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MotoGP Catalunya: Morbidelli splits Espargaro brothers in FP1

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro was on top for the opening practice of his home Grand Prix as MotoGP fired up at Barcelona for the CatalanGP on Friday.

The incredibly close 45-minute session saw Franky Morbidelli just 0.024s behind the Spaniard, having led for the majority of FP1, with the younger Espargaro brother claiming third just three-tenths back.

MotoGP drama got going before FP1 had even started for the Barcelona weekend as Alex Rins retired from his home GP injured, after an accident while cycling the track on Thursday. The Spaniard breaking his right wrist in the fall, with his mobile phone rumoured to have been the culprit, resulting in his fifth non-scoring race in a row.


Jorge Martin returns to action this weekend after his Portimao crash, the Pramac rider and his teammate, Johann Zarco, having both signed on for a further year with the Ducati satellite outfit, with Brad Binder also announcing his extended tenure, at KTM, until 2024.

Maverick Viñales starts his home race with a new crew chief after the recent run of disappointing results. Esteban García parting ways with the Yamaha team ‘by mutual agreement’ with Silvano Galbusera moving over from the European test team to take up the reigns for the remainder of the 2021 season.

Having grown up just a stones’ throw from the Montmeló circuit, Aleix Espargaro took charge of FP1 as the opening laps registered, his brother taking over the reigns on the next revolution as he advanced the pace by half a second before another Spaniard, Joan Mir claimed the position.

With 10-minutes gone, the battle for control was now between Fabio Quartararo and Marc Marquez, the Repsol rider’s younger brother claiming third on the LCR machine before Morbidelli arrived - the first to enter the 1’40 bracket - to demote the lot. Pol Espargaro hit back with his fifth lap of the morning but the Italian was on a charge, advancing the pace to 1’40.402 to sit 0.349s clear of the rest.

Circulating in perfect symmetry, the Espargaro brothers claimed second and third with identical times as Zarco headed the factory Yamahas in the top-six - Viñales leading his teammate by the narrowest of margins before improving to better the Ducati for fourth. 0.002s separating second to fourth with half an hour to go.

There was little change to the times as the session reached it’s mid-point, Miguel Oliveira easily circulating as top-KTM in seventh, from Mir, Jack Miller and Takaaki Nakagami with Marc Marquez now back to 11th. Pecco Bagnaia began his Barcelona weekend in 12th, mentor Valentino Rossi behind, with Iker Lecuona, Enea Bastianini, Alex Marquez, Danilo Petrucci and Luca Marini heading Binder, Lorenzo Savadori and Martin at the back of the field.

16-minutes to go and Bagnaia was the first to pick up the pace, meeting his teammate on the edge of the top-10, 0.6s from the fastest time, before the majority of the grid returned to the pits.

The action resumed in the closing five-minutes as the pack peeled out once again, the majority sticking to the soft front/medium rear tyre combination with Espargaro choosing double mediums as he aimed his Aprilia at the top of the times. Finding second, the 31-year-old dug deep, to lead the session with just one-minute remaining.

The chequered flag found Espargaro still in charge from Morbidelli, and his younger brother with Viñales holding on to fourth. Zarco sat fifth from Mugello’s race winner, Quartararo with Oliveira, Mir, Miller and Bagnaia rounding out the top-10, just seventh-tenths away from the fastest time so far.


Nakagami headed a vastly improved Martin on his first session back, as Marquez, Petrucci and Rossi complete the top-15, with Lecuona, Bastianini, Alex Marquez, Marini, Binder and Savadori concluding the mornings standings.

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