With conditions dependably wet at last, the MotoGP class got their first session of practice providing usable data. Dani Pedrosa ended FP3 on top, just as he had yesterday in the afternoon, the Repsol Honda rider managing the rain tires best at Jerez. Jorge Lorenzo was not far behind, though, the Yamaha man ending the session a tenth behind Pedrosa, and two tenths ahead of Pedrosa Repsol Honda teammate Casey Stoner. Nicky Hayden proved that the Ducati works well in the wet, just missing out on 3rd by four hundredths of a second, and comfortably ahead of Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow.
Valentino Rossi slipped down the order to 6th during FP3, but the Italian once again looked much more aggressive on the Ducati than he has for a while. That did not pay off in terms of results, though, Rossi nearly a second and a half slower than Pedrosa, and only fractionally quicker than Andrea Dovzioso. Stefan Bradl continues to impress in his rookie year, the German putting the LCR Honda into 8th, just behind Dovizioso and Rossi, while Cardion AB's Karel Abraham was not far behind Bradl. Aspar's Randy de Puniet was the first of the CRT bikes, putting his Aprilia ART ahead of three prototype bikes, including the factory Yamaha of Ben Spies, who continues to struggle at Jerez.
With the weather a little more settled in Jerez on Saturday morning - it rained for most of the night, and the track is now fully wet - practice returned to some semblance of normality. Miguel Oliveira's dominance of Moto3 in the wet continued, topping the FP3 session by over a second with a fast flying lap at the very end. The Portuguese rider deposed former Red Bull Rookie Arthur Sissis from top spot, the young Australian being demoted to 2nd, just ahead of Danny Kent, though Kent could have gone faster if he hadn't got engaged in an altercation with RW Racing's Luis Salom. After yesterday's problems in the rain, Romano Fenati found his feet again, and ended the session in 5th.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Jerez:
There were plenty of big names to watch out for at Jerez, but the real star of the show was the weather. She turned out to be such a prima donna that she almost completely halted on-track action for the first session of MotoGP, though not so much through her ferocity as by her fickleness. A rain shower at the end of the previous Moto3 made the track just greasy enough for it to be no use for slick tires, and nowhere near wet enough to get any useful information from wets, and so the vast majority of the MotoGP grid spent all of FP1 suited up but twiddling their thumbs.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after a wet first day of practice at Jerez:
After a dismal weekend at Qatar three weeks ago, Valentino Rossi got Jerez off to a good start by seizing control of the second session of free practice and leading for much of it. The Italian held a clear lead until the final minutes of practice, when he was deposed by Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, who dived under Rossi's time by nearly two thirds of a second. The factory Ducati man took 2nd, ahead of Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, and Pedrosa's Repsol teammate Casey Stoner.
Nicky Hayden also put the factory Ducati closer to the sharp end, taking 5th spot just over a tenth behind reigning champion Casey Stoner, while Andrea Dovizioso was the fastest of the satellite bikes, grabbing 6th on his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, just ahead of San Carlo Gresini's Alvaro Bautista and Dovi's teammate Cal Crutchlow. Ben Spies continues to struggle, managing just the 9th fastest time, his best lap equaled by MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl.
Randy de Puniet was 10th and the best of the CRT bikes, as expected, both De Puniet and Mattia Pasini beating the satellite Ducatis of Karel Abraham and Hector Barbera into 13th and 14th.
Miguel Oliveira topped the wet second session of free practice for the Moto3 class at Jerez, the Portuguese rider taking the lead as the times dropped towards the end of the session. Red Bull KTM's Sandro Cortese ended up in 2nd spot, just a few thousandths ahead of Maverick Vinales on the Blusens Avintia FTR Honda.
The weather made a big difference to the top of the timesheet. The times were dominated early in the session by Alex Marquez, younger brother of Marc, until the track started to dry out towards the end. Jakub Kornfeil posted an impressive 4th-fastest time, while Danny Webb and Brad Binder had been fast early on. The wet was not so favorable for Romano Fenati, the young Italian ending FP2 down in 21st, after leading the dry morning session of practice.
Johann Zarco has ended the first session of free practice for the Moto2 class on top of the timesheets. The French JiR rider dominated the session from the halfway point onwards, leading by over 1.6 seconds at one point. Towards the end of FP1, the pack started to close in, Speed Up's Andrea Iannone finishing up in 2nd, nearly nine tenths behind Zarco, and just a fraction ahead of Xavier Simeon, the Belgian Tech 3 rider impressive in the wet. Rain master Ant West put the QMMF Moriwaki into 4th after leading during the early sessions, finishing ahead of Marc VDS Racing's Scott Redding and the second Tech 3 man Bradley Smith.
The weather moved in to disrupt the first session of free practice for the MotoGP class at Jerez, causing almost the entire session to be lost. The session started with just a few drops of rain, making the track greasy, but not really wet. The conditions meant that there was nothing to be learned going out, and much to be lost: too dry to get any useful wet setup data, too wet to get any useful dry setup data, and just slick enough to increase the risk of crashing and injuring yourself. Only in the final ten minutes did the rain start to get heavier, making the track wet enough to make it worth going out.
The conditions left Ivan Silva on top of the timesheets, as the Avintia Blusens rider was the only man who did have something to learn. The Spaniard ran back-to-back tests on the new Inmotec carbon fiber chassis, comparing it to the aluminium FTR chassis currently being used by teammate Yonny Hernandez. Stefan Bradl ended the session in 2nd, posting some impressive times on a fully wet track, while Randy de Puniet secured 3rd spot after venturing out early, when the track was still dry.
Romano Fenati continues to impress on his debut in the Moto3 class, the European 125cc champion topping the first session of free practice at Jerez. Fenati led throughout, leaving title favorite Maverick Vinales to settle for the 2nd fastest time, a quarter of a second behind Fenati. Sandro Cortese was the first of the KTMs, taking 3rd, some half a second off the time of the FTR Honda of Fenati, while Miguel Oliveira ended the session in 4th.
The session was red-flagged with 11 minutes to go, after Aspar's Hector Faubel crashed heavily, injuring his right knee. Rain drops started to fall with 2 minutes of the session left, calling an early end to proceedings, and heralding what promises to be a mostly damp weekend.
Though the night race at Qatar is spectacular, the paddock at Jerez feels like a proper paddock. There is a bustle missing from Qatar, and the return of the hospitality units means that it is an altogether more colorful place. The presence of the hospitality units also means seeing more old friends, the men and women who slave all weekend putting the units together and ensuring that everything runs smoothly within them, and that the guests who spend their time there - including, most importantly, the people who foot the bill for this whole MotoGP malarkey - pass it as pleasantly as possible. These are the people who are the backbone of MotoGP, the foundation on which it is built, and it is always a happy moment meeting them again.
The final round of press release previews from the MotoGP teams ahead of this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's race at Jerez: