Gresini’s Gabriel Rodrigo returned to his dominant Friday form for the fourth time in 2021 as Moto3 practice for the CatalanGP got underway at Barcelona.
Heading the standings by 0.078s from Petronas’ Darryn Binder, the Argentinian led the way for the majority of the afternoon session. Despite completing FP2 in 14th, John McPhee narrowly missed out on provisional top-14 place thanks to a stellar morning lap from Snipers rider Filip Salac.
Subdued but determined Moto3 action got underway at Barcelona this morning, as the class vowed to ride in memory of their fallen friend and fellow competitor Jason Dupasquier, after the heartbreaking outcome of Mugello’s qualifying accident.
Last weekend’s VR46 academy wildcard, Elia Bartolini, returns as a replacement rider for Carlos Tatay while Daniel Holgado joins the class for CIP in place of Max Kofler, the two having been injured during the Mugello race last time out.
Sergio Garcia took charge of proceedings as FP1 got up to speed, Andrea Migno and Jaume Masia narrowly behind as Salac and Pedro Acosta rounded out the initial top-five positions. The opening 10 minutes saw Mugello victor Dennis Foggia and podium sitter Rodrigo join the fray with Niccolò Antonelli and Romano Fenati circulating on the fringes as the session unfolded.
The halfway stage saw Garcia maintain his control, Migno doing likewise for second, with Rodrigo, Foggia and Masia sitting third to fifth. Antonelli held sixth from Salac, Jeremy Alcoba, Romano Fenati and Izan Guevara.
The closing 15-minutes began with Kaito Toba flying to the top of the standings, before pushing the pace even further with a 1’49.698 next time around. McPhee rose to 14th, 1.2s off the race as the final 10-minutes began, Xavier Artigas the next to shine as he claimed second with his 12th lap of the day.
Alcoba and Deniz Öncü were the next to improve, finding third and fourth respectively before Rodrigo advanced the target once again, this time to a 1’49.112 and four minutes to go. The final three minutes saw the standings flicker repeatedly as the pack fired up in full, Migno challenging for the lead with two to go, from Rodrigo, Fenati, Garcia and Guevara as Adrian Fernandez lost the front at turn 14.
Binder was the next to find the limit, this time at turn five, as the GasGas duo of Garcia and Guevara locked out the top-two - 1’48.426 the fastest time of the morning. Salac, Fenati and Masia completing the top-five as the session wound towards its conclusion. A final hot-lap saw McPhee steal fourth in the dying seconds as the Scot completed FP1 with a 1’48.999 while Rodrigo came through just 0.042s behind, to claim fifth at the chequered flag.
Despite the cloud cover, the afternoon session was greeted with 27℃ air temperatures warming the track to the high 30’s. Öncü became the first to succumb to the Montmeló turn two club, as he crashed out on his first hot-lap in the opening five minutes with Andi Farid Izdihar doing likewise moments later at turn 13.
Rodrigo was the first to lead as the times began to register, Migno, Alcoba, Kunii and Masia sharing the early top-five spoils before Tatsuki Suzuki and Fenati took over at the top. The Argentinian was back in charge with his fourth lap, setting 1’49.365 pace after 10-minutes on track, the Petronas duo of Binder and McPhee amongst a gaggle of riders to lose their times due to track limits
Replacement rider, Holgado was the next to fall, this time at turn eight, as Rodrigo remained in control. Fenati, Stefano Nepa, Suzuki and Migno circulated within four-tenths of the Gresini with Binder up to sixth after seven laps on track.
The usual mid-session lull saw the majority of the class return to the pits ahead of their second runs, the leader springing back into action with 18-minutes left to play as he immediately advanced the pace to 1’49.245 - albeit just shy of a second slower than the morning’s best. Antonelli was the next to strike as he rose to second, thanks to a 1’49.5, with McPhee circulating in 17th as the afternoon unfolded.
Another ‘calm before the storm’ saw everyone pit again before the end of session shootout, Acosta taking charge as the action fired up with the timing screens ablaze as the final three minutes counted down.
Binder and McPhee rose to first and third respectively before the standings shuffled again, the Scot finding himself dropped to 11th in a matter of seconds with Rodrigo back in front - on a 1’47.950 - with one-minute to go.
It was Rodrigo from Binder as the flag came out, Fenati claiming third ahead of Guevara and Ayumu Sasaki, while Alcoba headed Migno, Suzuki, Nepa and Antonelli. Garcia sat 11th from Ricardo Rossi, Acosta and McPhee with the Scot losing out on the last provisional Q2 position in the combined times thanks to Salac’s morning effort.