It was Rookies’ Day again on the first day of free practice for Sunday’s Italian GP. But this time it wasn’t Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha) topping the table at the sunny Mugello circuit. Honours went instead to reigning Moto2 champion Pecco Bagnaia, on a year-old Pramac Ducati.
The lead changed hands four times in the closing two minutes of the afternoon FP2 session, with the usual top guns consigned to the role of spectators as first Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM) took to the top, then Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati), then Quartararo (always precociously fast on a single laps) before Bagnaia edged ahead by just 0.046 of a second.
Times were typically very close, with 18 within one second of Bagnaia’s 1m 46.732, which was almost a full second inside the race lap record, and only half-a-second short of the all-time fastest lap.
But with the fine dry conditions expected to last all weekend, everyone will get another chance to secure a place in the top ten going straight into Q2. Currently not in the frame: Andrea Dovizioso, Michele Pirro (both Team Winnow Ducati), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), 18th-fastestValentino Rossi (Monster Yamaha) and Jorge Lorenzo, in 20th on the Repsol Honda.
Pol Espargaro ended up fourth fastest, a couple of tenths down, but handsomely the top KTM. Next-best was factory Red Bull team-mate Johann Zarco; while satellite-team riders Hafizh Syahrin and Miguel Oliveira languished in the last two places, 22nd and 23rd.
Maverick Vinales (Monster Yamaha) was fifth fastest, nosing ahead of morning-session leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda.
Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki) put in a late-session run to place seventh, consigning Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) to eighth; Jack Miller’s bid for the top ended in the gravel as the Pramac Ducati rider ran wide and off the track avoiding a collision with another rider.
Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha) was tenth; less than a tenth ahead of Dovizioso.
Positions shuffled also at the climax of the Moto2 session, but it was the same name at the top morning and afternoon – Rossi’s half-brother Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Kalex).
As in MotoGP, 18 riders were in the first second, and most of them were on Kalexes, with Jorge Navarro’s Speed Up a strong sixth, and the top KTM ridden by rookie Jorge Martin in seventh.
Marini’s 1m 51.986 deposed Thomas Luthi from top spot in the closing minutes by just eight thousandths of a second. They were inside the race lap record, but still short of the track’s all-time best lap.
Less than two tenths down, last year’s pole man and 2017 winner Mattia Pasini (Petronas Kalex) was ahead of Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Kalex), with rookie Nicolo Bulega (SKY VR46 Kalex) fifth from Navarro.
Martin (Red Bull KTM)led two fellow class rookies, with Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Kalex) eighth and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Speed Up) ninth in the afternoon session … but Le Mans winner Alex Marquez (EG-VDS Kalex) was eighth on combined times on his morning time: a crash in the afternoon meant he lost the chance to improve. Veteran Simone Corsi (Tasca Kalex) was 11th overall.
Remy Gardner (OneXOX Kalex) survived several scares to place 12th, ahead of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM). Points leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40 Kalex) was 18th.
Moto3 afternoon times were faster than the morning, but still almost a second down on the lap record but, as with the other two classes, the top 18 within a second, in spite of a lap time of almost two minutes.
SIC58 Honda rider Tatsuki Suzuki was on top, at 1m 57.467, less than four hundredths ahead of Italian wild card Kevin Zannone, only his third GP on the all-independent Italian-made TM.
Tony Arbolino (Snipers Honda) was third, at the head of a pack of six more Hondas, before tenth-placed Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) on the top KTM.
Niccolo Antonelli SIC58) wad fourth from John McPhee (Petronas), both race winners this year; Gabriel Rodrigo (ARG Kommerling Gresini) sixth.
Then Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas), Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) and Romano Fenati (Snipers) ahead of Binder.
Points leader Aron Canet (Sterilgarda KTM) was 12th; second-placed Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Honda) 14th after losing time with a crash.