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Zarco pulls clear of Miller on Day 1 at COTA

Zarco pulls clear of Miller on Day 1 at COTA

Zarco Pulls Clear Of Miller On Day 1 At CotaThe Frenchman sets the pace as Miller gets some mojo back, with Quartararo a close third on Friday – and Marquez sixth.

A silky smooth lap at the end of FP2 handed Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) the number one spot on the timesheets on Friday at the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas. The Frenchman’s 2:02.542 was enough to beat Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) by 0.247s to earn himself some breathing space, with reigning World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) completing the top three.

Elsewhere, the returning Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) ended Day 1 in sixth, whereas World Championship leader Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) sits outside the top 10 – with work to do for the Argentina GP race winner in FP3 to move through into Q2.

Some fantastic pace in the final handful of laps saw Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) end FP1 as the fastest rider on track, but only 0.008s split the Spaniard from compatriot Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing). Rins’ 2:04.007 benchmark was over four tenths clear of third place Miller though. He had encountered an issue with his GSX-RR with about 20 minutes to go and then had to pit for fuel on his second bike, but that didn’t stop the 2019 Americas GP winner.

Quartararo began his weekend with a P4, the Frenchman 0.443 behind Rins in the opening 45-minute stint, with Marc Marquez’ return getting off the ground with a very solid P5.

Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) crashed unhurt at Turn 18 in the early exchanges of the session, and then he too had a technical issue at the end of the session.

FP1 table topper Rins was the first rider to stick some fresh soft rear Michelin rubber in with 22 minutes to go, and his time was a 2:03.030 – half a second faster than anyone else. Miller had sat P1 after a flurry of riders set their personal best times in the early stages of the session, including Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), Viñales and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), but with 20 minutes to go, there was a new benchmark thanks to the number 42 Suzuki.

Bagnaia then took over in second before Joan Mir made it a Team Suzuki Ecstar 1-2 with four minutes left on Friday. But the red sector times were starting to light up the screen. Marc Marquez slotted into P2 as Miller returned to top spot by 0.2s, with Viñales going P4. All of a sudden though, it became a leading trio of Ducatis as Zarco set the best time of the day, with Bastianini going P3 behind Miller too.

Quartararo soon hit back to take third, although the Frenchman was nearly three tenths away from countryman Zarco. And that’s how it stayed by the time all the riders had taken the chequered flag; Zarco fastest from Ducati stablemate Miller and Quartararo.

Zarco Pulls Clear Of Miller On Day 1 At Cota
Miller said he very much enjoyed his track time on Friday

Provisional Q2 places
Behind the top three, Bastianini had a good day at the office to finish P4, the Italian just 0.3s shy of Zarco’s pace, with Rins shuffled down to P5 by the end of the session after going early on his soft tyre strategy.

Marc Marquez’ sixth on his return to MotoGP™ action was an interesting one, and we saw a happy Viñales at the end of Day 1 – P7 for Top Gun. Mir, after briefly sitting P2, is currently heading into Q2 in P8 ahead of Bagnaia and Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) – the two GP22 riders rounding out that all-important top 10.

That means Aleix Espargaro has work to do in FP3 if he’s to grab an automatic place in Q2 in Austin, with the Spaniard missing out by a slender 0.015s. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – the leading KTM on a tough day for the factory – are the only other riders within a second of Zarco’s scintillating time, down in P12 and P13.

Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) crashed unhurt late on at Turn 11.

FP3 will be a fascinating watch. With no rain forecast, conditions should allow for some time improvements to be made. Make sure to tune into that at 09:55 local time (GMT-5) on Saturday morning, before FP4 at 13:30 and qualifying from 14:10.

1 Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) – Ducati – 2’02.542
2 Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – +0.247
3 Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) – Yamaha – +0.295

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Zarco Pulls Clear Of Miller On Day 1 At Cota
P3 went to a star spangled Quartararo

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