alex Marquez must have felt at home in the sunbathing weather of Mugello, the Spaniard fast right out the box and bettering his teammate’s FP1 time on his first few laps. If his foot injury affected him in any way, it didn’t show, the Marc VDS rider posting a fast lap only three tenths slower than last year’s pole time.
It looked like his rivals were waiting until the final minutes to go all out but very few managed to improve significantly on their early laps. Takaaki Nakagami and Simone Corsi went two better than this morning to grab second and third positions, the latter almost four tenths down on Marquez.
While the sizeable audience was melting in a baking twenty-seven degrees, the riders were out to get crucial data for a race that appears set to be run in similar conditions. The final minutes of the session saw part of the grid trying on soft shoes to go for a fast run and ensure a Q2 place, which resulted in a pretty mixed grid.
Andrea Dovizioso looked set to get another session in the bag until the final three minutes when Cal Crutchlow showed up out of nowhere to steal the spotlight and post a time only just inside Dovizioso’s FP1 time.
It was a good tanning session for the teams as the hot weather welcomed the riders for afternoon practice. However, the high temperatures did not stop them from chasing a fast lap and improving on the FP1 benchmark even before the qualifying dummy run that ended the session.
Fabio Di Giannantonio showed up late to the party but when he did, he went straight into top position to be the first rider into the 1:57s. Several other followed his lead but the Italian went on to take top honours in the session.
A glimpse of sun and some dry tarmac were a pleasant change from the weekend the intermediate class enjoyed the last time around, although the timesheets don’t look particularly different. After Italian riders led the Moto3 and MotoGP FP1 sessions, yet another one was top of the timesheets in Moto2 – that one being, quite predictably, Franco Morbidelli.
The sun was smiling even more than usual over Mugello as the MotoGP class hit the track for their first official outing on Italian soil this season. And it was the Italians who proved to be most eager to get up to speed, with Andrea Dovizioso stealing the thunder from Maverick Viñales in the final five minutes of the session, after the Spaniard had led for most of it. The Ducati rider put in the soft rear tyre to ride under the circuit record.