Viñales breaks the lap record to head Martin, Bagnaia heads for Q1 as Friday serves up some serious talking points.
The heat has officially hit fever pitch in the title battle and a huge Saturday at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana awaits. For one, Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) is heading for Q1. Two, amid some interesting mind games from Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) as the Spaniard looks to overturn that 21-point deficit. He was also second quickest on Friday as Bagnaia took only P15. And all that as Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) set the pace thanks to a 1:29.142 – a new Circuit Ricardo Tormo all-time lap record.
Mind games aplenty
After FP1 saw Martin take P3 and Bagnaia P13, all eyes were on Practice and the soft rubber went in early with qualifying incredibly important at the tight and twisty Valencia layout – especially for the two title protagonists. The final five minutes of the Practice session is when things got even more interesting as Martin headed out armed with a definite game plan.
Plenty of red sectors came flying in but all eyes were on the title duo, who were locked together in the pitlane after being out on track together. Martin latched himself onto the back of Pecco and shadowed him around the out-lap – including running wide at Turn 8 – as Pecco tried his best to find a time to propel him into the top 10.
That didn’t happen on his first flying lap and with time only allowing for one final lap to be laid in the session, the pressure was on Bagnaia. But it would prove too late as a crash for Pol Espargaro (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) at Turn 3 brought out the yellow flags, and that was that. Bagnaia ended Practice in P15, meaning Q1 awaits for the Championship leader… and Martin’s tactics seemingly worked a treat as he headed straight into Q2 as the second fastest rider on track.
A top 15 covered by just 0.659s
With just over half a second covering the top 15, fine margins again made all the difference, and Viñales ends Friday with that freshly-pressed lap record. Behind Martin in second, his teammate Johann Zarco enjoyed a positive day and ended Friday as one of three riders underneath the seven-year-old lap record too. How crucial could Zarco’s pace prove to be for the rest of the weekend for Prima Pramac Racing and Martin?
Elsewhere, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) continued his strong form to claim P4, with compatriot Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) – despite a crash at Turn 8 – completing the top five.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) ended the 60-minute Practice stint in P6, while eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) gets set for a Q2 appearance following a positive day as the #93 finished Friday in seventh. Raul Fernandez (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team), Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – another crasher in Practice – and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) are the other riders who bagged automatic Q2 spots.
The reigning Champion’s Q1 hurdle
Bagnaia will have teammate Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) for company in the biggest 15 minutes of the season, while the likes of Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) will also fancy their chances of processing.
A mouthwatering day awaits in Valencia. The 2023 title tale has taken a twist on Friday, but what does qualifying and Tissot Sprint Saturday have in store? You’ll have to tune in to find out!
SHOWTIME IN VALENCIA
The stage is set for Qualifying and the Tissot Sprint! Make sure you tune in:
MotoGP™ Sprint: 15:00
Or visit the official MotoGP website www.motogp.com