Elf Marc VDS’ Augusto Fernandez completed a challenging Friday at the top of the times after opening practice for the Emilia Romagna GP.
Remy Gardner and Xavi Vierge claimed second and third respectively after denying Jake Dixon and Sam Lowes in the final moments of the drying afternoon session.
Misano’s turn 16 defeated Aron Canet in dramatic style as Moto2 practice first got up to speed, Dixon succumbing at the same corner after eight minutes on track.
Joe Roberts took charge of the times on his fourth lap of Friday morning from Barry Baltus and Tom Luthi. 1’51.040 the time to beat in the opening 10 minutes as the rain looked to have abated, for now.
Lowes was the next to slide out of turn 16 as the front end tucked on the Elf Marc VDS. Championship leader Gardner setting the second fastest time so far, with Marcel Schrotter and Stefano Manzi also improving into the top four.
Somkiat Chantra set a 1’50.425 to head Baltus and Roberts, with Hector Garzo and Nicolò Bulega joining Gardner in the top six before the American returned to the top and Chantra also fell foul of the seemingly treacherous turn 16.
Roberts retained control at the halfway stage thanks to his 1’49.284, Garzo leading Marco Bezzecchi, Luthi and Augusto Fernandez, as the Italtrans rider picked up the pace once again. KTM’s title rivals Gardner and Raul Fernandez circulating down in 12th and 19th respectively.
A spectacular save, again at turn 16, prevented Jorge Navarro from suffering a similar fate to the previous fallers as the second half continued, Simone Corsi less lucky at turn five moments later.
Manzi became the next to crash, at turn 10 with as many minutes left to run, as Fernandez took charge on the Marc VDS from Bezzecchi and Roberts. Bulega the next to strike, with a 1’48.742 before continuing to improve.
Lowes and Dixon returned to the fray in the closing minutes, with the Brits down in 24th and 28th respectively as the clock counted out.
Fernandez battled Bulega at the top of the times as the session concluded, Celestino Vietti putting in a late push to take third from Garzo and his SKY VR46 teammate Bezzecchi, before Roberts and Tony Arbolino outpaced him for the position as the flag came out. Post-session revisions removing the Marc VDS rider’s fastest time, with Bulega back in the driving seat.
A drying track greeted the afternoon return with Gardner taking charge from the off. A revitalised Dixon sat second after his early fall from Petronas teammate Vierge before the Brit hit the top thanks to a 1’49.211.
Augusto Fernandez returned to his prime position after six laps of FP2, a 1’48.162 overshadowing his previous, deleted, best to take control of the combined times as conditions improved along with the pace. Canet and KTM’s rookie star joined the top three ahead of Dixon, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Arbolino as the session neared the halfway stage. Fermín Aldeguer, Vierge, Cameron Beaubier and Garzo completing the top 10 with Gardner, Manzi, Navarro and Luthi holding the final provisional promotion places.
Navarro was the next to strike as his ’48.0 hit the top, while the majority of the pack hit the pits. Gardner the first to head out on slicks as the rest analysed his progress before joining the fun once again.
The gamble paid off for the Australian as he claimed the first 1’47 lap on his 11th attempt. Fernandez following for second as his Marc VDS teammate Lowes finally headed out on track, the Brit initially taking 11th before hitting the top three next time around. Vierge joined the fun out front as the top four circulated on 1’45 pace before Lowes hit the top with a 1’44.203, 0.013s ahead of his fellow Elf rider and almost two seconds clear of Luthi in fifth.
The fast times kept coming as the final minutes clicked down. Fernandez returning to lead from Lowes, Gardner, Vierge and Dixon as Arbolino, Luthi and Beaubier all improved into the 1’43’s.
Roberts and Manzi tangled at turn three with two minutes remaining, the American holding his shoulder in the aftermath with yellow flags impeding on the final fast laps.
Late charges from Gardner and Vierge denied impressive efforts from Dixon and Lowes in the top five with Fernandez maintaining outright control as the session concluded. Vietti sat sixth from Ai Ogura, Raul Fernandez, Chantra and Aldeguer with Manzi, Marcos Ramirez, Luthi and Canet holding Q2 contention overnight.