Action got underway at the Motorland Aragón circuit today with the first two free practice sessions ahead of Sunday’s Gran Premio Movistar de Aragón. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi was quick to find a competitive pace and powered to a solid fourth place after FP2. Teammate Jorge Lorenzo struggled to find the right set-up in the afternoon to solve vibrations, but persevered. He caught up at the end of the afternoon session, securing seventh place in the combined rankings.
Rossi was quick to position himself as a key protagonist in the morning session. Whilst getting a feel for the track he set the provisional fastest time on his second flying lap, before putting his attention towards finding a perfect balance for his bike. As the session progressed he improved, found a solid rhythm and ended the morning practice with a best time of 1’49.016s for second place, 0.186s from first.
The Doctor stuck to the same approach in the FP2 session, using the early stages to set a fast time for provisional first place before further improving his bike’s set-up. In the final three minutes the Italian rider bettered his morning time by nearly half a second with a 1’48.669s lap and ended the first day of practice in fourth position in the overall standings, just 0.240s from the front.
Lorenzo had a good start to his home Grand Prix. Eager to win the Aragón Grand Prix for the third year in succession, he progressively built up his pace in the morning practice. Though he focused mainly on bettering his bike’s set-up, he dropped into the mid-1’49s towards the end of the session and went on to conclude the morning in fifth position with a 1’49.573s, 0.743s from first.
The Mallorcan again displayed his determination in the afternoon. When faced with vibration problems, he spent the majority of the second session trying various tyre options in preparation for Sunday’s race. His hard work paid off at the end of the session when he dropped under the 1’49 mark, setting a fastest time of 1’48.914s for seventh place in today’s combined times, 0.485s from first.
Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“It’s been quite a mixed but overall rewarding start to the Aragón Grand Prix. On Vale’s side everything went very smooth and they were able to work well on almost all the stints. He has been quite consistent with his pace during both practices while he still kept a margin for the end when he signed off the day with a 1’48.6s lap. Unfortunately, Jorge suffered a bit more in the afternoon, especially with the front feeling with the medium tyres and only at the end of the session he was able to set a decent lap with a front tyre that had already done 25 laps. Taking this into consideration, he has performed well. Tomorrow we have to focus on our main task to extend the rear tyre life, something we definitely need to improve. In the meantime, we have to better the reactivity of the bike in the change of direction, because for the moment the handling is still too heavy.”
“In both practice sessions, in the morning and the afternoon, I was always quite strong but we have a lot of work to do, because we are good with the new tyres, the hard and the soft, after some laps. We are concentrating on this point of view, because it will be interesting for Sunday. From this first day we take some data and are quite happy. The first impression is this: with the new tyres we are very good, but after some laps our main rival suffers less with less stress on the tyres. This is quite worrisome for us and we have to get closer.”
“In the morning it wasn’t bad, I probably had the second fastest pace, but in the afternoon we struggled and we tried various tyres. The front medium tyres gave a lot of vibrations in the corners and the other option, the softer one from the morning that had a lot of laps, gave me a good confidence in the last free practice. All in all it wasn’t a good day. Tomorrow we want to try a new setting and improve the electronics and let’s see if we can be much faster.”
Strong Espargaro finishes in the top five on day one at Aragon
Monster Yamaha Tech3 team riders Pol Espargaro positively kicked off his campaign at the Motorland Aragon circuit by storming to 5th place overall aboard the YZR-M1. The young Spaniard began by completing the shakedown in 9th with his personal best being only 0.165 back from reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. The encouraging start left him confident of continuing his progress in the afternoon and there, he carried on adjusting the setup of his Yamaha MotoGP bike for Sunday. He pushed on but unfortunately fell at the notorious second corner half way through the session. However, he raced back to the pits and bravely remounted before posting his fastest lap on his 12th that saw him end up only 0.320 from the top of the field. The notable opening sees the 25-year-old primed for a successful day tomorrow where he will intend to extend his highly positive MotoGP qualifying record at the Aragon circuit.
Meanwhile, Alex Lowes got straight to work as he took the first steps in preparing for Sunday’s race whilst he also readjusted back to the Yamaha YZR-M1, after having competed in the World Superbike race in Germany last weekend. The young Briton launched into action in FP1 and after building his speed, he set his personal best on his final lap, which left him in 17th. Next, Lowes continued his efforts in the afternoon as he aimed to carry on learning but whilst he was improving his time, his progress was halted. This was due to him unfortunately falling at the second turn in the final moments of the session, similarly to several far more experienced riders including his teammate. Despite the unlucky fall, he is fully confident of advancing tomorrow as he remains keen to impress in the all-important qualifying day.
“Today has been a strong start to the weekend and I believe that finishing inside the top 5 is a truly positive result for us. The Hondas are running really well here and you can see that by looking at the time sheets, so to be as close as we are is certainly a promising way to kick off proceedings. Yet, in the middle of the FP2 session, I made a slight mistake and crashed in the second corner while I was changing direction, which was a pity. I didn’t expect this to happen and I think we have to work a bit more on the setting of the bike in order to increase the front grip so that we avoid this kind of issue for the rest of the weekend. However, I was able to cut my lap time towards the end of the practice even though I was not pushing at the maximum level. Having said that, we need to improve tomorrow and make a step up as our main target is to fight with Cal for the best independent rider position in Sunday’s race.”
“Initially I would like to begin by saying that it feels good to be back on the YZR-M1 even if it took me a few laps to feel confident this morning. However, I think we did an ok job in FP1 as I completed almost the entire race distance on the front tyre and I was still able to lower my times at the end of the session. However, this afternoon we couldn’t make as much progress as I would have liked to, but we clearly know which areas I need to advance in, so we will have an in-depth look at our data in order to make a solid plan for tomorrow. I definitely feel that we have a margin of improvement to make regarding the corner speed, and especially in long turns, plus I am also struggling a bit with a lack of rear grip. Yet, I’m sure we’ll be stronger in FP3 and I’m already looking forward to getting back on the Yamaha.”
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