An extra touch of sun awaited the premier class for the pre-qualifying showdown. While the usual race runs were unfolding in the early part of the session, it was only Marc Marquez who improved on his Friday time by a few tenths and led FP3 throughout, with rather scary pace. His main challenger proved to be Johann Zarco, the Frenchman also improving to get within two hundredths of a second of the world champion.
The Valencian sun felt more generous the second time around and Saturday morning proved kinder to the lightweight class. Jorge Martin got back to his rightful place on a Saturday – at the top of the timesheets – with six minutes to go and continued to improve on the best time of the weekend in the following few laps. The Spaniard eventually posted the first time into the 1:38s to break the circuit record.
A lot has to happen if Andrea Dovizioso wants to win the 2017 MotoGP championship at Valencia. What he doesn't want to happen is for Marc Márquez to run away with the race. And so far on Friday, that's exactly what looks like happening. On the face of it, fifth in both FP1 and FP2 is not promising. But look at race pace, and it is clear that Márquez is in devastating form.
In FP1, Márquez used a single medium rear tire, and posted 11 laps of 1'31. No one else managed more than 3 laps at that pace. In FP2, he again used just a single tire, putting 20 laps on a soft rear tire. He set his fastest lap – good enough for fifth in the session – on his final lap, with a tire that has two-thirds race distance on it. While everyone else was throwing extra tires in to secure passage straight to Q2, Márquez was not concerned.
His pace left him feeling positive. "Of course this gives me good confidence," Márquez said. "But what is better is that we started the weekend in a good way. In FP1 I felt good with the bike. We are on Friday so we need to keep working and keep the same mentality and concentration."
Pol Espargaro will have to start the final round of MotoGP at Valencia from pit lane. The Spaniard exceeded his allocation of nine engines per season, by taking a tenth engine out in his final run of FP2.
Espargaro is a victim of the pace of development by KTM. The Austrian manufacturer switched from a screamer engine configuration to a big bang configuration at the Le Mans test before Jerez, electing to use it from the Jerez race. The two engines used until then were discarded.
A more welcoming 22 degrees were in store for the afternoon sessions, although – spoiler alert – it failed to liven up the intermediate class action too much, riders taking their time in improving their laps from the morning.
It did seem to do the trick for Pecco Bagnaia though. The Italian might have looked a little off the pace in FP1 but he built up some speed to lead the session after the first run and maintained his position until the final five minutes. Then it was once again Miguel Oliveira’s time to shine, the Portuguese rider the only one able to improve on his own FP1 benchmark. Bagnaia was demoted to second by only five hundredths of a second, the SKY rider splitting a KTM duo.
A little warmer, a little faster, but the premier class were in no hurry to dethrone Iannone’s best time of the day from FP1. The honour had to wait until the very last minutes of the session, when fresh rubber decided it in the favour of Jorge Lorenzo.
After the woolly hats were out in force for the morning sessions, Valencia added barely a handful of degrees to the thermometer, which meant that a few more fallers were added to the list and some gravel decorated parts of the tarmac for most of the session.
After narrowly missing out in FP1, Jorge Martin did not let another opportunity go past and got very close to the fastest lap around the Spanish track in the final ten minutes. The Spaniard couldn’t quite beat the record but fastest man of the day will do.
If Moto3 had a reasonable amount of gravel trap fun in the crisp Spanish morning, the intermediate class did its best to catch up early with some tangles of its own featuring usual suspects like Stefano Manzi and Axel Pons.
Nicolas Goubert is to leave Michelin and join Dorna, to lead the new electric bike racing series the Moto-e World Cup, due to be run from 2019. The press release announcing the move appears below:
Dorna Sports appoints Nicolas Goubert as FIM Moto-e World Cup Executive Director
Dorna Sports is pleased to appoint Nicolas Goubert as executive director of the upcoming electric motorcycle championship, the FIM Moto-e World Cup.
In the cold Valencian morning, the occasional crash punctuated a mixed up timing sheet which featured a largely surprising Italian at the top. Andrea Iannone showcased Suzuki’s moustache fairing in all its glory at the top of the standings for the final few minutes of the session after fitting a brand new softer option tyre.