The top two in the title race end a scintillating P2 at the summit with Rins in third as Mugello delivers on Day 1
Caught your breath yet? No we haven’t quite either. A scintillating end to MotoGP™ Practice 2 has decided the automatic Q1 and Q2 places at the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley as home hero Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) leads the way thanks to a 1:45.436 – but his advantage is slender. Title rival Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) is second and just 0.063s off his compatriot, with third quickest Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) also within a tenth of Pecco’s effort.
A steady start
After struggling with a cycling injury he picked up on Thursday at the circuit and a crash in Practice 1, a heavy limping Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) was back on track for Practice 2 as the Spaniard and the returning Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) were the only two riders to improve their morning times in the opening half an hour of the afternoon outing. Then, just ahead of the 15-minute remaining mark, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) joined them – but the reigning World Champion was P15.
A breathless finish
Then, the business end of the session commenced. Espargaro climbed to P15 – just 0.4s off – before Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) climbed to P5. We had 12 minutes to go, and it was time to decide the Q1 and Q2 running order for Saturday morning’s qualifying. However, as he turned up the wick on fresh soft rubber, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was down unhurt at Turn 14 while the #93 was sat P9. How costly would that prove?
Well, straight away, Marc Marquez was shoved to P11 as a quintet of riders pounced to P1, P2, P3, P4 and P5, with Bezzecchi now fronting the times with a 1:45.808. Joining the Italian in the top five was Martin, Bagnaia, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Raul Fernandez (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) with six minutes to go, as the riders ventured out for their second time attacks. 0.7s split the top 18, it was time to strap in for a barnstorming end to Friday.
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Marc Marquez was back out on his second RC213V and chose Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) as his reference. And it was a great reference. Both were 0.2s under Bezzecchi’s time through the second split and coming across the line, Marc Marquez went P1! But not for long. Rins and then Bagnaia stole top spot as MotoGP™ lit up the magnificent Mugello. Shadowing Bagnaia, Bezzecchi went P2 as in the blink of an eye, Marc Marquez was shoved to P7. Grand Prix motorcycle racing at it’s finest.
Two late laps upset the order after the chequered flag was waved. Binder fired his way up to P4 and the wounded Espargaro worked wonders to pinch a late P9, which subsequently pushed his teammate Viñales out of the all-important top 10.
So as the dust settled on a breathless end to Practice 2, your top three was Bagnaia, Bezzecchi and Rins. Binder is 0.118s off in P4 with Martin a close P5, as the returning Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) shows us and Ducati what we’ve been missing with a classy P6. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) is two tenths shy of Pecco in P7 with Marc Marquez P8 in the end, as injured duo Espargaro and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) pull rabbits out the hat to claim P9 and P10 respectively.
As we so often see, Q1 is brimming with stars. Practice 1 pacesetter Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) ended up 0.4s off top spot in P13 as Viñales and Raul Fernandez miss out by a hairs width. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) cut a frustrated figure at the end of the session having only managed P16, he sits behind Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and teammate Franco Morbidelli heading into qualifying.
Qualifying and the Tissot Sprint awaits
All this means another Saturday blockbuster lies in wait. Qualifying kicks off at 10:50 local time (GMT+2), before the Tissot Sprint gets underway at 15:00.
Top 10 combined:
1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – 1:45.436
2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.063
3. Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) + 0.081
4. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.118
5. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.134
6. Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.199
7. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.226
8. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.255
9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) + 0.348
10. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.399