Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) made it two Fridays on top in a row at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, the Aussie fastest in FP2 to pip Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) by less than a tenth. Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) completed an all-Independent Team rider top three, still within 0.120 off his teammate at the top. The top 19 on Friday were covered by just under three-quarters of a second.
Championship leader Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) didn't have the smoothest start to his first #MatchPoint weekend, the number 36 ending the day in 12th and suffering what's become an uncharacteristic crash in the afternoon - rider ok. Second overall Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) ended Day 1 in P16, meaning it's advantage Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in the top three in the title fight as the Suzuki rider took ninth.
After getting so close to the podium last weekend, it was Nakagami out the blocks quickest to top in FP1 as the Japanese rider ended the session just over a tenth ahead of Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT). Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) made it a Yamaha duo on the chase, improving late on to move up to third.
With the weather dry and not too cold, a huge improvement on a tough Friday at the European GP, the riders were down to business straight away. Morbidelli set the early pace with a 1:30.944, a substantial margin quicker than the race last Sunday. Nakagami then went fastest with just over 20 minutes to go, and he stayed there for the remainder of FP1, Viñales the only one making a decisive late move as he took third - and he's out from under the cloud of the pending pitlane start that he dealt with last weekend.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) rounded out the top five, with 0.341 covering the leading quintet. There were no crashes in FP1.
Mir was eighth, starting the day ahead of both of his closest challengers. Rins was 11th in FP1, whereas Quartararo was P16.
Miller moved from 12th to first in the afternoon, just ahead of Nakagami as FP1's fastest man kept his presence at the top consistent. The afternoon also saw Bagnaia strike to take over in the top three, part of an impressive Ducati showing.
The session began with an immediate flurry of fast times as yet more dry track time greeted the premier class, with Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) leading the early stages of the afternoon session from Mir. These laps saw the Frenchman and Spaniard go fifth and six on the combined times to get within three tenths off Nakagami’s pace from FP1. Plenty of riders went quicker in the first half of the session though, and there was plenty left to play.
Nakagami was the first to really raise the stakes. On the soft rear, the Japanese rider put in in a 1:30.713 to go two tenths clear on the combined times, and 0.340 clear in FP2. Fellow Honda rider Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) wasn’t faring so well though. After a crash at Turn 2 early on, the number 73 was down again – this time at Turn 4. T4 then also bit someone else: Mir. The Championship leader suffered a rare crash at the left-hander, but he was able to get back out in the session.
The timesheets were still changing. Rins shot up to sixth before going better again as Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) joined fellow Ducati rider Zarco inside the top three. Pol Espargaro then shoved the Italian down to P4 but it was all happening with just over a minute to go. Next to move up was Bagnaia, into second. Finally, Miller struck. The Aussie was flying and took over at the top as the chequered flag waved.
Overall, that means Miller leads the premier class field on Friday, ahead of a consistent performance from Nakagami as he slots into second. Bagnaia joins his teammate in the top three; the Italian P19 after FP1 and making a big leap up the timesheets.
European Grand Prix polesitter Pol Espargaro ends Day 1 in P4, staying inside the top four and another consistent performer on Friday. Zarco's handy FP2 sees the Frenchman finish Friday in P5, moving up from a P6 finish in FP1. Dovizioso took sixth by the end of play, ensuring there are four Ducatis in the top six on an improved Day 1 for the Borgo Panigale factory.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) claimed P7, demoting Morbidelli as the Italian ends the day in P8. He was one of only two to to not go quicker in the afternoon, the other being Maverick Viñales as he took tenth. Rins finished ninth to split the Yamahas on the combined timesheets.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was P11 on Friday, ending the day just ahead of Mir as the Championship leader got shuffled down to P12. Add in a crash and it's not going all his way so far, although with Rins not too far ahead and Quartararo in P16, it could be worse.
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) ended Friday in P18 after a tougher day at the office, with an identical laptime to Alex Marquez as the rookie also looks for more on Saturday.
That's a wrap on Day 1. Mir will be one praying for dry skies overnight as he looks to move straight through to Q2, as will Quartararo. Rins, on the other hand, would likely be a little more zen should the weather move in...
Tune in for FP3 at 10:55 local time (GMT+1) to see who's heading through, before qualifying will then decide the grid from 14:50!
MotoGP™: the five fastest on Friday
1 Jack Miller - Pramac Racing - Ducati - 1:30.622
2 Takaaki Nakagami - LCR Honda Idemitsu - Honda - +0.091
3 Francesco Bagnaia - Pramac Racing - Ducati - +0.120
4 Pol Espargaro - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM - +0.199
5 Johann Zarco - Esponsorama Racing - Ducati - +0.277