MotoGP

Viñales beats Marquez to top opening day at COTA

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Maverick Viñales leads the way at COTA
Maverick Viñales leads the way at COTA (Credit: MotoGP.com)

Maverick Viñales is leading the way at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) on day one after knocking Marc Marquez off the top of the timing sheets.

The warning of rain for Saturday’s sessions meant that the field were even more eager to get some quick lap-times in – as Friday’s times could decide direct entry to Q2 if conditions don’t allow riders to improve in Free Practice 3.

On his last flying lap of Free Practice 2, Viñales produced a 2:03.857 to move +0.044s clear of Marquez. The latter has won at COTA in all six of MotoGP’s previous visits to the circuit.

Despite Marquez being a clear favourite heading into the weekend, it’s really close at the top of the timing sheets. Valentino Rossi ended the opening day in third, with only +0.146s splitting the top three. The Italian made vast improvements between the two opening practice sessions and had momentarily been as high as second.

Meanwhile, Jack Miller is only a further +0.002s back in fourth and was briefly leading the way in closing minutes. Miller is the top Ducati rider, with Pramac teammate Francesco Bagnaia in 10th.

Both factory Ducati riders, Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci, were outside the top 10 and are in real danger of having to go through Qualifying 1.

Back towards the front of the field, Cal Crutchlow ended day one in fifth, whilst Alex Rins leaped inside the top 10 in the dying seconds to finish sixth.

Pol Espargaro is getting the very best from his Red Bull KTM around COTA and finds himself in seventh, with a strong chance of making it into Qualifying 2. Espargaro was only +0.507s off Viñales’ time.

Franco Morbidelli (eighth) and Fabio Quartararo (ninth) ensured that all four Yamaha riders were inside the top 10.

Jorge Lorenzo continued to struggle for pace, ending the day in 16th for Repsol Honda. Other riders currently outside of the Q1 places include Joan Mir (12th), Aleix Espargaro (14th) and Takaaki Nakagami in 15th.

Free Practice 3 is scheduled to begin at 15:55 on Saturday afternoon. This will be followed by Free Practice 4 at 19:30, Qualifying 1 at 20:10, and Qualifying 2 at 20:35.

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