Just 20 years of age, the Spanish class rookie swept both Friday free practices to kick off the Red Bull Indianapolis GP weekend in style.
Marquez’s rivals hoped to return from the summer break ready to meet his growing challenge. However, no one could match the Friday pace of the sport’s newest sensation, who opens the season’s second half leading the points and carrying consecutive victories into Indy.
Marquez, who led the way on Friday with a best lap of 1:39.502, said, “It’s important after the summer break to find your rhythm with the bike again and my feeling at the moment is pretty good! The track was quite slippery which made things difficult, but anyway I’m sure it will improve and the times will drop. We need to continue in the same way but at the moment we are happy.”
The Indianapolis oval/infield circuit is firmly viewed as a Honda-friendly venue, its layout rewarding the RCVs’ ability to accelerate out of slow corners in a reliably superior manner than its competitors. Friday’s results will change no one’s opinion of that as works Honda machinery held down the top three positions.
Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa — an acknowledged Indy master — was just 0.080 removed from top spot. Perhaps more importantly, the Spaniard was feeling at ease on the bike following a painful ride to fifth at Laguna Seca in which he turned a minimum of laps over the course of the weekend while suffering from a freshly broken collarbone.
Pedrosa said, “I was a little cautious this morning, going out on the track for the first time, as normally it’s very slippery here in the first sessions. I was a little stiff on the bike so I need some more time to find the feeling again after the summer break…The pain is already less from Laguna so this is already a positive.”
Third quick on the day was Stefan Bradl, the LCR Honda sophomore who was rumored to be in danger of losing his ride before scoring his first-career premier-class podium result last time out at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Bradl was just 0.099 seconds further adrift.
Defending class champion Jorge Lorenzo led a Yamaha-mounted trio in fourth, followed by Tech3 (and soon to be Ducati) rider Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi.
Like Pedrosa, Lorenzo is also on the mend and hopeful of taking advantage of his month’s rest. However, no matter how strong he is physically this weekend, Lorenzo will likely need to come up with something special in order to outperform the Hondas this weekend.
Despite running more than a half-second off Marquez’s pace, sixth-ranked Rossi’s effort on the day was evident. The living legend ran off track on his final lap of the day, narrowly avoiding a more dramatic incident.
GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and Crutchlow’s Tech3 teammate Bradley Smith ran seventh and eighth to conclude the Yamaha and Honda-mounted entries.
The Ducatis again struggled in comparison with American Nicky Hayden leading the way in ninth. He was followed by teammate Andrea Dovizioso to round out the top ten, while returning Pramac runners Ben Spies and Andrea Iannone were 13th and 14th, respectively, trailing the CRT machines of Aliex Espargaro and Danilo Petrucci.
Spies, who returns to action following a significant layoff due to a shoulder injury first suffered late last season, said, “My shoulder is physically good. I’m just feeling it in other parts of the body, like shin muscles and calf muscles that you need for shifting but that I haven’t been using too much. Other than that, I feel good. It’s the first time I’ve been able to ride the bike and have strength since last year, so it was quite a bit different. I actually enjoyed riding today, unlike at the beginning of the year, but I really felt like it was my first time riding the bike in a long time—and in fact it’s been 12 of 13 weeks since Mugello. We’re just kind of taking it step by step. I guess to be as close as we were, it’s a good point. We know we’re not going to be on the podium this weekend, and I don’t have an ambition to be the fastest Ducati. It’s just a matter of getting back into the rhythm and getting comfortable with pushing the bike. For starting out, it wasn’t too bad.”
Qualifying for Sunday’s 27-lap Grand Prix will take place Saturday afternoon starting at at 2:10pm local time.
Maverick Viñales has set the pace at the end of the Moto3 summer break, topping Friday’s second practice for the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. The Team Calvo rider led the way from San Carlo Team Italia’s Romano Fenati and Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Marquez.
Jack Miller (Caretta Technology – RTG) led the way for much of the session, but a late flurry of lap times demoted the Australian to an eventual fourth position. For Viñales, his lap time of 1’48.502 becomes a new Moto3 benchmark at the legendary Motor Speedway, edging out Fenati’s last-gasp effort by just 39 thousandths of a second. With Marquez third quickest, he and teammate Alex Rins – winner of the last race in Germany – sandwiched Miller into fourth spot.
Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger, who had topped a rain-affected first period in the morning – ended the day in sixth place, narrowly ahead of championship leader Luis Salom (Red Bull KTM Ajo). In opening practice, Ana Carrasco (Team Calvo) had become the first faller of the day, whereas during the afternoon there were incidents for Toni Finsterbusch (Kiefer Racing), Niccolo Antonelli (GO&FUN Gresini Moto3), the aforementioned Miller and Miguel Oliveira (Mahindra Racing).
At Ambrogio Racing, France’s Jules Danilo is riding in place of Danny Webb who is no longer with the team; a permanent replacement rider is yet to be named. Moto3™ action will continue with Saturday’s Free Practice 3 from 9am local time (GMT -4).