Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class at Sachsenring:
The riders used the last practice session to chase a potentially useless dry set-up but also to practice some bike swaps in case of a flag-to-flag challenge in tomorrow’s race. The Ducati of Andrea Iannone took its rightful place at the top of the standings as Marc Marquez literally wiggled his way into second with Dani Pedrosa in third, a thousand of a second off his teammate’s time. Maverick Viñales kept close in fourth, in front of a more determined Andrea Dovizioso.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class at Sachsenring:
Moto2 times were much quicker to fall than their MotoGP counterparts but the timesheets didn’t spring any major surprises. Thomas Luthi climbed to the top early on, with Takaaki Nakagami keeping close. As close as 0.012. They were undisturbed for the rest of the session, although Simone Corsi had a late attempt to overturn the hierarchy, eventually settling for third.
Forward’s Lorenzo Baldassarri was a major improver in fourth, upping his Friday time by over a second and a half and consistently threatening the top three. Jonas Folger ended up fifth while birthday boy Johann Zarco in sixth will be hoping for a better present during the qualifying session.
Some of the Friday clouds left the perimeter proving the sun still visits Germany, yet the times were slow to drop on Saturday morning. Improving his time by four tenths early on, Marc Marquez later tested the new chassis proposed by Honda. While he set reasonable times on it, the Spaniard returned to his normal configuration for the ten-minute shootout and slashed over a second off his FP2 time, going straight to the top.
Saturday morning seemed to have a similar script to Friday – minus the rain. Andrea Locatelli was an early leader before letting Brad Binder set a string of fast laps at the top. But the South African had to concede first place to yesterday’s leader Enea Bastianini in the final minutes of the session.
After a rather worrying performance on the first day of practice, rookie Aron Canet gained some confidence in the warmer temperatures to climb up the timesheets into third position. Romano Fenati joined him in fourth after a pretty minor early crash.
It was a wasted day at the Sachsenring. The day started cold but with a dry track, then, ten minutes into MotoGP FP1, a fine mist of rain started to fall, making already tricky conditions positively terrifying. A few journalists walked through the Sachsenring paddock up towards the end of pit lane, where the fences give you great views of Turn 1 and Turn 11.
Just as we arrived, Scott Redding's battered Pramac Ducati returned to the paddock in the back of a recovery trailer. When we turned around to watch the bikes coming through Turn 11 again, Jorge Lorenzo slid through the gravel towards us, his foot caught up in his bike for a while. While we were watching Lorenzo hit the gravel, we heard another bike scrape across asphalt and into the gravel. It was Stefan Bradl's Aprilia, the German having lost the front at Turn 11, just as Lorenzo had.
The rain continued, never really heavy enough to soak the track properly, only lifting towards the end. A few riders went out on wet tires to check their repaired bikes, coming straight back in again. The morning session was lost to the weather conditions. The afternoon session was a little better – at least it was dry – but the track temperatures meant that the tires never really got to the operating range they were designed for.
The first thing to greet the intermediate class riders as they hit the track was the red and white flag signalling the presence of one of Sachsenring’s most frequent guests: rain. The riders made the pilgrimage back to the pits soon after, as spectators wrapped up in rain capes.
Halfway through the session, Johann Zarco once again took the initiative, slowly prompting his fellow riders to join the track-drying fun. After holding an early lead, the Frenchman dropped to fourth as morning leader Nakagami made the jump from sixteenth to second and then to first in the final five minutes.
The rain that pulled the curtains on the Moto3 session stopped before it was the turn of the MotoGP machines to hit the track. They didn’t do it in a hurry, Bradley Smith being the opening act on a damp track, quickly followed by Valentino Rossi.
As the surface dried, Maverick Viñales was the first rider to drop under the morning’s best time, promptly beaten to it by Marc Marquez, the two Spaniards continuing to exchange times at the top until the mid-session stop into the pits. After resuming action, the Suzuki rider was another one to perform the pitlane “jog of shame” after crashing in the troublemaking turn eleven.
