Spaniard Alex Rins dropped the hammer on his competition in FP3 with a 2'17.062 that was nearly a full second quicker than the second fastest rider, Luis Salom. Maverick Vinales rounded out the top three slots but was almost two seconds behind Rins. Rins was the only Moto3 rider to drop into the 2'17s and he did it early in the morning qualifying session and then again toward the end of practice.
Carmelo Ezpeleta was served with with a subpoena this morning by legal representatives of Kevin Schwantz, calling the Dorna CEO to appear before the courts in Austin to give a report of the contract dealings between Schwantz and the Spanish company charged with organizing MotoGP over the race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin. A statement released by Schwantz reads "I just received word from my attorney, Austin Tighe: I want to let you know that earlier this morning, over what I am told was a delicious Four Seasons’ breakfast, Carmelo Ezpeleta was served with a subpoena to appear for deposition in Austin on May 8 at 9:00 a.m."
The move is the latest step in the long-running dispute between Schwantz and COTA, the owners of the Circuit of The Americas, over the rights to organize the Austin round of MotoGP. With Ezpeleta called to make a public statement about the course of events leading up to the ousting of Schwantz, the Dorna boss will be forced to fly back to the US the week after the Jerez round of MotoGP, to speak to the courts. Ezpeleta will likely be quizzed on his role in the contract dispute between Schwantz and COTA, and exactly what agreements were made between the parties.
The first day of practice at the Circuit of The Americas was summed up with eloquent brevity by the headline of the press release issued by the RW Racing GP Moto3 team of Jasper Iwema and Jakub Kornfeil: "No grip in Texas." Despite the awesome facility, a fascinating and difficult track, and clear blue Texan skies, the times set by all three Grand Prix classes in Austin were a very long way off what had been expected, as the riders struggled to find any grip anywhere.
Why was the grip so low? The heavy rains from the previous day didn't help, washing any rubber that was on the track away. Not that there was much, on a track that has seen very little bike use in its short existence so far. Then there was the cool temperatures, with thermostats showing just 13°C in the morning, and a strong wind blowing away any heat the sun managed to get into the tarmac. "Like riding on ice," was the common consensus in the morning, with times some five and a half seconds off that set by Marc Marquez at the previous test back in mid March, at which conditions were far from ideal.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Austin:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at the Austin MotoGP round:
Scott Redding found something he liked during FP2, dropping six seconds a lap from his best FP1 time and setting the fast lap of the day for Moto2. Xavier Simeon finished three-tenths shy of the Briton and Johann Zarco ended his day another one-tenth behind in third. As in the MotoGP and Moto3 second practices, higher track temperatures contributed significantly to improved times. Fast man in FP1, Nicolas Terol, led for much of FP2 but with about 12 minutes remaining, top lap times dropped beyond his reach. Notably, Pol Espargaro still appeared to struggle and improved only to 7th from 12th and remained six-tenths behind Redding.
Marc Marquez did nothing to change the impression that he is the man to beat at COTA with a half-second advantage on the second-fastest rider. That rider, Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, narrowed the gap with Marquez as temperatures climbed and lap times dropped. A surprising third fastest by Stephan Bradl indicates there's something about the track that agrees with Honda. But what also seems to work is additional track time. All of the top riders today spent time at a COTA test earlier in the year. Even so, Marquez's best time today was two seconds slower than his fast lap from testing here in March at the new, 5.5 km (3.4 mi.) circuit near Austin, Texas.
Maverick Vinales proved to be a quick learner shaving nearly four full seconds from his FP1 best to lead the pack with a 2'18.254. A couple of bike lengths separated Alex Rins and Luis Salom for second and third fastest making it an early KTM sweep for the top three slots. While many riders could be seen experimenting with different racing lines at the new circuit, most were substantially faster in the second session as Romano Fenati's best time in FP1 would have put him in 23rd for FP2.
Nicolas Terol saved his best for last and ran down an initially quick Takaaki Nakagami in the first Moto2 free practice at the new Circuit of the Americas track near Austin, Texas. Dominique Aegerter also clipped Nakagami toward the end of the session, finishing two-tenths ahead of Qatar's third-place finisher but still four-tenths shy of Terol's fast lap of 2'15.103. In a clear indication that quick in Qatar doesn't initially translate into speed at COTA, Scott Redding (23rd) and Pol Espargaro (12th) finished the first free-practice well down the timesheets.
Marc Marquez picked up where left he off in testing one month ago by again setting the fast lap on the new Circuit of the Americas track in Texas. Qatar race winner Jorge Lorenzo finished the session only two-tenths shy of Repsol's wunderkind but the rest of the field has some catching up to do. Third-fastest Dani Pedrosa, 1.6 seconds behind his teammate, still has not found his rhythm on the track. The surprise of the first-ever MotoGP practice at COTA are the factory Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso (fourth) and Nicky Hayden (sixth) who bracketed a fifth-best Valentino Rossi. Neither Ducati rider had tested at the track before. Top CRT (so far) is Yonny Hernandez in 13th place, 4.3 seconds from leader Marquez.
Romano Fenati led the first free practice at the new Circuit of the Americas track near Austin, Texas with Maverick Vinales and Jonas Folger rounding out the top of the timesheet. Top riders, who had never set a wheel on the track prior to Friday morning, shaved nearly eight seconds from their initial times during the 30-minute session under blue skies. Qatar race winner Luis Salom began the session well off the pace but closed within six-tenths of a second toward the end of the session. Expect times to continue to drop.
"I thought Laguna Seca was a tough track to learn, and then I came here." Bradley Smith's verdict on the Circuit of The Americas at Austin, Texas, after six laps on the scooter around the track. Smith's words sum up the general feeling about the newest addition to the MotoGP calendar, mind-boggling sequences of decreasing and increasing radius turns, with blind entrances, complex combinations and a few hard-braking hairpins with tough entrance points. Even the long back straight undulates, the huge, slightly bowed, 1200 meter length of tarmac rising and falling, leaving you wondering where you are along it.
The setting is beautiful, in the rolling low hills to the east of Austin, just beyond the airport, and the facilities are quite simply overwhelming: modern, well-equipped, brightly lit, attractively designed. Indeed, both the factory and Tech 3 Yamaha teams are delighted with the facility: after a battery fire at 1am, it was only the circuit's outstanding sprinkler system and alert response by the fire service which prevented the fire spreading out of control, destroying maybe eight or twelve MotoGP machines, and causing upwards of $50 million of damage.
And yet the track is far from perfect. "The track is better to look at than to ride," Valentino Rossi described it to the Italian press. The track has a number of outstanding sections, the fast sweeper of Turn 2 and the three consecutive right handers of Turns 16 through 18 standing out above all. It has some extremely challenging and technical sections, especially the Esses of Turns 3 through 5. Getting it right in each section is crucial: end up wide in one place, miss the apex by a foot somewhere, and you are off line for the next section, which means you'll also miss the entry for the corner after that, and before you know it, you've lost half a second and can throw away your lap. Many of these corners demand precision, and above all, knowing where you need to be on the circuit for the next corner, and the one after that, and the one after that.
Press release previews ahead of this weekend's MotoGP round at Austin, Texas:
Press release previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams at Austin: