Danny Kent has taken charge of the Moto3 class, edging ahead of the rest of the field at the end to top the second session of free practice. Kent nudged Niccolo Antonelli into 2nd but eleven thousandths of a second, Ale Tonucci cloe behind on the Mahindra. The entire Moto3 field is close: less than a second covers the top 22 riders, nearly two thirds of the field.
The Estrella Galicia 0,0 team has got the weekend off to a strong start, with Jorge Navarro leading the first session of practice for the Moto3 class at Barcelona. The track was cold and dirty after the overnight rain, with times dropping only at the end of the session, and Navarro emerging as quickest. Championship leader Danny Kent set the 2nd fastest time, with Efren Vazquez in 3rd. Romano Fenati suffered a technical issue in the last few minutes of the session, and was forced to park his bike up around the back of the circuit.
Press release previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
There is more to Mugello than just MotoGP. Being so large and so fast, the track makes for great racing in all classes, though each with a decidedly different character. While the MotoGP race saw one rider escape and a tense game of cat-and-mouse behind, the Moto2 race was a game of chess with riders gaining and losing over twenty-one laps, and the Moto3 race turned into a spectacular battle, with the outcome uncertain to the end.
The first race of the day was probably the best. Polesitter Danny Kent had made his intentions clear, trying to make an early break and grind out laps which were simply too fast for the rest to follow. That worked at Austin and Argentina, where he could hold his advantage down the long, fast straights, but not at Mugello. The fast exit of Bucine means that a group always has an advantage, the lightweight Moto3 bikes slingshotting out of each other's slipstreams to hit speeds which would otherwise be impossible. At other tracks, a gap of half a second is sufficient to keep ahead in Moto3. At Mugello, you can lose that and much more down the fiercely fast straight.
Kent abandoned his attempt to make a break almost immediately, and switched tactics, dropping to the back of the group, which ebbed and flowed into two groups, then one, containing up to fifteen riders. The lead changed hands more times than there were fans in the stands, a new rider taking over every corner almost. Being Mugello, the front was replete with Italian riders. Romano Fenati, sporting a rather stunning special livery for his home round, Niccolo Antonelli, the youngsters Pecco Bagnaia and Enea Bastianini, all had their sights set on the podium, and most especially the top step.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races at Mugello:
Over the past two years, Marc Márquez and his team have proven to be a master of strategy. They have found a number of innovations, most notably the two-stop, three-run strategy during qualifying, and the bunny hop bike swap during flag-to-flag races. Santi Hernandez has earned his reputation as a brilliant crew chief, and as a strategist capable of finding advantages in places where other teams simply haven't thought of looking.
So for Márquez to first miss out on going straight to Q2, and then make a fatal error again in Q1 leaving him in thirteenth is frankly shocking. Two major blunders in one day is unlike Márquez' side of the Repsol Honda garage, and their worst mistake since Phillip Island in 2013, where they miscounted laps for the compulsory pit stop and Márquez found himself disqualified.
What caused them to mess up like this? Concern about the championship, and then a touch of hubris. Márquez spent FP3 working on set up for used tires, looking at pace later on in the race. That meant he had little time at the end of the session to push for a fast lap, and found himself bumped out of the top ten as the pace hotted up. He missed out on Q2 by a very narrow margin: just 0.009 separated him from Maverick Viñales in tenth, and less than a hundredth of a second from Bradley Smith in a very safe eighth spot.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Mugello:
Fabio Quartararo has topped the final session of free practice for the Moto3 class. At one of the most difficult tracks to learn on the calendar, the French youngster took just two sessions to get a handle on the circuit and set the fastest time. Miguel Oliveira took 2nd, the Red Bull KTM rider ending just under two tenths behind Quartararo and ahead of Danny Kent. Romano Fenati was the first Italian home,putting the Team Sky VR46 bike into 4th place, ahead of the Mahindra of Jorge Martin.
Niccolo Antonelli ended the final Moto3 session Friday with the top time and the lap record at his home track at Mugello, Italy. The Italian's 1’57.616 was more than half a second quicker than Efren Vazquez who finished the session in second. Isaac Viñales grabbed third, just in front of Miguel Oliveira (4th) and Romano Fenati (5th).
Championship leader Danny Kent ended his day sixth-fastest, eight-tenths of a second off the top pace.
Enea Bastianini got his home Grand Prix off to a flying start, topping the first session of free practice in the Moto3 class. Danny Kent ended the session in 2nd, finding some speed at the end of the session after being well down the order early on. Niccolo Antonelli is third fastest, half a second behind Bastianini, and just ahead of Karel Hanika, the first rider on a KTM.