MotoGP: Smith Leads Zarco and Petrucci in Wet Le Mans FP1
Aprilia is back on top of the MotoGP timesheets this morning with Bradley Smith mastering the wet Le Mans conditions ahead of Frenchman Johann Zarco and factory Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci.
Smith’s last-lap dash saw the Aprilia jump to the top of the timesheets, but late charges from the Ducati’s could only see them going second, third and Jack Miller in fourth.
The wet opening session was expected to be a slippery one, with Moto3 seeing a lot of riders take to the gravel traps, however, the Michelin tyres worked wonders on the cold, wet French tarmac.
The riders took a while to get up to speed with Pol Espargaro and Andrea Dovizioso topping the session, but when it mattered, Smith put his Aprilia to the top of the timesheets with a 1:43.804, at the scene of his maiden Grand Prix podium in the 125cc class.
Local rider Johann Zarco was just +0.154s off the British rider, with Petrucci, Miller and Dovizioso making it four Ducati’s in the top five. Maverick Viñales’ weekend started strongly, however, doubts remain over the Spaniard’s race with a long run into the opening chicane which could see the Yamaha rider fall through the pack.
Viñales was seventh fastest and lead a Yamaha trio with Italians Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi behind.
Cal Crutchlow made it two British riders inside the top ten by finishing ninth while early pacesetter Pol Espargaro slipped to 10th.
Fresh from his Ducati announcement, Francesco Bagnaia narrowly missed out on the top ten, his 1:44.783 was just +0.023s slower than Espargaro, but he did lead Alex Rins and championship favourite Joan Mir.
Alex Marquez had a competitive opening session, featuring inside the top ten before being shuffled back to 14th after the late flurry of laps. The Repsol Honda rider was ahead of Portimao test-topper Aleix Espargaro and rookie Brad Binder, who was out on the wet tyres for the first time.
Takaaki Nakagami had a slow start to the weekend in 17th with championship leader Fabio Quartararo in a lowly 18th position. However, with improved weather forecasted for the remainder of the weekend and Quartararo’s decision to skip the Portimao test, it suggests that the Frenchman wasn’t interested in pushing for a lap time, especially after crashing heavily in a wet practice in Phillip Island 12 months ago.
Miguel Oliveira was the leading Tech 3 KTM with Iker Lecuona, Tito Rabat bringing up the field.
Stefan Bradl didn’t set a time after his two days of testing in Portimao but will expect to see him on track for the second practice session at 14:10 local time.