Marquez Sets The Standard On Friday At Laguna Seca

Marc Marquez wasted no time making himself at home at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, setting the fastest time in Friday practice ahead of the U.S. Grand Prix. Cal Crutchlow had been the man to beat in the morning but Marquez came to the fore when the temperatures increased, going two tenths faster than Stefan Bradl and Andrea Dovizioso with Crutchlow relegated to fourth.

The first session passed off without incident but there was trouble late in FP2 when wildcard rider Blake Young crashed spectacularly exiting turn six with the APR machine coming to rest in the middle of the track, bringing out the red flags. Marquez had lowered his own benchmark time to a 1:22.040 before the stoppage though and the late dash once the circuit was cleared would decide who would take second overnight. Bradl eventually won that particular battle although Dovizioso produced a tremendous lap to go third, just a quarter of a second off the pace with Crutchlow leading a trio of Yamahas completing the top six.

The main focus on Friday was the fitness of the championship’s two big favourites as Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa returned to action. Both suffered injuries which ruled them out of the Sachsenring and Jorge, six days after having a second plate inserted into his shoulder, fared the best to take sixth behind his teammate Valentino Rossi.

“It was much better this afternoon”, commented Lorenzo. “I tried to improve step by step like I did in my first time in MotoGP here to try to minimize the risk and understand the limit of the track. Every lap it got better and better, but obviously the pain is there. I felt a little better than this morning but not so much, after seven laps it started to be difficult to brake. I struggled a lot in braking but still we were able to practice without painkillers, this is very positive because with the painkiller we will get some benefits. The bike is working really well, we are just losing some tenths in some braking points where we cannot push too hard. The balance of the day is pretty good considering my physical condition.”

Pedrosa had a much tougher mountain to climb and opted to sit out FP1 altogether to rest his body. When he did emerge onto the race track, the Spaniard took his time getting up to speed and eventually improved to eleventh which would force him into the first qualifying session should he fail to move up on Saturday morning. Speaking after the session, Dani’s comments were those of a rider in damage limitation mode.

“It was difficult to ride in my condition, but I had expected that. Now I have to try to rest up as much as possible for tomorrow and regain some energy, so that I can endure the pain once again. Being realistic, obviously winning the race this weekend is not a feasible goal – perhaps even getting a podium is out of the equation – but I will be trying to finish the race as high up the order as possible. I will look to minimise the advantage that my rivals will have in terms of points. Finally, I want to thank everyone who has sent their support to me in recent days for their messages”.

With Dani down the order, the top ten is currently completed by Aleix Espargaro, Alvaro Bautista, Nicky Hayden in his final Laguna Seca appearance for the factory Ducati squad, and Bradley Smith. Pedrosa was followed closely by a pair of CRTs with Hector Barbera and Randy de Puniet set to challenge for a Q2 spot tomorrow while Alex De Angelis finished the day in fourteenth on the sole Pramac Ducati, standing in for Ben Spies and Michele Pirro who are both unavailable for contrasting reasons.


 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix: Combined Practice Times (Top 10 Automatically Qualify For Q2)
Pos Rider Bike Team Best Time
1  Marc Marquez Honda Repsol Honda Team 1:22.040
2  Stefan Bradl Honda LCR Honda MotoGP 1:22.269
3  Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Ducati Team 1:22.284
4  Valentino Rossi Yamaha Yamaha Factory Racing 1:22.346
5  Cal Crutchlow Yamaha Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1:22.457
6  Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Yamaha Factory Racing 1:22.467
7  Aleix Espargaro ART Power Electronics Aspar 1:22.531
8  Alvaro Bautista Honda GO&FUN Honda Gresini 1:22.539
9  Nicky Hayden Ducati Ducati Team 1:22.733
10  Bradley Smith Yamaha Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1:22.767
11  Dani Pedrosa Honda Repsol Honda Team 1:23.129
12  Hector Barbera FTR Avintia Blusens 1:23.158
13  Randy de Puniet ART Power Electronics Aspar 1:23.437
14  Alex de Angelis Ducati Ignite Pramac Racing 1:23.973
15  Danilo Petrucci Ioda Suter Came IodaRacing Project 1:24.047
16  Claudio Corti FTR Kawasaki NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1:24.180
17  Colin Edwards FTR Kawasaki NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1:24.410
18  Karel Abraham ART Cardion AB Motoracing 1:24.421
19  Hiroshi Aoyama FTR Avintia Blusens 1:24.473
20  Yonny Hernandez ART Paul Bird Motorsport 1:24.555
21  Michael Laverty PBM Paul Bird Motorsport 1:24.727
22  Bryan Staring FTR Honda GO&FUN Honda Gresini 1:25.345
23  Blake Young APR Attack Performance Racing 1:25.764
24  Lukas Pesek FTR Came Ioda Racing Project 1:27.173