Danny Kent's reign of terror continues in Moto3, the British rider dominating for most of the first session of free practice. Kent took the lead early, relinquished it briefly as a gaggle of KTMs took over at the top, then went back out and put nearly six tenths of a second over the opposition at the Indianapolis circuit. Unfortunately for Kent, he crashed on the next lap, walking away unhurt. No one could match his pace, though.
Kent's Leopard Racing teammate Efren Vazquez ended the session in 2nd, ending ahead of Miguel Oliveira on the Red Bull KTM, the Portuguese rider now fully recovered from the surgery to fix the left hand he injured at the Sachsenring. Niccolo Antonelli took 4th spot, ahead of Enea Bastianini.
Kent was not the only rider to have crashed during FP1. After heavy rain yesterday, the track was still very green, catching several riders out. Kent crashed towards the end of the session, as did Romano Fenati. Both Fenati and Kent were unhurt, but Jorge Navarro, who fell earlier in the session, fared less well, being badly shaken in his crash.
Press release previews from the teams ahead of this weekend's races at Indianapolis:
Press releases from the teams after the Sachsenring races:
Nine races down, nine to go. The Sachsenring marks the mid-point of the season, and in all three Grand Prix classes the outlines of the championship are becoming clear. In Moto2 and Moto3, there is one rider who can dominate, winning often, taking a hefty points haul when he can't, and having luck work in their favor and against their opponents. In MotoGP, the title looks to be settled between the Movistar Yamaha teammates, with the Repsol Hondas playing a decisive role.
The three races in Germany all played out following the broader patterns of their respective championships. In the Moto3 race, Danny Kent steamrollered his way to victory, his teammate Efren Vazquez helping him to extend his lead in the championship to 66 points by taking second ahead of Enea Bastianini. In Moto2, Johann Zarco narrowly missed out on victory, the win going to Xavier Simeon. The Belgian plays no role in the championship, while Zarco's nearest rival Tito Rabat was taken out by Franco Morbidelli in the final corner. Rabat's crash means Zarco now leads Moto2 by 65 points. Both Kent and Zarco can start to pencil their names in for the respective championships, their leads starting to edge towards the unassailable.
In MotoGP, the title chase is still wide open, with both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo easily capable of winning. The championship started strongly in Rossi's favor, then the momentum swung towards Lorenzo, before creeping back towards Rossi in the last two races. At Assen, Rossi put a big chunk of points between himself and his teammate. In Germany, the Repsol Honda men played more of a role in the championship than the two Yamaha riders, limiting Rossi's points gain to just three. He now sits thirteen points ahead of Lorenzo, with everything still to play for, and neither man capable of dealing a decisive blow.
After a reorganised grid, with the shenanigans of qualifying sorted out, would the shuffle affect the race result?
2015 Sachsenring MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Why The Hondas Are Fast, And Who Can Stop Marquez Or Kent
Is the run of Yamaha domination about to come to an end? After winning seven out of eight races, the Yamaha YZR-M1 certainly looks like the best bike on the grid, so on paper, it should continue to crush the opposition beneath its wheels at the Sachsenring. After all, the strength of the Yamaha is its ability to carry corner speed and get drive out of corners, and the Sachsenring has barely a straight line in its 3.7 kilometers. Yet after two days of practice, it has been the Hondas which have ruled the roost in Germany. The bike which is supposed to have problems looks untouchable, with Marc Márquez looking untouchable, Dani Pedrosa the best of the rest, and both Scott Redding and Cal Crutchlow showing real promise.
Why is the Honda so fast at the Sachsenring? Two reasons. Firstly, the circuit only has a couple of the types of corners where the Honda has struggled. It is only in Turn 8 and Turn 12 where the riders are braking almost straight up and down, the rear stepping out and becoming difficult to control. "Where we have a problem here is only two corners," Marc Márquez said at the press conference. "The rest is just with the gas, and there we don't have the problem." Those other corners are where the Hondas are making up the time. And they are making up the time because the track lacks grip.
One of the enigmas which we in the media center have been struggling with is whether the Honda does better in cold weather or in hot weather. But after much discussion with a bunch of people who are much smarter than we are, we came to the conclusion that the temperature of the track is irrelevant. It is not whether it is hot or cold that matters to the Honda, but whether the track actually has any grip. On a good track with plenty of grip, the Yamahas can carry corner speed and use the excellent mechanical grip of the bike to their advantage, and make a break. If such a track then also has a lot of sharp corners, where the Honda riders are struggling to control the rear under braking, and get it to slide controllably, then the Yamaha simply walks away, as do the Ducatis, and perhaps even the underpowered Suzukis. All three of those bikes can exploit mechanical grip, to carry corner speed and get drive as the riders lift the bike up from the edge of the tire into the traction area, where it can dig in and push the bike forward.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying:
Race Direction Get Tough On Towing: Grid Penalties, Points, Loss Of Warm Up Handed Out To 17 Riders, New Moto3 Grid Made
Race Direction has come down hard on riders dawdlilng on the racing line looking for a tow. Punishments have been handed out to a grand total of 17 riders in all three classes.
Punishment is particularly harsh in Moto3. The 11 riders who were caught waiting on the racing line were all given a penalty of 3 grid positions, basically all moving them back one row on the grid. Among the offenders are some high-profile names, including Enea Bastianini, currently second in the Moto3 title chase and who originally qualified 2nd on the grid. Bastianini has been moved back to 5th, Andrea Locatelli is bumped back to 9th, Jorge Navarro starts in 11th, Niklas Ajo in 13th, Jakub Kornfeil in 21st, John McPhee in 23rd, Hiroki Ono in 26th, Ana Carrasco in 27th, Maria Herrera in 31st, and Andrea Migno in 35th and dead last. The new Moto3 grid is shown below.
The loss of grid position is not the only punishment they face. All 11 Moto3 riders will also be forced to sit out the first 10 minutes of warm up on Sunday morning, losing them valuable set up and practice time. The goal of such a drastic measure is to try to drive home a lesson that even a stiff talking to at Assen had not helped make clear. Race Direction is being particularly heavy handed to send out a message which the riders will immediately feel.
Results and summary of Moto3 qualifying:
Danny Kent continues his demoralizing of the Moto3 opposition, the Englishman once again lapping the 3.671 kilometer circuit over six tenths faster than his rivals. Fabio Quartararo was once again the closest man to Kent, the French youngster taking 2nd ahead of Kent's Leopard Racing teammate Efren Vazquez. Alexis Masbou was 4th by the very slimmest of possible margins, just a thousandth of a second off Vazquez, and ahead of John McPhee, who is having a very positive weekend.