Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi posted a late lap time to go quickest on the first day of free practice at the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya ahead of Yamaha Factory Racing teammate Jorge Lorenzo and championship leader Dani Pedrosa for the Repsol Honda Team.
Set in the afternoon session, which saw track temperatures of 53 degrees Celsius, Rossi completed 17 laps and achieved a best effort of 1’42.297, leading Lorenzo by just 49 thousandths of a second, with Pedrosa one and a half tenths off the pace with a time set in the cooler morning conditions. Alvaro Bautista recovered from a morning accident to go fifth for GO&FUN Honda Gresini, rounding out the top five behind Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, who was only the second other rider in the top ten to set his quickest lap in the morning.
Repsol’s Marc Marquez ended Day 1 of his first premier-class home Grand Prix event in sixth position, having already pinpointed the Circuit de Catalunya weekend as one of the most difficult of the season. In seventh place, Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden beat Alex Barros’ 2004 record for the highest top speed at the track, posting a 339.4km/h (210.8mph).
The first ten was completed by Hayden’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl and Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro, who is one of six Spanish rides in the field this weekend. Despite finishing ninth, Bradl suffered another fall as the German lost control of his Honda at La Caixa curve after loosing the front under braking. The sixth Spaniard, Avintia Blusens’ Hector Barbera, ended the day in 15th position as Tech 3’s Bradley Smith was taken to the Medical Centre for a check-up following an accident at the sweeping Turn 3.
Much of the focus of the day was on tyre choice for the race, with the majority of riders already stating that the harder option front is a certain choice, whilst many will be using Saturday to decide between the softer or harder option rear.