News 13 Jun 2015

Espargaro springs Suzuki surprise on Friday at Catalunya

Spaniard delights home crowd with upgraded engine package.



Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Aleix Espargaro lapped close to record pace to top the opening day practice timesheets in front of a delighted home crowd at the Catalan Grand Prix.

A thrilling first day of MotoGP Free Practice action at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya in Barcelona ended with a sensational performance from Team Suzuki Ecstar’s home crowd favourite Espargaro.

Espargaro took full advantage of an upgraded Suzuki engine to power his GSX-RR machine to an impressive lap time of 1m41.158s, which was less than 0.3s away from Dani Pedrosa’s circuit best lap set in 2013.

Overnight thunderstorms meant grip levels weren’t ideal for FP1 this morning, but conditions improved throughout the day, with track temperatures soaring to 40 degrees Celsius for FP2.

Lap times quickly tumbled, with mixed weather forecasts for Saturday placing extra emphasis on today’s second session as riders were anxious to secure an automatic place in Q2 in case of rain tomorrow.

In a frantic last few minutes of FP2, it was Espargaro’s brilliant lap on the Bridgestone’s soft option Open spec rear tyre that secured him top spot ahead of reigning world champion Marc Marquez.

The Repsol Honda rider (+0.285s) was the only man to get within half-a-second of the leading Suzuki, as he debuted a new exhaust and updated electronics to improve the power characteristics on his RC213V.

His teammate Dani Pedrosa (+0.631s) was in third ahead of Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso (+0.665s) who with his teammate Andrea Iannone ran modified aerodynamic winglets on the GP15 to avoid touching the raised 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. Iannone (+0.780s) improved from 11th in FP1 to end the day in sixth overall, with the big surprise coming from Jorge Lorenzo.

The Spaniard has dominated the last three races in Jerez, Le Mans and Mugello but he found 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 slipped down the order to 13th after the American was an impressive seventh this morning. That put the 2006 world champion ahead of Bradley Smith (14th). Irishman Eugene Laverty set the 19th fastest time of the day, with Aussie Jack Miller in 20th, 2.211s behind Espargaro.

Ajo Motorsport’s Moto2 World Championship leader Johann Zarco ended the first day of practice on top of the combined timesheets at the Gram Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya.

The French rider set the fastest time of the day in cooler conditions this morning with a 1m47.144s, as he looks to extend his 31-point lead over reigning champion Tito Rabat at the Montmelo track.

Cortese finished second on the combined timesheets after the German topped FP2 with a 1m46.941s. Only three of the top 10 were able to improve their pace in significantly warmer conditions this afternoon and most riders lost crucial time through the technical final sector in the second session.

Speed Up Racing’s Sam Lowes crashed in both sessions. He was unhurt after a fall at turn five this morning and the Briton fell again at turn 10 in FP2 before bouncing back to end the day third fastest.

AGR Team’s Jonas Folger was fourth fastest despite suffering a gear-shifter malfunction in FP2, with reigning Moto2 World Champion Rabat taking fifth as he tried to improve a front-end chatter issue. Australian Anthony West was 22nd on the timesheets.

Leopard Racing’s Danny Kent came out on top of a typically closely contested practice day for the Moto3 field. Kent finished with a 1m51.637s that put him top of the timesheets by just 0.011s from Italian Niccolo Antonelli and Alessandro Tonucci. Rookie Remy Gardner finished the day 27th overall.

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