The South African beats Nakagami to the top by just 0.002, ahead of Quartararo, Viñales and Pol Espargaro as the top five are covered by an infinitesimal 0.071 on Day 1.
Five riders in less than a tenth and the top ten within 0.444? Sounds about right for the incredibly competitive 2020 MotoGP™ season, and that was the case on Day 1 of the Gran Premio TISSOT dell’Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is the man on top as action draws to a close on Friday, just 0.002 ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), with Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) slotting into third. Covering the three is an infinitesimal 0.071…
Quartararo began the day as the man to beat, but San Marino GP winner and teammate Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) made for close company as he ended the session within 0.090. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was third quickest as KTM‘s promised step forward in Tuesday testing started to materialise early.
It was a rapid start to proceedings on Friday morning for the premier class riders, with Quartararo’s quickest time just three tenths away from Maverick Viñales’ (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) lap record set in Q2 last weekend. A mini time-attack in the final few minutes is when the Frenchman unleashed his speed, although second place Morbidelli set his best time on the hard rear tyre, which could bode well for the Italian if he’s planning to race it.
Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), third at Misano last Sunday, was fourth fastest behind Pol Espargaro as the Suzuki rider continued to shine. Mir was 0.205 off Quartararo’s pace, with Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) making it two RC16s inside the top five in FP1 with a best time of a 1:31.965 – 0.244 away from Quartararo, in fifth.
It was a tougher session for Mir’s teammate Alex Rins, who escaped a highside as he got spat out his seat a couple of times on the exit of Turn 5, lucky to stay on. The Spaniard did then crash later in the session – rider ok.
In the opening stages of FP2, Quartararo was the pacesetter on the hard front, medium rear tyre and was setting very impressive lap times – as he did this morning. The Frenchman’s fastest time was a 1:32.320 before he then improved to a 1:32.273 soon after in the opening 15 minutes, with Nakagami sitting second already – 0.099 off the pace.
The two Red Bull KTM Tech 3 riders of Miguel Oliveira and Iker Lecuona were going well as the duo sat P3 and P5, with Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller splitting them in P4. Having said that, Miller, Lecuona and Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing) were the only riders to have improved their combined times in the opening 20 minutes of FP2.
The first man to oust Quartararo from the top of the timesheets was San Marino GP podium finisher Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) as the Italian slammed in a 1:32.138, and then they were off and the times tumbling. Pol Espargaro – a crasher in the early stages of FP2 – recovered from that to really move the goalposts, the Spaniard heading to the top with a 1:31.699 – the first lap quicker than Quartararo’s 1:31.721 from the morning.
Nakagami hit next to go top, by 0.069, as the Japanese rider’s improvements in testing kept impressing. It still wasn’t quite all she wrote, however, as Binder made his move. Tucked in behind lap record holder Viñales, the Brno winner demoted Nakagami to P2 by 0.002 seconds – leaping up the timesheets after P14 in the morning. Viñales, just ahead of the South African on track, went to P4.
Quartararo couldn’t quite retake the top and slotted into P3, with Viñales improving again abut staying fourth. Pol Espargaro’s 1:31.699 eventually saw him slip to fifth and at the end of the session, you could throw a blanket over the top five – it was that close. Just 0.071 between three manufacturers is a timely reminder of how close the premier class is in 2020!
The top five overall, then, are the top five from FP2: Binder, Nakagami, Quartararo, Viñales and Pol Espargaro. Morbidelli then slots into sixth courtesy of his FP1 time, not improving in the afternoon, with Joan Mir just behind him in seventh and likewise faster in FP1. The same is true of Oliveira, who ends Friday in P8.
Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) gained some time in the afternoon to take P9 overall and the honour of top Ducati, although not by much. Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) was tenth, Bagnaia 11th and Dovizioso 12th overall – leaving the latter duo especially with work to do on Saturday morning in FP3 if they want to guarantee themselves a place in Q2.
Joining them on the FP3 charge to take a place in Q2 are another two names outside the top ten: Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in P15 on Day 1, and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) just behind him. Will they make it through? Find out from 9:55 (GMT+2), before qualifying decides the grid from 14:10 (GMT +2).
MotoGP™: the five fastest on Friday
1 Brad Binder – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing – KTM – 1:31.628
2 Takaaki Nakagami* – LCR Honda Idemitsu – Honda – +0.002
3 Fabio Quartararo* – Petronas Yamaha SRT – Yamaha – +0.016
4 Maverick Viñales – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – +0.041
5 Pol Espargaro – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing – KTM – +0.071
*Independent Team rider