Espargaro leads the way on first day of practice in Catalunya

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Open class rider sets overall best time ahead of Smith and Bradl

The opening day of free practice ahead of Sunday’s Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya threw up a number of surprises at the top of the time sheets with open class rider Aleix Espargaro setting the overall best time of 1m 41.672s this morning for the NGM Forward Racing team while Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Bradley Smith ended up second fastest on combined times with the British rider also setting the best time this afternoon.

We were able to do a fast lap and also the pace was quite good.

Aleix Espargaro

Third place rider Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) was fifth fastest after FP1 but managed to find a little extra on his Honda RCV213V and the German set a best lap of 1m 42.130s despite the scorching track temperature that played havoc with a number of riders. Championship leader Marc Marquez could only manage 5th today with the Repsol Honda rider unable to improve his times in front of his home fans but he wasn’t alone with Jorge Lorenzo behind in 6th for the Movistar Yamaha team with his best lap of 1m 42.282s just .008s behind Marquez.

Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone continues his good vein of form with the Italian sitting in front of fellow countryman Valentino Rossi and the Movistar Yamaha YZR-M1 and both Iannone’s best time of 1m 42.411s and Rossi’s 1m 42.423s lap were set this morning. Pol Espargaro sits in 8th overall with his best lap of 1m 42.608s good enough to see the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 man ahead of Dani Pedrosa with the Repsol Honda rider unable to improve on his best lap of 1m 42.664s set this morning.

Bradley Smith, Monster Yamaha Tech 3
Bradley Smith, Monster Yamaha Tech 3

Photo by: Luca Stella/FotoMorAle

Rounding out the top ten was the first of the factory Ducati Team riders with Andrea Dovizioso setting a best time of 1m 42.812s and in front of Alvaro Bautista (GO&Fun Honda Gresini) while Yonny Hernandez was once again impressive on the second Pramac bike with a 12th best time of 1m 42. 860s while Scott Redding was a full .725s ahead of the GO&Fun Honda Gresini rider. There was also a return to action for the Drive M7 Aspar rider Nicky Hayden with the rider coming back from wrist surgery and the American was fit enough to complete nearly 40 laps giving him the confidence to continue to rider tomorrow.

Espargaro was happy to finish in front but will focus tomorrow on his electronics set up to deal with the soaring Spanish temperatures. He said, “I’m happy with this morning’s result. We were able to do a fast lap and also the pace was quite good. We suffered more in the afternoon with the hot temperatures as the track was very slippery and the traction control was not helping. We made some changes on the front and we tested some different electronics settings, but we couldn’t improve our lap times and tomorrow we will keep on working on the electronics.”

Speaking after finishing second with the fastest lap this afternoon Smith was very happy saying, “To finish in 1st in FP2 is certainly great. I am pleased as we undertook some key work in Mugello and the results are shining through here as well. The setting is very positive with the bike although I wasn’t able to show it last time unfortunately. The main thing we looked at today was the front contact, the turning of the bike as well as front tire choices.

There are still a few areas we need to make some small adjustments on such as the balance and how it behaves in sector 4 of the circuit, which is a bit tough. Overall, I feel confident and happier plus I enjoy Barcelona as I run strongly here. It’s been a tricky few races but we have always worked hard and now I aim to keep this positive momentum for this weekend and the next few MotoGP races and continue to try my best."

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP
Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP

Photo by: Luca Stella/FotoMorAle

Bradl was very happy to be circulating near the top of the times following two mammoth crashes last time out in Mugello. “Obviously I am quite happy about today because first and second session went both quite good, “ he said while adding, “Our base set-up is working well and we made some little adjustments ahead the second session to improve the feedback from the front tire. We were trying hard and soft tire at the end of the session because it’s extremely important for the heat, as Sunday will be probably very hot. We are not sure about tire situation at this moment but overall our pace is quite good. Physically speaking I feel okay despite the tough weekend in Mugello. So I would say that this is another beginning for us and hope to continue in the same way even tomorrow.”

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About this article
Series MOTOGP
Event Catalan GP
Sub-event Friday practice
Article type Practice report
Tags bradl, catalunya, espargaro, featured, forward racing, hatch, honda, lcr, smith, yamaha