Ben Spies locked in the top time during the second free practice session at Aragon in wet conditions.
Mixed conditions made for a slow start during the first MotoGP practice session at Aragon on Friday, but by the afternoon rain had drenched the track and riders were able to run laps with their wet weather set-ups. Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies came through FP2 as the fastest on track, grabbing the top time on his penultimate lap. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was second-fastest, falling short of the lead pace by just 0.066 seconds. Spies’ teammate and current championship points leader Jorge Lorenzo took third.
“It was a good wet session so we’re happy with it, the bike feels good and we’re quick,” said Spies. “We got a good setting with the bike sorted and we got some new information with the electronics so we’ll see what happens tomorrow with the weather. As long as everything keeps going smoothly then that’s all we need.”
Aragon is relatively new to the Grand Prix series, hosting the series for only the third time. It features undulating elevation changes and 17 turns and usually boasts ideal conditions for racing. The Yamaha Factory, Repsol Honda and LCR Honda teams recently conducted a private, two-day test at the circuit in hopes of dialing in their respective machines before the contest, though all the work was done in hot, dry weather. Forecasts predict more rain for Saturday’s practice and qualifying, possibly opening the door for other riders, like Ducati’s Valentino Rossi, to claim a competitive spot on the grid, considering that some of his best performances this season have come in the rain. Riders will likely be thrown another curve come race day as forecasts predict an end to the rain by Sunday.
Though The Doctor didn’t achieve a lead-pack pace in FP2, coming in eighth over two seconds off the lead, his teammate Nicky Hayden did, taking fourth after finishing 0.777 seconds behind Spies. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso came through in fifth and was followed by LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl. Dovizioso’s teammate Cal Crutchlow held to seventh ahead of Rossi. Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham took ninth while San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista rounded out the top-10.
Dani Pedrosa still has a shot at the 2012 title if he can make up ground at Aragon over Lorenzo. He faced a major set back at the previous round after crashing out of competition.
Repsol’s Casey Stoner is the only GP rider to score a win at the Spanish circuit, winning both the 2010 and 2011 contests. His absence opens the door to other riders and his teammate, Pedrosa, will look to continue Repsol’s reign, as well as make up for the horrendous luck he had in the previous round at Misano.
“At least we had a full wet session this afternoon to work with the bike and I felt quite good,” said Pedrosa. “I was catching the pace step by step, even though the grip was not very high in the rear, and we still have to adjust the setting a little more to improve in some corners. It looks like the weather forecast is also bad for tomorrow, so it will be important to take advantage of the morning practice to be well prepared for qualifying.”
Lorenzo is in the midst of one of his best GP seasons though and has been extraordinarily consistent all year. He opted out, as many did, of any time on track during FP1 and took the opportunity in FP2 to gain a feel for the wet track, though he abstained from pushing for the top time.
“In the morning we could have practiced but we preferred to stay in the box and save the engine life a little,” said Lorenzo. “This afternoon with full wet conditions we could go out and see what the feeling is with the bike in the rain in case we have a wet race on Sunday. The track is very slippery, we did a lot of laps trying to find the pace but we didn’t try to do one hot lap. Ben and Dani were very fast but the important thing is we made a good comfortable pace.”
Nicky Hayden was fourth-fastest in practice at Aragon.
Stoner’s replacement, Jonathan Rea, came in 11th fastest and was disappointed that he was unable to push harder during practice. This is his second MotoGP contest and likely his last as Stoner is rumored to return at the following round in Japan. He faced similar difficulties at Misano, as much of the practice session was a wash due to mixed track conditions. Rea recently signed on to ride for Honda in World Superbike in 2013, quashing any speculation on whether he’d move up to MotoGP after the current season.
“I wasn’t too happy with myself as in the last few laps this afternoon I was on personal best sectors and I made a few mistakes as the front tire didn’t feel very stable on the carcass,” said Rea. “I guess we need to be thankful we were able to test here a few weeks ago and we completed over a hundred laps so for the dry we should be ok, but in the wet my feeling is still not 100%. Let’s see what the conditions bring tomorrow.”
Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet led the CRT field, followed by his teammate Aleix Espargaro. Paul Bird Motorsports’ James Ellison took 14th and Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini was 15th. NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards had a dismal start, bringing up the back of the pack in 21st. He left Misano feeling confident in some extensive changes to his Suter-BMW powered machine, but still has plenty of kinks to iron out if he hopes to contend with the top CRT riders on track.
MotoGP Aragon Friday Results 2012:
1. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2’00.219
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2’00.285
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2’00.746
4. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2’00.996
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 2’01.379
6. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 2’01.626
7. Cal Cructhlow (Yamaha) 2’01.665
8. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 2’02.412
9. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 2’02.632
10. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 2’03.263
11. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 2’04.046
12. Randy de Puniet (ART) 2’04.353
13. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 2’04.423
14. James Ellision (ART) 2’04.542
15. Mattia Pasini (ART) 2’04.722
16. Yonny Hernandez (BQR) 2’04.858
17. Michele Pirro (FTR) 2’06.030
18. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 2’06.182
19. Danilio Petrucci (Ioda-Suter) 2’06.368
20. David Salom (BQR) 2’06.593
21. Colin Edwards (Suter) 2’06.677