Ducati power locked out the top two on Friday at the Circuit of the Americas as Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco set the overall pace.
Factory Lenovo rider Jack Miller sat second ahead of 2021 MotoGP Champion Fabio Quartararo as the first day of action drew to a close with Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez returning to the fray in sixth.
45℃ track temperatures greeted the premier class as the afternoon practice got underway. Miller heading the initial times with Alex Rins and Alex Marquez battling a gaggle of Ducati’s for best of the rest with Enea Bastianini winning out on the Suzuki on lap three.
Monster Energy’s Quartararo joined the fight in fourth before Andrea Dovizioso arrived to second in the session and fifth overall on the WithU RNF M1. The Gresini and factory Yamaha demoting him to fourth next time around.
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro and Pramac’s Jorge Martin were the next to strike as Argentina’s shining stars claimed third and fourth until the defending champion split the duo with his fifth effort. Miller refined the target with a 2’03.567 while the top eight were covered by just half a second as Joan Mir, Pecco Bagnaia, Marc Marquez and Maverick Viñales matched the front running pace.
The RS-GP continued to impress as Viñales shot for second with his ninth effort, just a tenth down on the Australian’s benchmark, with his teammate two places back. Bastianini retuning to his season-opening prowess in second before Rins harnessed his morning form and returned to the top with a 2’03.030.
Dovizioso continued to harness his top ten fight as the final third began, the Italian running nine-tenths adrift of the Suzuki’s target and on the edge of the provisional promotion zone with Marquez, Martin and Pol Espargaro behind.
Bagnaia challenged his teammate for second place with 15 minutes left on the clock, Viñales doing likewise for fourth further back as Zarco consolidated sixth. Quartararo jumped the Aprilia’s next time around as Marquez and Mir sat on the edge of the top ten, cutting Dovizioso adrift. Three-tenths covering second to tenth with Rins a dominating half-second ahead.
The end of session shootout fired up with four minutes to go and Mir joining his teammate at the top. 0.113s split the two Suzukis as Miller began his counter run. The Ducati taking the spoils with the first 2’02 of the weekend as Marquez and Martin claimed third and fifth respectively. Viñales was the next to improve as the Aprilia returned to fourth. Dovizioso once again the gateway to Q2 as Zarco demoted his fellow Ducati out front. The Bologna factory locked out the top three as Bastianini joined the fun on the bubble of 2’03 pace until Quartararo denied him seconds later.
As the flag flew Luca Marini bettered Dovizioso for 11th as Darryn Binder crashed out on the second WithU Yamaha at turn 12. Both Espargaro brothers narrowly missing out on the top ten with Brad Binder the highest placed KTM in 13th, his factory teammate Miguel Oliveira a disastrous 24th.
Zarco retained command from Miller and Quartararo as the session came to a close. Bastianini, Rins, and Marquez heading a happy Viñales in seventh with Mir, Bagnaia and Martin completing the top ten.