So what happened to the lap times? When MotoGP tested here at Aragon back in June, Jorge Lorenzo was nearly one and a half seconds faster than his time on the first day of practice. Marc Marquez was half a second slower than his time in testing, despite being the fastest man after FP1 and FP2, Valentino Rossi was a second slower, and Dani Pedrosa was just a couple of tenths slower than his test time, set here three months ago.
The answer is simple: no grip. Grip is missing both front and rear, as temperatures have soared unusually high at the Spanish circuit. The track is also dirtier: a car event held before the test had laid rubber down and swept the track clean, but that was not the case ahead of this weekend. The lack of grip has meant everyone has struggled to match the lap times from earlier in the year.
More track temperature means less braking stability, according to Jorge Lorenzo, which explained the gap between him and the Hondas in the afternoon. In the morning, Lorenzo topped the timesheets by a very narrow margin, putting just eight thousandths of a second between himself and Marc Marquez.
In the afternoon, he was powerless to resist the Honda onslaught, ending the session in 4th, behind the Hondas of Marquez, Stefan Bradl, and Dani Pedrosa. Was he worried by this? ‘We are working, so I’m not worried,’ Lorenzo said.
Perhaps the most frustrated rider of the day was Valentino Rossi. The Italian had happy memories of the test at Aragon, having found a major step forward in braking set up which helped him win his first race in over two years at Assen.
But a problem with the brakes in the afternoon mean he lost half of practice sitting in the garage, and was then forced to go out on his number two bike, which was set up differently to his preferred number one machine. Chasing lap times was impossible on the second bike, and Rossi ended the day down in 7th, nine tenths behind Marquez.
The lack of track time had meant Rossi had not had time to verify the changes made at the test at Misano. He was unclear on whether the good feeling found with the front at the Aragon test would return during the race weekend, as a lot had happened since June.
“The bike change a lot since the Aragon test,” Rossi said, explaining that his team had spent a lot of time chasing the elusive braking stability at other tracks since June.
What would have helped was if the MotoGP riders could have used the new rear tire which Bridgestone brought to test at Misano. Everyone was very impressed with it, but Repsol Honda’s test program meant they did not manage to do too many laps on the tire.
With no idea of durability for the Hondas, HRC had not given approval for the tires by the time the paddock reassembled at Aragon. That approval was expected to be forthcoming this weekend, meaning the earliest the new tire could be used would be Motegi, though the more likely option is Valencia.
Neither Valentino Rossi nor Cal Crutchlow were impressed by Honda’s dragging their feet. Rossi told the media once again that the problem was that the hard rear tire was quite simply unusable, a statement Cal Crutchlow concurred with.
Being forced to wait for Honda was also wrong, Crutchlow said: HRC had had the chance to test the tire, but they hadn’t taken that chance to fit it into their test program. The other riders should not have to suffer for HRC’s test program, the Englishman said.
There was much attention on the Moto3 class this weekend, as two of the top riders from the Spanish championship joined the Grand Prix regulars. Maria Herrera made a big impact in the morning, ending the session in 10th on her Grand Prix debut. In the afternoon, she slid down the standings, as she struggled with the increased temperatures.
The other CEV wild card, Dutchman Bryan Schouten, had the opposite experience. In the morning, Schouten failed to pick up a tow and ended FP1 in 21st. In the afternoon, the man who was leading the Spanish Moto3 championship until last weekend found the slipstream of Alex Rins, and picked up a second, ending the session in 11th. The level of the Spanish championship is extremely high, and the results of both Schouten and Herrera underline that.
Temperature may not prove to be such a problem on for the rest of the weekend, however. Clouds are expected to move in on Saturday, with light rain a possibility for Sunday, and temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees lower.
With more rubber from so many bikes and cooler track temperatures, things could change quite a bit for race day. The first day of practice was certainly interesting, but the question is, was it meaningful?
Photo: Yamaha Racing
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.