The Moto3 class were met with a wet Circuit de Barcelona as they began Free Practice 1 ahead of the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya. Whilst mourning the late Luis Salom, the Moto2 rider who sadly lost his life just over a year ago during a Free Practice incident, the 250cc class spent the session familiarising themselves with the new layout of the track that was changed due to Luis’ death.
Luis’s incident where he lost his life
Luis crashed at turn 12 of the track, a rider error saw him collide with the crash barrier and despite everyone’s best efforts he unfortunately lost his life. As a result, prior to the race, an alternative route was used which enabled the riders to completely bypass the turn and instead use It as a run-off area. The layout has since been changed to essentially slow the riders as they approach the turn.
The long and sweeping turn 10, has been changed to a harsher hairpin that leads to a short straight before a left obtuse corner that leads to a long right handed curve at turn 12. Turn 13 is quite a sharp right hander that runs into a short straight before the chicane at turns 14 and 15, and the final turn, 16 is a long sweeping right hander that leads them to the start-finish straight.
Full wet setup as session started off wet
It meant that it was like a fresh start for the riders, who would spend most of the first day of the meeting familiarising themselves with the new layout and the best lines to take. The wet track meant that many of the riders were reluctant to even go out. The first session became a chance for the rookies and independent teams mostly to take advantage of an emptier track; something rare in the Moto3 class.
Highside for Canet early on
The lap times were well off as the riders took to it with a full wet setup. Within minutes of the session beginning, Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) had a high-side at turn 10 of the track. Accelerating a little too harsh out of the wet corner, the rear end spun round and he was thrown over the bike. A high-side was not a great start for the Spaniard on home turf; he was able to get to his feet but they failed to restart his bike.
Wildcard rider, Aleix Viu (42 motorsport) replicated Canet’s crash later on, as did rookie Ayumu Sasaki (SIC Racing Team) who was also caught out as there were still damp patches at the corner. Fortunately, both riders also appeared unhurt.
Track dried out in time for end of session
The sun came out at last and combined with the riders completing laps; the track began to dry out and became patchy in parts. The riders remained on the wet setup however, and more braved going out to set a time. Where the times were well into the two minutes, they began to drop down to the low two minutes area.
Fenati quickest at the end of FP1
Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) finished the session on top as a late flurry of laps allowed the times to tumble. His time on the Honda of 2:06.206 was way off the expected pace but enough to leave him top of the timesheets. He, championship leader Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), and rookie Marco Bezzecchi (CIP) were the fastest during the session, and the only ones to lap under 2:07 minutes; the rookie was the fastest Mahindra rider on track.
Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Aspar Mahindra Moto3) was fourth quickest ahead of Jakub Jornfeil (Peugeot MC Saxoprint), Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team) and Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Philipp Oettl (Sudmetall Schedl GP Racing), rookie Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) and Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completed the top 10.
One rider, Marcos Ramirez (Platinum bay Real Estate) completed a lap but was too far off the pace for it to count. Canet did not complete his lap before he crashed, and three other riders including, John McPhee (British Talent Team), Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0), and Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) decided not to take a chance during the session.
Teammates wheelie out of the pits
Both Sky Racing Team VR46 teammates, Andrea Migno and Nicolo Bulega left the pits to begin the second session on their back tyre as they pulled a wheelie in unison; clearly happy to get things underway.
The conditions were much better at the start of the second Free Practice session. The sun was shining, the temperature was up and straight away they were able to reduce their lap times by over 10 seconds. Some needed to use the opportunity to continue familiarising with the track.
Pagliani narrowly misses the barrier
One rider that was caught out with the new layout was wildcard rider, Manuel Pagliani (CIP) who ran off at turn 12 and did well to avoid hitting the barrier. He appeared to be taking an off road route as he ran along the path the ran parallel to the safety barrier before managing to return to the track unharmed.
Battle at the top of the timesheets
There was a battle taking place at the top of the timesheets between the likes of Bastianini, Mir, Canet, Fenati, and Livio Loi (Leopard Racing). As he pushed, Canet was seen running off track once again at turn 14 forced to used the painted tarmac area where the new turn had been introduced.
With just over five minutes remaining Fenati became the first rider to break through the 1:55 minute barrier. He continued at that pace and managed to reduce his time whilst creating a gap between him and now second place man, Bastianini.
Canet quickest at the end of day on in Catalunya
The chequered flag went out to enter the session that remained more informative thankfully; everyone was clearly taking extra precaution knowing about the history of the track. On his final lap however, Canet managed to go quicker and once again in doing so set another lap record with his time of 1:54.257. After a quick practice start he returned to the pits on his back wheel to celebrate with his home fans.
Fenati remained second quickest ahead of Mir who improved on his last lap, as did Bulega, leaving them third and fourth. Migno was fifth ahead of Bastianini, Suzuki, Bendsneyder and Bezzecchi who completed the top 10 on day one in Catalunya.