Just 0.068 covers the top three after a rainy morning gives way to a sunny afternoon in Valencia
It was a close Day 1 at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, with Ducati vs Honda at the top and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) taking final honours by the end of play. FP1 was wet before the sun came out in the afternoon and created a frenetic mini-qualifying session, leaving Miller, Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) in second and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) in third covered by just 0.068.
Valencian Iker Lecuona (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) started the day on top as he impressed in the wet. The Spaniard’s 1.40.569 was good enough to beat second place Miller – who was a late crasher at Turn 1 – by 0.155s, while Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completed the top three.
Unexpected rain started to fall just before the premier class’ opening session, handing the riders some tricky conditions to deal with on Friday morning. Danilo Petrucci’s (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) final MotoGP™ weekend got off to a painful start as the Italian suffered a nasty off-throttle highside at Turn 4, but thankfully Petrux was able to walk away from the crash.
Bagnaia tucked the front at Turn 2 soon after – rider ok, as was Luca Marini (Sky Avintia VR46) as he also took a tumble.
The rain did stop and conditions improved towards the end of the session, which saw plenty of riders improve their times. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) rounded out a top five split by 0.374s, and less than a second covered the top 12.
With the track dry enough for slicks, FP2 was all action from the get-go. And just like 2021 rival Bagnaia did in the morning, World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) tucked the front at Turn 2 – rider ok. It was Bagnaia who led the way in the early stages of FP2, but Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) moved the goalposts with just over 20 minutes remaining, a 1:31.832 the new benchmark.
Heading into the ever-exciting final 10 minutes, Morbidelli led Miller by 0.071s, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and fellow HRC rider Pol Espargaro going well in the top four. New rubber than came out for many as attentions turned to the top 10 and a provisional place in Q2.
Immediately, the standings changed. Miller went top with a 1:31.409, with Andrea Dovizioso (Petronas Yamaha SRT) launching to P2. The timing screens were changing constantly though and it was a proper mini qualifying session in Valencia – Miller, Pol Espargaro and Bagnaia all exchanged P1.
Pol Espargaro then crashed on his final lap at Turn 6, rider ok, with Miller’s penultimate lap handing the Australian P1 to prove the final decider.
As well as Quartararo and Pol Espargaro, Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) and Lecuona also took tumbles.
With rain in the morning it’s FP2 times that make the combined timesheets. You could split the top trio of Miller, Pol and Pecco with a tyre blanket, but then there’s a bit of a gap to Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in fourth. The Spaniard is 0.409s down on P1, while Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) rounded out the top five – also 0.4s shy.
Nakagami had a solid opening day in P6, the Japanese rider just ahead of 2020 World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in seventh and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in eighth. Dovizioso slipped to P9 by the time FP2 had ended but a top 10 is a fantastic Friday result for the Italian as he cotninues to adapt to the 2019 M1. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) occupies P10 ahead of Saturday’s action.
That starts at 9:55 (GMT +1), before the final qualifying of the season from 14:10. Pecco has six poles so far and Quartararo five… will that change in the season finale? With Quartararo down in P11 after Friday, the Frenchman will be looking to bounce back strong in the morning…
MotoGP™ Friday top five:
1 Jack Miller – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 1’30.927
2 Pol Espargaro – Repsol Honda Team – Honda – +0.012
3 Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – +0.068
4 Alex Rins – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – +0.409
5 Jorge Martin* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – +0.469
*Independent Team rider
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