The Sky team was on fire in the early part of the afternoon session, Romano Fenati stepping it up once again and grabbing the top position by eight tenths of a second in front of Nicolo Bulega. The last minutes of the session poured some water on that fire, Fenati crashing and collecting Adam Norrodin, while Enea Bastianini was sneaking into the top position.
As the checkered flag dropped, so did the rain. Fenati stayed second, followed by Bulega and Gabriel Rodrigo, with Brad Binder progressing up to fifth place after struggling a little early on. While Antonelli wrapped things up early following a fast crash at turn seven, his teammate Jules Danilo impressed in sixth position.
Still battling the drizzle that turned the MotoGP session into a 10-minute sprint, the Moto2 riders took it easy for the first half of FP1. Dominique Aegerter tested the waters (quite literally) with a slick tyre as the lights turned green for the morning session, leaving the track feeling quite lonely until Raffin, Marini and Pons polished their wet weather skills.
The final half hour saw Zarco bravely out on slicks again, his times encouraging some more action, including a rodeo-style wiggle from the Frenchman himself. He didn’t tumble but times did as riders gained confidence and track conditions improved. Once things settled, the usual suspects took over at the top, a first position certifying Takaaki Nakagami as one of them for yet another weekend.
A dry but drizzly start to the session quickly turned into a drizzly and dull thirty-minute pitstop. Andrea Iannone, Marc Marquez and Danilo Petrucci were early leaders before the rain stole the spotlight from all the talk about Michelin’s asymmetric front tyre.
Before the action was paused, Scott Redding turned out to be the first victim of turn 11, in the first six minutes of the session, getting a chance to practice the trademark Marquez run down the pitlane. That later proved to be one of the highlights of an action-strapped session.
Riding in weather that seemed to be preparing us for winter holiday instead, the Moto3 grid was admirably tame, with only a handful of minor crashes as rain threatened to show up but didn’t really do so.
Romano Fenati and Enea Bastianini switched positions at the top for much of the session, the Sky rider grabbing the lead before the mid-session recess. Once action was resumed, the Italian armada made a comeback, taking over the top 6, eventually separated by Binder, Martin and Bendsneyder.
There are good times to talk to MotoGP riders and there are bad times. Among the bad times are when sessions of other classes are on, or when other major sporting events intervene. Valentino Rossi's press debrief on Saturday afternoon is one example. When it clashes with the start of the Red Bull Rookies Cup race, Rossi can be distracted as he watches the opening laps on TV screens in the Yamaha hospitality. Though Rossi is the consummate professional, always giving relevant answers to the questions we put to him, sometimes we have to wait, as fourteen Red Bull Rookies all try to fit into a corner where only three will go.
On Thursday, the press debriefs of the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders were up against the last twenty minutes of the Tour de France stage which finished near the top of the Mont Ventoux. (Not actually at the summit: strong winds meant the finish was moved 6km from the top.) Cycling is something which MotoGP riders tend to become passionate about, as they do it so much to maintain fitness. And the finish to this particular stage became so intense that both Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro remained glued to the screen, as did most of the journos who had come to talk to them, including myself. We talked a lot with the Tech 3 boys, but none of it was about MotoGP.
Well, not quite none. As I prepared to rush from Tech 3's hospitality through the tunnel under the track to a press conference I was already late for, I quickly asked about the asymmetric front tires Michelin have brought to the Sachsenring. "We'll see tomorrow," was Bradley Smith's answer, followed by a comment that he was more happy that the French tire manufacturer has brought the extra soft front rain tire, as the soft had still proved too hard at Assen.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin ahead of this weekend's German Grand Prix:
Repsol Honda Team look forward to season’s halfway mark at Sachsenring
The ninth round of the MotoGP World Championship, scheduled for this weekend at the Sachsenring circuit, marks the midway point in the 2016 season, with Marc Marquez leading the Championship classification and teammate Dani Pedrosa lying in fourth place.