Ducati P1 on the first day at Valencia – but with the premier class’ most successful rider at the track as the title rivals take P3 and P6
With Marc Marquez closing off today’s free practice for Sunday’s deciding GP with his 27th crash of the season, his title rival Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) took the early advantage at the tortuous Ricardo Tormo circuit at Valencia.
But it was only a notional victory, though potentially with psychological value, He was merely three tenths of a second quicker, and placed third to the Repsol Honda rider’s sixth.
Marquez, as usual, was on his feet even before he stopped sliding, and the main down side of his tumble was that once again he missed the mandatory bike-swap practice at the end of FP2. With good conditions forecast for the weekend, this is likely to be irrelevant.
It was Dovi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo topping the time sheets. Four times a premier-class winner here, Lorenzo set a new circuit absolute record. But he might have to forfeit the chance of his first win in his first Ducati season to give way to his team-mate, should they find themselves up front at the end of Sunday’s 30-lapper.
Dovi has to win the race to take the title, but only if Marquez is 12th or lower.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was second-fastest; Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone fourth behind Dovi, on a time set in the morning session. Then came Johan Zarco (Monster Yamaha), less than four tenths slower than the leader.
Jack Miller (VDS Honda) was seventh behind Marquez; then Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) from Ducati wild card Michel Pirro.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM), who also crashed unhurt, was tenth ahead of Valentino Rossi, whose Movistar Yamaha team-mate was one place lower, still less than a second down.
Times round the hectic, pocket-handkerchief circuit, whose 4.005-km lap loops back on itself several times, were even closer in Moto2, with the top 20 within a second of Red Bull KTM’s Miguel Oliveira, winner of the last two races.
Top rookie Pecco Bagnaia (SKY VR46 Kalex) was second; and then fellow rookie Brad Binder on the second KTM. Binder has been second to Oliveira at the last two races.
With Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Kalex) fourth and Alex Marquez (Marc VDS Kalex) fifth, the latter’s team-mate Franco Morbidelli was down in eighth, four tenths off provisional pole. But Morbidelli has already been crowned champion, with the top three positions all set – the injured Tom Luthi (still out of action) secure in second, then Oliveira. Marquez in fourth is under a somewhat distant threat from Pasini, but has won two out of the previous three races in Spain.
Eight-times pole qualifier Jorge Martin (Gresini Honda) was almost half a second clear of Aron Canet (EG Honda) in Moto3, with Marco Ramirez (PB KTM) third in Moto3. A second KTM, of Juanfran Guevara, was fourth, ahead of crowned champion Joan Mir (Leopard Honda), who had a rare crash in the morning.
If Mir wins an 11th race of the year on Sunday, he will equal Valentino Rossi’s record for the most victories in a season in the smallest class.