Sports Monks

Nakagami knocks it out the park on Friday

The Japanese rider heads Viñales on Day 1, with Crutchlow making it two Hondas in the top three in Teruel.

Fresh from a new contract with HRC announced on Thursday, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) hit the ground running on Friday at the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel, nearly two tenths clear to end the day fastest ahead of Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) made it two Hondas in the top three as he took third overall, bouncing back from a technical issue in the morning, but Honda had also made it a 1-2 in FP1 with Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) dominating ahead of Nakagami as the Japanese marque most definitely shot first on Friday.

FP1

Alex Marquez opened his weekend with absolute domination in FP1, the rookie setting a time attack to pull over four tenths clear of 2021 teammate Nakagami on his tail. Marquez did crash late in the session – a carbon copy of his moment during the race last weekend but this time it proving enough to send him into the gravel – but rider ok and already well ahead of the field. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) was fourth overall too to make more good reading for Honda, and lost out to third by just 0.010 to Championship leader Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Bradl also tried a new carbon-reinforced chassis on Friday.

Mir was 0.819 down but third, starting the weekend as the highest Championship challenger. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) completed the top five, with Maverick Viñales the next of the top four in the title fight as he took sixth in FP1.

Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) was the top Ducati in P7 although just over a second off Marquez, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) right behind him. Aleix’s younger brother Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the top Austrian machine a fitting 0.041 off the number 41, with Crutchlow completing the top ten by just 0.010 despite a technical problem at Turn 15. Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) was denied the top ten by only 0.004.

FP2

Morbidelli was fastest in the opening stages of the afternoon session as plenty of riders went immediately quicker than they did in the morning, the Italian leading from Zarco and Quartararo early doors. With ten minutes gone, ‘El Diablo’ and title rival Joan Mir played a bit of cat and mouse on track too.

Initially, the Suzuki rider was ahead and got the dashboard message of who was following him, keeping it pinned for another couple of sectors before rolling off and letting the Yamaha past. Mir then kept on Quartararo’s tail before, next time round after Turn 1, it was the Yamaha rider’s turn to roll off and let his rival through as they switched formation again. And remained close together on track…

Not long after that, Nakagami struck to take over from Morbidelli at the top, although the laptimes remained slower than Alex Marquez’ FP1 time. Next, Pol Espargaro shot up to P2 with 18 minutes to go to shuffle Morbidelli down further, but work still seemed focused on race setups for most. The classic Friday time attack was about to begin with 12 minutes to go, however, with those crucial top ten provisional places in Q2 up for grabs.

First Aleix Espargaro moved up into P3 before Championship leader Mir then became the first to depose Nakagami, a 1:41.182 seeing the Suzuki man go top of the pile with the fastest lap of the weekend. Teammate Alex Rins went P6 a few seconds after, before Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) shot into the top 10 in the session.

Mir was on another fast lap, but Nakagami then raised the bar. The Japanese rider set the first 1:47 of the weekend to go 0.251 clear of Mir and lay down quite a marker. Crutchlow and Bradl also moved into the top six as Lecuona shot to P3 with a great lap, but Nakagami was another two tenths under his time in Sector 3 next time around. A 1:47.782 saw him extend his lead even further, as Crutchlow made it an LCR Honda 1-2 moments later. Quartararo then moved up into the top three, and that was his final shot at the top.

Would anyone be able to ruin the Honda stranglehold? They would. After a red sector and then losing a little more time on a previous run at it, Viñales’ final lap of the day split the LCR Honda teammates as he slotted into second. The number 12 was only the second rider in the 1:47s, but still nearly two tenths off the top.

And so it’s Nakagami who ends the day on top on the combined timesheets, ahead of Viñales’ late lunge and Crutchlow’s P3. Quartararo was fourth overall on Friday, half a tenth off third, but he had even closer company from Mir right behind him once again, with the points leader ending the day in fifth overall and 0.018 off the Frenchman.

After finishing P1 on the FP1 timesheets, a mistake on a fast lap sees Alex Marquez drop to P6 on the combined standings by virtue of his fastest lap in the morning, that putting him only 0.002 off Mir overall. Aragon GP winner Rins ended Day 1 in P7, with Marquez splitting the Suzukis.

The quickest KTM was rookie Lecuona as the Spaniard goes from P15 to P8 on Day 1, ending Friday just ahead of the Espargaro brothers. The leader of those was Aleix Espargaro, the Aprilia man ninth overall, with Pol Espargaro holding onto the final provisional automatic Q2 spot in P10 – 0.013 off Aleix’s best.

It’s just 0.657 covering the leading 10 competitors, but the gaps don’t get any bigger. Bradl was 11th on Day 1 after another impressive performance, just 0.005 off the top ten, with Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), Zarco, Binder and Morbidelli rounding out the fastest fifteen on Friday.

So where are the other Ducatis? It was a tough opener for the Borgo Panigale factory. Zarco was the quickest in P13, with Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) in 17th, Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) 18th, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) 19th, Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) – who also crashed – 20th and Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing) locking out the final places on the timesheets. They’ll be hoping for a lot more on Saturday morning as FP3 decides the final top ten automatic graduates to Q2.

Tune in for that at 10:55 local time (GMT+2), before qualifying will then decide the grid for the Teruel GP from 14:50.

MotoGP™: the five fastest on Friday

Takaaki Nakagami* LCR Honda Idemitsu – Honda – 1:47.782
Maverick Viñales Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – +0.175
Cal Crutchlow* LCR Honda Castrol – Honda – +0.329
Fabio Quartararo* Petronas Yamaha SRT – Yamaha – +0.382
Joan Mir Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – +0.400

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