MotoGP: Aleix Espargaro fastest during Friday practice in Barcelona
It was a thrilling first day of MotoGP Free Practice at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya in Barcelona that ended with Aleix Espargaro sending the fans home happy after he ended the day on top of the timesheets.
Conditions improved throughout the day with track temperatures reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit by FP2, which led to most riders improving their times in the afternoon practice session. The weather forecast for Saturday is mixed, therefore an extra emphasis was placed on Friday's practice sessions, as if it rains on Saturday, Friday's times could decide who makes it through automatically to Q2.
It was frantic last few minutes of FP2 as riders put on new slicks and headed out on track to put in one last flying lap. Espargaro left it until late to put in a 1:42.183 - just 0.3 seconds off Andrea Dovizioso’s 2014 lap record - the Catalan rider clearly benefitting from the engine upgrades to his GSX-RR machine.
The Repsol Honda of Marc Marquez (+0.285s) was the only man to get within half a second of the leading Suzuki as he debuted a new exhaust on his RC213V. His teammate Dani Pedrosa (+0.0631s) was in third ahead of Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso (+0.665s) who, along with his teammate Iannone, was sporting modified winglets on his GP15 to cope with the higher curbs at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Team Suzuki Ecstar enjoyed a day to remember as Maverick Viñales (+0.764s) also showed good pace on the second GSX-RR to finish in fifth.
Andrea Iannone (+0.780s) improved from eleventh in FP1 to end the day in sixth overall, with the big surprise being Jorge Lorenzo finding himself down in seventh on the Movistar Yamaha M1. Cal Crutchlow (CWM LCR Honda), Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Scott Redding (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) completed the top 10, despite Redding crashing heavily at turn 10 during the afternoon.
Nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi ended the day down in 11th, while Nicky Hayden was in 13th, just ahead of Bradley Smith (14th). Irishman Eugene Laverty set the 19th fastest time of the day, with Aussie Jack Miller in 20th, 2.211 seconds behind Espargaro.
Check out the combined MotoGP Free Practice times from Friday. LIVE coverage of the race begins at 7:45 a.m. ET Sunday on FOX Sports 1.