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MotoGP Portimao: Rodrigo fastest as rain halts play for Moto3

Gabriel Rodrigo concluded Friday’s FP2 at the top of the Moto3 times after rain stopped play in the afternoon session at the Portugese MotoGP round.

The Gresini rider secured the day’s spoils with his final 1’49.538 flyer, set just before the rain fell, 0.476 ahead of Andrea Migno and Jaume Masia. John McPhee concluded the opening day at Portimao 14th in the times after an early crash delayed his afternoon attack, the rain hitting before he was fully back up to speed with his Petronas SRT.

It was a damp start to the first European morning practice of 2021 as Moto3 tentatively headed out on a patchy Portimao track. The majority of the lightweight class remained in the pits as the early session began, judging the conditions and the tyre needs, Darryn Binder, Deniz Öncü and Ricardo Rossi the only riders on track in the opening 10 minutes.


A smattering of riders attempted to circulated the rollercoaster layout as the clock counted down before action fully resumed with just 10 minutes remaining of FP1. Filip Salac was the first rider to set a sub-two minute lap - on his fourth attempt and with eight minutes left in the session - with Öncü and Xavier Artigas sitting best of the rest on the bubble of 2’00.0. The closing five saw Artigas improve his time by half a second to go top, from Öncü, before Salac hit back to better the pair moments later with a 1’58.984. With the track improving second-by-second, McPhee was the next rider to improve, advancing into the mid ’57’s after just five laps but with times over 10-seconds adrift of last year’s fastest, there was plenty more to come as the day warmed up.

A final shuffle as the flag came out saw Öncü in charge with a 1’56.978, from Salac and McPhee. Andi Farid Izdihar headed Binder and Romano Fenati in the top-six after the initial 40-minutes, with Migno, Sergio Garcia, Tatsuki Suzuki and Yuki Kunii completing the top-10. Lorenzo Fellon, Rodrigo, Masia and Jeremy Alcoba the only riders not to set a time.

The afternoon began with a yellow rain warning over the Portuguese mountains, albeit with cool and dry conditions providing a much improved on track situation. Masia was the first up to speed as FP2 fired up, hitting the top with a 1’50.767 on his third lap as the pace headed closer to its expected norm, his rookie sensation teammate, and championship leader, Pedro Acosta following closely behind.

10 minutes in saw a strange crash for the seemingly luckless McPhee as he lost his Petronas machine at turn four, the Scot currently sitting 10th in the standings with a pitlane plus 10 second penalty start hovering over his Portimao weekend thanks to Doha’s gravel trap altercation.

’25 to go and Fenati muscled in on the KTM duo as he slid into second, Artigas circulating behind, for fourth with Rodrigo, Migno and Niccolò Antonelli heading Binder in the top-eight. A mid-session lull saw the pack return to the pits with Migno awakening proceedings once again as he claimed the lead, by 0.28s on his ninth attempt.

Rain flags raised with 16 minutes of the second practice remaining, however, the light sprinkling failed to distract the riders from the job at hand as the clock counted down. Rodrigo storming to first with a 1’49.538, half a second clear of Migno’s earlier effort, five minutes later.

A disappointing anticlimax saw the pits full for the closing 10 minutes as the rain increased. Rodrigo maintaining his control of the times from Migno and Masia with Garcia, Fenati, Acosta, Suzuki and Dupasquier following in the top-eight. Dennis Foggia claimed ninth from Antonelli with Binder, Öncü, Izan Guevara, McPhee and his nemesis Alcoba rounding out the top-15.

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