The final piece in the FP1 puzzle started with Iker Lecuona as the early but precarious leader of the intermediate class session by only one thousandth of a second. Despite the minuscule advantage, his turn in the spotlight lasted until the final five minutes of FP1, when Dominiqe Aegerter took over the lead and kept it to the flag. Andrea Locatelli flew the flag for Italstrans from second position, only two hundredths of a second behind the leader and with Lorenzo Baldassarri only three thousandths of a second behind, making a late jump into third.
The moment the green flag waved, Marc Marquez was back on home soil – he might not be German but he definitely feels at home on top of the standings at the Sachsenring. The opposition was led by Andrea Iannone, who negotiated his way around the track on his own for a change and picked up the lead by nearly four tenths of a second from the world champion with seven minutes left of the session.
Under an unusually sunny Sachsenring sky, the action unfolded in familiar fashion. Jorge Martin was the early leaver of the first practice session, having immediately built an advantage of almost half a second on the man he dethroned in Assen, Marco Bezzecchi. The Gresini rider then posted the first time in the 1:27s and his rivals struggled to match this early pace.
The 1:27 club got a few more subscribers once the finally time attack got underway, although Martin was determined to get faster and faster and keep his prime position at the top of the classification. The Spaniard had no trouble doing that, leading the morning session by two tenths of a second from John McPhee. Philipp Oettl seemed to be preparing a bit of a comeback with third position in FP1, a mere thousandth of a second keeping him ahead of Enea Bastianini in fourth.
The Sachsenring is a unique circuit, and a unique place. We say that about almost every racetrack we go to, but it is much more true of the Sachsenring than of anywhere else. No track is as tight, yet deeply challenging as the tightly-coiled circuit in Hohenstein-Ernstthal, and the atmosphere among the fans is electric.
Normally here, I would give a brief description or history of the circuit at which MotoGP is due to race. But Mat Oxley has already done that much better than I would have, so I suggest you read his article on the Motor Sport Magazine website. There is a very good chance that this is the last race here at the Sachsenring, as Oxley lays out in the article. But all hope is not yet lost: regional politics may yet solve the problem, though it will be done with taxpayers' money.
Given the huge attendance at the circuit – Sunday numbers often well over 90,000, and over 100,000 on occasion – the race generates a huge amount of revenue for the surrounding area. Hotels are full, restaurants are heaving, supermarkets stock extra food and drink (especially drink). All that generates more revenue for local government through taxes. But will that be enough to justify spending on keeping the race here?
Press release previews from some of the MotoGP teams:
Repsol Honda look forward to another exciting race at Sachsenring
The epic battle in the Dutch TT at Assen resulted in the first 15 riders crossing the line just 16.043” apart, marking the closest ever top-15 finish of all time. Will the tight, twisty Sachsenring favour more close racing next Sunday?
Press releases previewing this weekend's races from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
TEAM DEL CONCA GRESINI LOOKING FOR CONFIRMATION AT SACHSENRING
With the summer break around the corner, Team Del Conca Gresini Moto3 is ready to take on the ninth event of the MotoGP World Championship, which takes place one of the most iconic circuits for two-wheeled racing: the Sachsenring.
After weeks of speculation, Dani Pedrosa has announced that he will end his active racing career at the end of the 2018 season. The Spaniard had been mulling his future for some time, after it had become clear that there was no place for him left in the Repsol Honda MotoGP team, and after discussions with other teams throughout the first part of the year, Pedrosa made his decision some time after Assen, and announced it at a special press conference held ahead of the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring.
"Next year, I will not compete in the championship, this means I will finish my career this season in MotoGP," Pedrosa told a packed press conference room at the Sachsenring. "This is a decision I've been thinking about for a long time, and it's a very hard decision because this is the sport I love. But despite having good opportunities to keep racing, I feel like I don’t live racing with such an intensity as before and I now have different priorities in my life."
"I would like to express how fortunate I feel to have had this opportunity," he said. "It's been an amazing life to be racing for such an important team and in front of all the fans. So I can say I achieved way more than I expected and I'm very proud of everything I've done in the sport. I fulfilled my dream of becoming a racer and this is something I didn't expect as a kid watching on TV." It was an emotional press conference, the normally taciturn Pedrosa fighting to control his emotions.
Marc Márquez better make sure he enjoys this weekend at his favourite racetrack, because he may never race there ever again
The last time Marc Márquez left the Sachsenring without a winner’s trophy was during his second season in the world championship way back in 2009. Every July since 2010, the Spaniard has climbed to the top step of the podium at the German venue. That’s eight consecutive victories, across the 125cc, Moto2 and MotoGP classes. In other words, the track is as close as it’s possible to get to a dead-cert 25-point haul for the reigning MotoGP world champion.
Gilles Bigot, the French crew chief of Marc VDS MotoGP rider Tom Lüthi, has been in MotoGP a long time. In that time, he has seen a lot of riders come and go, and learned an awful lot about racing. At Jerez, I spoke to the Frenchman about the process of adapting to MotoGP. What started out as an attempt to get to the bottom of the problems Tom Lüthi faces in his switch to MotoGP after spending so many years in Moto2 became something much deeper, and much more interesting. We ended up speaking for half an hour, all of which was fascinating.
In the first part of the interview, Bigot talks about his involvement in three key transitions. First, the switch from two strokes to four strokes, when the MotoGP machines replaced the 500cc bikes, and how Valentino Rossi made that jump faster and more easily than anyone else. Next, the introduction of the Moto2 class, when he was crew chief to Shoya Tomizawa, and how the Japanese youngster adapted to four strokes. And finally, why Kenan Sofuoglu, who eventually took over Tomizawa's seat after the tragic death of the Japanese rider, never really adapted to Moto2, and ended up going back to World Supersport.
Bigot had been crew chief to Alex Crivillé in 1999, when the Spaniard won his, and Spain's, first premier class title. After Crivillé retired at the end of 2001, Bigot embarked on a new project, working with the Tech3 team, who were at that point considering entering MotoGP. For the first part of the 2002 season, the year in which the four stroke 990cc MotoGP bikes made their first appearance, Bigot spent his time at the side of the track, watching the bikes and learning to understand the difference between the old two strokes and the new four strokes.
Gilles Bigot: I spent one year with the Tech3 team. I was in Grand Prix but at that time they wanted to set up a team for Sylvain Guintoli, with Gauloises and Yamaha. That was the idea from Hervé. Then at the end we did it. We did a couple of tests and we did one Grand Prix in Brno. So meanwhile I was doing this, some testing, and of course I was also going to the races. I was doing basically, not sight-seeing, but I was spotting some areas. It was the year of the transition with the 500 and MotoGP, so that was very interesting to watch. I witnessed a few things that were at that time very interesting.
Q: Such as?
Jonathan Rea may have done the double at the Italian circuitm but WorldSBK was in rude health last weekend
New tires offer a new reference
Pirelli brought a huge tire range to Misano. The Italian manufacturer has been criticized at times but they certainly aren't resting on their laurels in 2018. At their home round there were six front tire options available to teams and a new option to complement the increased profile of the rear tire. This new front tire wasn't to every rider's liking but it is now “the reference for teams” according to numerous engineers. The tire offered stability under braking but was a handful for some riders when they released the brake and tried to enter the corner. It will take time to make it work perfectly and find the correct settings but it was very well received.