Photography by Gold & Goose
Spain may be the home of Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Marquez, but it was Italian Valentino Rossi breaking the ice in Catalunya by setting the fastest time of 1:42.297 aboard his factory Yamaha M1 in MotoGP practice Friday for Sunday’s Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya. Spanish fans didn’t seem to care that it wasn’t one of their own topping the charts. On his cool-down lap Rossi was warmly greeted by fans waving their appreciation for the 34-year-old six-time MotoGP champion.
Riders were riding on the edge Friday, evidence of no less than five riders ran into the gravel at the La Caixa hairpin entering the stadium in FP1, as Andrea Iannone (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Aleix Espargaro (Power Electronics Aspar), Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) and Lucas Pesek (Came Ioda Racing Project) all suffered off-track excursions. There was a bigger moment for GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista, who fell from his bike and slid into the run-off area at Turn 1. The Spaniard walked away. Then in FP2 it was Stefan Bradl suffering a low side in turn 10. He was OK. The same could not be said for Bradley Smith, who pitched the Monster Energy Tech 3 Yamaha halfway through FP2 in the high-speed turn three. Smith limped away from the crash and did not return to the track for the rest of the session.
Rossi started FP2 briefly atop the charts before Yamaha teammate and FP1 leader Lorenzo came through to set the pace with a 1:42.346 just a few minutes into the session. Surprisingly that early time by the defending champ held throughout most of FP2.
With three minutes to go in the session Rossi broke to the top of the charts with a lap of 1:42.297. No one was able to better the time in the closing minutes and effervescent Rossi celebrated by waving to the crowd on the cool-down lap.
While the fast time on Friday does not mean a great deal, it was an important milestone for Rossi, who admitted he was quite beat up after his race crash at Mugello two weeks ago. He publically stated prior to Catalunya that it was important for him to go out and be fast early in the weekend.
While a promising performance for Rossi, Yamaha Team Director Massimo Meregalli cautioned the Rossi faithful on the TV broadcast that Rossi set his time on a soft compound Bridgestone. “We put on a soft tire to compare to the other compound,” Meregalli said.
It was a Yamaha one-two on Friday with Lorenzo’s early 1:42.346 holding as the second best time on the day. Pedrosa was third fastest on the Repsol Honda with a time of 1:42.557. Bautista and Cal Crutchlow rounded out the top five in FP2.
It was a close session with top eight riders all in the 1:42 bracket.
Somewhat surprising was the fact that Marc Marquez only managed sixth on the factory Honda with a time of 1:42.857.
Nicky Hayden was the top Ducati rider. The American was seventh fastest with a 1:42.890. As notable was the fact that in FP1 Hayden match the circuit’s top-speed record of 339.4 km/h (210.8 mph) set by Alex Barros on a Honda RC211V in 2004. Colin Edwards was 16th on the FTR Kawasaki with a time of 1:44.586.
Aleix Espargaro continues to impress on his Power Electronics Aspar Aprilia CRT machine, cracking the top 10 with a 1:43.204, bettering several prototype machines.
Catalunya has proven to be a pivotal race in the championship in recent years. The riders to win the race in the last four seasons went on to win the MotoGP World Championship. Lorenzo is the defending race winner. Also notable this weekend is Pedrosa making his 200th Grand Prix start (including all classes). He is the youngest rider ever to reach that milestone.
Catalunya Free Practice 2 – Friday, June 14, 2013
1. Valentino Rossi, 1:42.297.
2. Jorge Lorenzo, 1:42.346.
3. Dani Pedrosa, 1:42.557.
4. Alvaro Bautista, 1:42.752.
5. Cal Crutchlow, 1:42.776.
6. Marc Marquez, 1:42.857.
7. Nicky Hayden, 1:42.890.
8. Andrea Dovizioso, 1:42.988.
9. Stefan Bradl, 1:43.005.
10. Aleix Espargaro, 1:43.204.
16. Colin Edwards, 1:44.586.