Cal Crutchlow – sporting special classic Castrol livery on his LCR Honda – started his home GP weekend on a high, heading the time sheets at lap record speed.
The rider from Coventry, some 40 miles away, lapped the Northamptonshire circuit – at 5.9 km longest of the year – in 2m 00.897 seconds (175.6 km/h), inside the race record, but still some seven tenths off the track’s best-ever lap, set by Marc Marquez in 2015 on Bridgestone tyres, since supplanted by Michelin as control tyre suppliers.
The Briton’s bike wore the red, white and green design made famous in the last century by Superbike multi-race winner Aaron Slight, who flew over from New Zealand to launch the look yesterday.
Crutchlow deposed earlier leader Marc Marquez, who book-ended his session by crashing his Repsol Honda at the start and again at the end.
This meant the championship leader was unable to take part in the test of the proposed new bike-change procedure which took place at the end of the specially extended FP2.
Furthermore, the Spaniard was powerless to react as he was pushed down to fifth overall.
The factory Movistar Yamahas were second and third, Rossi nosing ahead of last year’s Silverstone winner Maverick Vinales at the close of play.
Then came Aleix Espargaro, putting the Aprilia in fourth at a long, fast track where the Italian bike’s sweet handling pays dividends, while its relative lack of acceleration is less important.
Jorge Lorenzo was top Ducati, sixth fastest, less than a second down on Crutchlow. Less than two tenths down after a remarkable run came the Red Bull KTM of Pol Espargaro.
Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha) was eighth ahead of Austrian GP winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), with Briton Scott Redding (Pramac Ducati) completing the top ten.
Second Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa was only 17th-fastest.
Alex Marquez emerged on top in Moto2, heading a close set of times with the top ten within one second. The VDS Kalex rider was still almost three tenths clear of Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) and veteran Italtrans Kalex rider Mattia Pasini.
Dominique Aegerter’s Suter was fourth after leading in the morning; then the Kalexes of Taka Nakagami and Tom Luthi, ahead of seventh-fastest title leader Franco Morbidelli (VDS Kalex).
Runaway Moto3 points leader Joan Mir (Leopard Honda) was also seventh fastest, with the top ten tiddlers all within a second of day one leader Aron Canet (EG Honda). Romano Fenati (Rivacold Honda) was second; then the Red Bull KTM of Bo Bendsneyder. Frequent one-lap star Jorge Martin was fourth, ahead of Honda team-mate Di Giannantonio, and Philipp Oettl (KTM) sixth.
By Michael Scott