Aleix Espargaro and Bradley Smith were the surprise pacesetters in beautiful conditions as the Catalunya Grand Prix weekend kicked off on Friday. Espargaro set the overall benchmark in the cooler morning session and as temperatures soared, Smith rose to the top of the timesheets in the afternoon.
Espargaro made full use of the open-class soft compound tyre to set a 1:41.672 in FP1 and admitted the hotter conditions in FP2 made life much more difficult for him on his Forward Yamaha.
“I’m happy with this morning’s result. We were able to do a fast lap and also the pace was quiet good. We suffered more in the afternoon with the hot temperatures as the track was very slippery and the traction control was not supporting us as we would like. We made some changes on the front and we tested some different electronics settings, but we couldn’t improve our lap times and tomorrow we will keep on working on the electronics”.
For Smith, finishing quickest in FP2 was a timely confidence boost after a poor sequence of races and the Briton is hopeful that he has now turned the corner.
“To finish in 1st in FP2 is certainly great. I am pleased as we undertook some key work in Mugello and the results are shining through here as well. The setting is very positive with the bike although I wasn’t able to show it last time unfortunately. The main thing we looked at today was the front contact, the turning of the bike as well as front tyre choices. There are still a few areas we need to make some small adjustments on such as the balance and how it behaves in sector 4 of the circuit which is a bit tough. Overall, I feel confident and happier plus I enjoy Barcelona as I run strongly here. It’s been a tricky few races but we have always worked hard and now I aim to keep this positive momentum for this weekend and the next few MotoGP races and continue to try my best.”
Stefan Bradl was seven thousandths shy of Smith in the afternoon to take third overall with Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo fourth and fifth, just eight thousandths apart. Andrea Iannone and Valentino Rossi were sixth and seventh by virtue of their morning times while Pol Espargaro leapfrogged Dani Pedrosa for eighth in the second session. Andrea Dovizioso sits just inside the top ten with his teammates Michele Pirro and Cal Crutchlow both in need of an improvement tomorrow morning to avoid a place in Q1.