Ducati was always going to be a force to be reckoned with at Mugello – especially as the Factory team completed a private test at the Tuscany circuit recently – and they sent the Italian crowd home happy after topping the combined timesheets after day one of the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM.
Dovizioso improved his time from the morning session by over four-tenths of a second to set a 1:47.479. The Italian hit the ground running straight away in FP1, clearly taking advantage of the data gathered during that test to find a good setup straight away.
“I am very happy with how this weekend has started for us and above all with the time I set at the end of the session,” said Dovizioso. “We are quick and this is fundamental in the search for the best setup. We are still carrying out some tests in order to improve certain aspects of the Desmosedici GP15 that will allow us to be competitive right until the end of the race.”
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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez improved throughout the day as he tried a number of different setup combinations in an effort to deal with the front end issues and engine problems the RC213V has been suffering from this season. The reigning MotoGP World Champion seemed to find something that worked, as he ended the day just 0.164s behind Dovizioso in second place overall.
“Overall, today went quite well,” said Marquez. “It was a Friday in which we tried several things, especially in terms of electronics to try and improve the engine character, and I’m happy because we have taken a step forward. I’m not yet completely comfortable, but I felt pretty good and it seems that the direction we have taken is the right one.”
Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo came to Mugello full of confidence following his victories at Jerez and Le Mans, and straight away he looked fast and smooth around the 3.2-mile circuit. The Spaniard, who has not finished outside the top two in the last six races at Mugello, set the third fastest time of the day, just 0.373s off the top, yet he feels there is room for improvement.
“I‘m not completely satisfied with the way the bike is working,” admitted Lorenzo. “Concerning the setting of my YZR-M1, I think we have a big margin for improvement. Little by little we are going to make progress in most of the corners, but to begin the weekend with second and third place and a good pace is a nice start.”
Andrea Iannone ended the day in fourth overall, but admitted he had struggled to ride with his fractured arm that he injured in the Ducati Team’s private test at the circuit: “It’s not so much a question of pain, it’s more that I need too much strength, which in this moment I simply don’t have. I am not able to move my left shoulder the way I want to and so I’m losing a lot in the changes in direction, and there are a lot of them here at Mugello.”
It was a good day for British riders as Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith ended the day in fifth as the leading Satellite rider, managing to finish just ahead of his compatriot Cal Crutchlow on the CWM LCR Honda, with less than a tenth of a second separating the two. Smith was content with his pace, but knows he will have to step it up a gear tomorrow: “Overall, we’re less than two tenths back from the factory Yamaha of Lorenzo, so we are in a good place, but tomorrow we need to make another step forward to get into the 1:47 lap times.”
Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS’s Scott Redding showed signs of improvement as he finished in eighth overall, just behind the injured Aleix Espargaro on the Team Suzuki Ecstar GSX-RR in seventh. Espargaro underwent surgery on his right thumb to repair a damaged ligament after Le Mans and he was finding it hard to get enough brake pressure through his injured hand, with his team saying they will assess his injury session by session.
It was another hard first day of Free Practice for the current MotoGP World Championship leader Valentino Rossi, who found himself down in ninth place on the combined timesheets. Once again, the Italian struggled during the Friday of a Grand Prix weekend, emphasizing his woes by running off track late on in FP2 as he pushed too hard.
“I had some problems under braking,” explained Rossi. “We tried to modify the setting so I could brake harder, but we didn‘t find a good solution and at the end I came back out on my normal bike and decided to try the harder tire on the front and rear. The front wasn‘t so bad, but the rear was a bit too hard and I didn‘t have enough grip on the left side for me to push to the maximum.”
Pol Espargaro completed the top 10 on the second Monster Yamaha Tech 3 M1, with Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera finishing as the top Open class rider in 16th.