After a slow and slightly damp start, and on a track with lower grip levels than at recent tests, what many had expected to be a Yamaha track saw Ducatis to the fore, with Danilo Petrucci’s independent Pramac Ducati narrowly ahead of Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) and the factory Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso.
With times almost 1.4 seconds off Lorenzo’s best of last year, and slower also than at the tests, there is clearly more to come. But not if, at yet another race, iffy weather conditions strike again.
There was a vicious rain and thunderstorm yesterday afternoon and more rain overnight, leaving a damp track and relatively low track temperatures in the afternoon, in spite of bright sunshine. More rain is forecast tomorrow, making it highly possible that today’s top ten will determine the candidates to go straight into the big boys’ Q2 qualifying.
Neither Petrucci nor Dovizioso used the box-kite aero bodywork recently introduced by Ducati, although the latter was left wondering, since speed gun figures suggested that the downforce ducts made corner entry faster, as well as cutting wheelies on acceleration. The aerodynes do cut top speed, but at a track with many slower corners and a not especially long straight, “it is always a balance – and I will study the data tonight and decide which bodywork to use tomorrow,” said Dovi.
The top three were covered by less than seven hundredths of a second, the top ten by less than six tenths.
Marc Marquez had led the morning session, but a painless crash at the end of the afternoon left him fifth, behind Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa.
Cal Crutchlow made it an all-Honda provisional second row, the LCR rider able to ignore pain from his finger injury (see separate News story), as well as coming back from a very fast crash.
Ducati test rider Michele Pirro was seventh, with factory rider Jorge Lorenzo eighth; then Andrea Iannone’s Suzuki. Marc VDS Honda’s Tito Rabat was tenth, potentially his second time this season to make it straight through to Q2, should the forecast rain strike tomorrow.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) was 11th; then Zarco (Monster Yamaha), Bautista (Pull&Bear Ducati) and Avintia Ducati team-mates Baz and Barbera. Jack Miller was 18th.
Italy took the high ground in Moto2 free practice, with Mugello winner Mattea Pasini (Italtrans Kalex) narrowly edging points leader Franco Morbidelli (Marc VDS Kalex) by half a tenth. Veteran Pasini (34) is lining himself up for a fourth consecutive pole position in the class.