Bagnaia heads Bezzecchi by 0.063, Rins and Binder give chase on tight Day 1 at Mugello.
The top two in the title race end a scintillating P2 at the summit, with Marc Marquez in and Quartararo out of Q2 despite stellar start.
Caught your breath yet? We haven’t either! A scintillating end to MotoGP™ Practice 2 decided the automatic Q1 and Q2 places at the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, and it’s home hero Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) leading the way thanks to a 1:45.436 – but his advantage is slender. Title rival Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) is second and just 0.063s off his compatriot, with third quickest Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) impressing, also within a tenth of Pecco’s effort.
A steady start
After struggling with a cycling injury he picked up on Thursday at the circuit and a crash in Practice 1, a limping Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) was back on track for Practice 2 as the Spaniard and the returning Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) were the only two riders to improve their morning times in the opening half an hour of the afternoon outing. Then, just ahead of the 15-minute remaining mark, Bagnaia joined them – but the reigning World Champion was only up into P15.
A breathless finish
Then, the business end of the session commenced. Espargaro climbed to P15 – just 0.4s off – before Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) then climbed to P5. First shots fired, we then had 12 minutes to go to decide the Q1 and Q2 running order for Saturday morning’s qualifying.
The first bit of drama saw Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) crash as he turned up the wick on fresh soft rubber, down unhurt at Turn 14 while the #93 was sat P9. How costly would that prove? Well, straight away, he was shoved to P11 as a quintet of riders pounced to P1, P2, P3, P4 and P5, with Bezzecchi then fronting the times with a 1:45.808. Joining the Italian in the top five were Martin, Bagnaia, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Raul Fernandez (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) with six minutes to go, as the riders ventured out for their second time attacks. 0.7s split the top 18, it was time to strap in for a barnstorming end to Friday as Marc Marquez completed his sprint to the box to get back out.
Once he was, he slotted in just behind Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) as his reference. And it was a great reference. Both were 0.2s under Bezzecchi’s time through the second split and coming across the line, Marc Marquez went P1! But not for long. First Rins and then Bagnaia stole top spot as MotoGP™ lit up magnificent Mugello. There was still more to come as, shadowing Bagnaia, Bezzecchi went P2, and in the blink of an eye Marc Marquez was shoved to P7.
Two late laps shuffled the order further after the chequered flag was waved. Binder fired his way up to P4 and the wounded Espargaro worked wonders to pinch a late P9, which subsequently pushed his teammate Viñales out of an all-important top 10.
That leaves a top three of Bagnaia, Bezzecchi and Rins, with Binder just 0.118s off in P4 and Martin a close P5. The returning Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) shows us and Ducati what we’ve been missing with a classy P6, ahead of Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) in P7.
Marc Marquez takes P8 in the end, as Espargaro and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) pull rabbits out the hat to claim P9 and P10 respectively, both riding through the pain barrier.
As we so often see, Q1 is brimming with stars. Practice 1 pacesetter Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) ended up 0.4s off top spot in P13 as Viñales and Raul Fernandez miss out by a hairs width too. And Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), after a storming P1 session, cut a frustrated figure at the end of Friday, having only managed P16. He sits behind Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Yamaha teammate Franco Morbidelli heading into qualifying.
And so, after an action-packed Friday, there’s no telling what’s yet to come at Mugello! The stage is set for Qualifying and the Tissot Sprint, and here’s when it all gets underway in GMT+2:
MotoGP™ FP: 10:10
MotoGP™ Q1: 10:50
MotoGP™ Q2: 11:15
Tissot Sprint: 15:00
MotoGP Top 4 – Combined Practice – Italian GP
1. Francesco BAGNAIA – ITA – Ducati Lenovo – 1’45.436
2. Marco BEZZECCHI – ITA – Mooney VR46 Team – +0.063
3. Alex RINS – SPA – LCR Honda CASTROL – +0.081
4. Brad BINDER – RSA – Red Bull KTM Factory – +0.118
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