‘El Diablo’ finds over a second and a half in FP2 to keep the reigning Champion at bay in Brno.
Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) had a fairly quiet Friday morning at the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky, but the Frenchman was more than back in business as the day started to come to a close, pulling 1.7 seconds out his pocket near the end of FP2 to snatch first from reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). The gap was small though, with just 0.023 separating the two by the end of play…something that’s becoming a recurring theme. Just behind them, it was an even smaller gap between third and fourth: a non-existent one. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) set identical laptimes. but the Australian’s second quickest lap means he takes third.
With rain forecast for Saturday morning, Friday took on even more importance than normal in terms of Q2 entry; the top ten on the combined timesheets potentially already decided if the weather changes. In terms of times, Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was the first major improver in FP2, soon 0.590 clear of the field in the afternoon, with his fortunes soaring early in the session as bad luck hit the other side of the Yamaha garage.
Five-time premier class Brno winner and teammate Valentino Rossi had to nurse his M1 back to the pits with just over 20 minutes of FP2 to go after a mechanical issue and at that stage, the likes of ‘The Doctor’, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), 2016 Czech GP winner Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and even Quartararo were languishing outside the top 10.
That would all change in the last 10 minutes, however. Soft tyres came out to play and Marquez stuck his Repsol Honda top of the pile, with the likes of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Miller also improving just before the reigning World Champion went quickest. Then, enter Quartararo. The rookie sensation was 18th in FP1, and somehow then suddenly seared around Brno 1.7 seconds quicker to move up from P17 to take over at the top in FP2. ‘El Diablo’ is back in business and very close to fully fit after his arm pump surgery and then shoulder dislocation.
The Frenchman heads Marquez by mere hundredths then, ahead of the two Ducatis of Miller and FP1’s fastest man Dovizioso, with earlier FP2 leader Viñales pushed down to fifth overall. Rins, another who’d already bothered the top earlier in the session, ends Friday in sixth, with Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Franco Morbidelli jumping up one place from his P8 in FP1 to take P7 in FP2.
Crutchlow, Rossi and Petrucci also all put in late personal best laps to earn top 10 positions, something that could prove crucial. Crutchlow was eighth overall – a big improvement from the Brit, who managed 15th in the morning – with Rossi recovering from his mechanical issue to place ninth, one better than his FP1 effort. Petrucci climbed three places to complete that potentially crucial top ten.
Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was the man to just miss out as he ends the day in 11th, just ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). The Japanese rider is close to being back to fully fit on the bike and put in a solid showing despite a crash in FP2, rider ok. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) also crashed, rider ok.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), meanwhile, impressed once again. The Portuguese rookie was fourth in FP1 and ends Day 1 in 13th overall, as well as being top KTM. Another impressive FP1 performer was Suzuki test rider Sylvain Guintoli (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who ended the first session in fifth. He was P17 overall.
Finally, another headline from Day 1 was some of the updates on show ahead of the post-race test on Monday. Marquez tried two chassis at the Sachsenring and – despite liking the new one – opted to race the old one. But the carbon reinforced chassis could be used for the first time in race trim at Brno. Meanwhile at Ducati, Dovizioso and Petrucci sported updated aerodynamic fairings, and Alex Rins had a new aero fairing on his Suzuki on Friday, too. Jack Miller said he had some updates but didn’t specify what, and the Aussie says he’s expecting new aero in Austria…
The likes of Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) will be casting nervous eyes to the skies on Saturday, with the Spaniard down in P22 after Day 1 and looking for much more. Will it stay dry or is it a trip to Q1 for those who missed out? The top ten after FP3 will go through to Q2, and that final chance to move up the timesheets starts at 9:55 (GMT+2) on Saturday morning. Qualifying then begins at 14:10 to decide the grid.
1 – Fabio Quartararo* (FRA – Yamaha) 1’55.802
2 – Marc Marquez (SPA – Honda) +0.023
3 – Jack Miller* (AUS – Ducati) +0.269
4 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) +0.269
5 – Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) +0.282
*Independent Team rider
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