MotoGP: Quartararo fends off Ducati for top honours on Friday

Published: Friday April 29 2022
The reigning Champion tops Day 1 at one of his signature tracks despite a crash, with Bastianini, Bagnaia and Martin on the chase

Reigning Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) is the rider to beat so far at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España! The Championship leader pulled two tenths clear on Friday to hold off the hard-charging Ducati trio of Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing), with the Frenchman finding a late 1:37.071 in FP2 to sit top of the pile despite a crash earlier in the day.

2020 Champion Joan MIr (Team Suzuki Ecstar) topped FP1, the Spaniard’s penultimate lap good enough to hold off a last lap charge from teammate Alex Rins, who ended up just 0.025 behind in second. LCR Castrol’s Honda’s Alex Marquez slotted into third, but there was some headline stealing from Quartararo in a different way to start the day.

The Frenchman was sitting pretty at the top of the timesheets before a wet patch caught him out at the final corner, and the crash left him wincing as the rear wheel of his Yamaha flicked him in the groin. No harm done once he’d had a few minutes to recover, but there were two further moments as well: The first came under braking at Turn 9, before he was then forced to straight line it through the gravel trap at Turn 5. Despite all of that, the number 20 closed out the opening session in fifth, just behind Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing).

Quartararo was able to pull out those two tenths to take back to the top, but he had competition from Ducati. Looking at the opening day of action, it’s the Bologna factory who may well be his closest challengers on Sunday after Bastianini, Bagnaia and Martin all impressed. The ‘Beast’ jumped ahead of his factory counterpart with the chequered flag out to take second spot late on, but after Bagnaia had earlier led the session too. The number 63 appeared to be back to his brilliant best as he threw in a handful of fast laps, with his best placing him third overall and a quarter of a second adrift of his 2021 title rival.

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), meanwhile, suffered two crashes. The first off was at Turn 6, before quickly picking up the bike and rejoining. Whilst heading back to the pitlane, however, the eight-time World Champion was cruising off the racing line at Turn 9 and touched a damp patch that remained from Thursday’s rain. Down went the Spaniard again but former teammate and now KTM test rider Dani Pedrosa was on hand for a taxi back.

Provisional Q2 places
Behind the Quartararo-Ducati caravan in the top four then, it’s Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) who ends Friday as top Honda in fifth. It was close though, the Japanese rider edging out Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) by just 0.004, and the gap didn’t get much bigger thereafter either, with Repsol Honda’s Pol Espargaro in seventh and only another 0.005 off.

Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins was eighth and the only rider in the top ten from FP1’s top three, and Aprilia Racing’s Maverick Viñales finished Friday in ninth. 2021 winner Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) is currently the last set to move through, the Australian in P10 on Day 1.

That leaves the likes of Marquez, Aleix Espargaro and Mir looking for more on Saturday morning.