NGM Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro topped the combined practice timesheets as MotoGP action gets underway at Catalunya. The Spanish rider was followed on the provisional front row by Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl. Championship points leader Marc Marquez was fourth-fastest on the Repsol Honda.
Espargaro set his best lap in the opening FP1 session, as track temperatures ratcheted up in the afternoon session. The Forward Racing pilot sits 0.451 clear of Smith for the top position, with both Smith and Bradl setting their fastest times in FP2.
"I’m happy with this morning’s result,” said Espargaro in Forward Racing press materials. “We were able to do a fast lap and also the pace was quite good. We suffered more in the afternoon with the hot temperatures as the track was very slippery and the traction control was not supporting us as we would like. We made some changes on the front and we tested some different electronics settings, but we couldn’t improve our lap times and tomorrow we will keep on working on the electronics.”
The uncharacteristic fourth-place result for Marquez can be attributed to the rising track temperatures in the afternoon, which reportedly reached 130 degrees. The net result saw Marquez 0.602 off Espargaro’s best.
Marquez, who is undefeated in 2014 and looking for his seventh consecutive victory on Sunday, said of the Friday results: "Despite not being at the top today, I am happy with how this first day of practice for the Catalan Grand Prix went and I've made good progress. In the first session I found things a little difficult, but in the second session we improved and this has led to us having a clear direction to go in tomorrow. I think this is the most important thing to take from today."
Jorge Lorenzo trailed his Spanish rival by one position. The Factory Yamaha rider managed to improve on his FP1 time in the second session. The same can’t be said of his teammate, Valentino Rossi, as The Doctor ended the day seventh on the combined timesheet. Rossi slotted in a spot behind the fastest Ducati on Friday, Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone, who also turned his best lap in the morning session.
Both Lorenzo and Rossi cited problems with tire grip during the afternoon session: “It's a shame because the track is fantastic but it’s very difficult to ride, especially with the high temperatures, the tires suffer very much because the load on them is very hard. The surface has a lot of bumps and not much grip,” said Rossi in team PR. “This afternoon when it was very hot I suffered in the entry of the corner. We will check the data and decide on the tires as all options are possible. We also have to decide on the strategy for qualifying.”
Pol Espargaro was eighth-fastest on the Tech 3 Yamaha. The younger Espargaro brother was trailed by fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa (with seven Spanish riders competing in the premier class at Catalunya). Andrea Dovizioso rounds out the top 10 aboard the factory Ducati, the Italian more than a second off the leader’s best.
2014 MotoGP Catalunya Combined Friday Practice Results:
1. Aleix Espargaro (Forward Racing) 1'41.672
2. Bradley Smith (Tech3 Yamaha) 1'42.123
3. Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) 1'42.130
4. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) 1'42.274
5. Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) 1'42.282
6. Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing) 1'42.411
7. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) 1'42.423
8. Pol Espargarò (Tech3 Yamaha) 1'42.608
9. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) 1'42.664
10. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 1'42.812
11. Alvaro Bautista (Gresini Honda) 1'42.833
12. Yonny Hernandez (Pramac Racing) 1'42.860
13. Scott Redding (Gresini Honda) 1'43.612
14. Michele Pirro (Ducati) 1'43.644
15. Cal Crutchlow (Ducati) 1'43.725
16. Colin Edwards (Forward Racing) 1'43.819
17. Karel Abraham (Cardion AB) 1'43.905
18. Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) 1'43.961
19. Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar) 1'44.008
20. Hiroshi Aoyama (Drive M7 Aspar) 1'44.096
21. Michael Laverty (Paul Bird Motorsport) 1'44.450
22. Broc Parkes (Paul Bird Motorsport) 1'44.681
23. Mike Di Meglio (Avintia Racing) 1'45.482
24. Michel Fabrizio (Iodaracing Team) 1'47.297
2014 Catalunya MotoGP Photos