Open class rider tops both sessions at tricky Sachsenring circuit
The first day of practice at the eni Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland ended with NGM Forward Racing rider Aleix Espargaro on top of the timing sheets on his Open Class Yamaha. Espargaro took advantage of the soft Bridgestone rear tire and his best time of 1m 22.041s leads championship leader Marc Marquez by .117s. Things may have been different it were not for a massive highside by Marquez this morning with the Repsol Honda rider being tossed into the air and coming down hard leaving him with bruising on his neck.
The weekend got off to a better start for Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo who used his YZR-M1 to the best of its ability on the twisty Sachsenring circuit and the two time MotoGP World Champion set a best time of 1m 22.368s. The German fans were right behind home hero Stefan Bradl from the very first lap this morning and the LCR Honda rider set himself a good benchmark ahead of tomorrow’s final free practice and the following qualifying session with a fourth place lap of 1m 22.430s.
Alvaro Bautista sits in fifth place on the GO&Fun Honda Gresini machine with a best lap of 1m 22.440s while Valentino Rossi set his fastest lap of 1m 22.466s in the first session this morning. Following Rossi into 7th was Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone just 0.099s off with Pol Espargaro right on his back wheel for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team as was the Ducati Team GP14 of Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa for the Repsol Honda team with these four riders separated by under .2s.
The tricky German circuit cough out a number of riders today along with the monster highside from Marquez with Bradley Smith crashing twice this morning and ended up in 11th for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team while there was crashes for Paul Bird Motorsport teammates Michael Laverty (14th) and Broc Parkes (23rd) while Pedrosa was also lucky to walk away from a high speed crash this afternoon.
Espargaro was thrilled with taking the fastest time today and is still testing a Yamaha frame back to back with his own Forward Racing chassis. “I feel great, and it was fantastic to ride here, like last year,” said Espargaro who continued, “We explored a lot of different settings on both the Yamaha and Forward bikes. I was really happy with our first day. I did my fast laps with the Yamaha frame; I think I can be faster on the Forward frame because it is a little bit better in the tight corners. Tomorrow I think I’ll use Forward in qualifying, we’re still experimenting a lot. I did 22 laps on the rear soft, it was strong till the end. I think we can race with the soft like in Assen but the temperature can change a lot here in Germany.”
Marquez was happy that he was able to continue after his crash, which he spoke about after today’s sessions. He said, “The day went very well, because even though I crashed I was fortunate not to get injured, but the impact was hard. The crash was a little strange, but when we looked at the telemetry later on we understood why it happened. It's a long left turn in second gear on the throttle the whole time, and I accidentally touched the gear shift lever with the toe of my boot. This engaged another gear and as I was leant so far over - and had the gas open - the rear wheel slid out and I was thrown off. The afternoon session was really good and I felt comfortable on the bike again. l was able to put in a good lap, but most importantly I kept up a strong pace.”
Lorenzo was content with his performance today and is looking forward to getting back on track tomorrow saying, “It went quite well today. We were always within the top three. Today the bike is working well. It’s more stable than it was in Montmeló and in Assen, so in pace I’m quite good and also the braking is good. We just need to improve some small details to fight for first row tomorrow. Also, physically I am better than ever, so I feel strong.”