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MotoGP Portimao: Zarco heads Viñales as Aprilia surprise in third

Johann Zarco dominated Friday’s times at the Algarve International Circuit with an impressive 1’39.417, beating Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro in the afternoon session to head the combined standings. Britain’s Cal Crutchlow concluded the day 14th with just half a second separating him from the Frenchman.

The second 70 minutes of MotoGP action got underway in Portugal with Zarco leading the charge, Joan Mir and Aleix Espargaro immediately up to speed as the timing screens were ablaze of red. Alex Rins became the first faller at turn eight after just six minutes on track as Espargaro fired his Aprilia into P1 with a 1’40.969, Brad Binder’s KTM back in business just 0.015 behind.

Takaaki Nakagami took up the challenge at the hour mark as he reduced the times by mere fractions ahead of Zarco but the Frenchman bettered as he recaptured the top spot one lap later. Franco Morbidelli and Stephan Bradl were the next to pick up the fight as the session continued with Viñales sliding into fourth on his seventh lap before heading back to the pits.


The additional 25 minutes of track time to both Friday’s sessions allowed multiple riders to experiment with set-up, Yamaha the obvious example as both Valentino Rossi and Fabio Quartararo’s machines featured Morbidelli’s favoured carbon-fibre swing arm with the pair sitting 18th and 17th respectively after the opening 25 minutes.

Morning, and local, hero Miguel Oliveira returned to head the times on his 11th lap of the afternoon just a tenth shy of his earlier record-breaking pace as Quartararo and Andrea Dovizioso advanced to fifth and sixth, however, the Italian was still two-tenths adrift of the benchmark currently needed for Q2 promotion.

The halfway point found Oliveira still in charge but just two-tenths separated the top four riders as Morbidelli, Nakagami and Quartararo all improved hoping to match the Portuguese rider. Nakagami unfortunate to go down at turn four on his 16th lap with the Japanese man heading back to the pits with questions over his left hand.

The final half hour saw an ever-advancing Pol Espargaro as the KTM climbed to sixth then fourth, before claiming second in the session as his pace improved to within 0.222 of Oliveira’s overall best.

Morbidelli slid in between the top duo as FP2 reached the final 20 minutes before the Honda’s of Stefan Bradl and Cal Crutchlow demoted them all, the German winning out by just 0.008 but the Petronas man was on a charge.

Morbidelli claimed the fastest time of the day so far - a 1’40.079 - as Oliveira also improved to sit ahead of Viñales with the trio continuing to fight as the clock counted down. Viñales eventually breaking into the 1’39s as teammate, Rossi, found himself back in the garage after a turn four fall.

10 minutes to go and the track went quiet, the pack returning to the pits ahead of the final push. Mir circulated as a solitary figure before firing his Suzuki into fifth as the final shootout began, advancing to fourth on his next effort as Miller hit the top in dramatic style with a 1’39.895.

A confident Zarco bettered his Ducati counterpart before lighting the timing screen red yet again, Viñales returning to the top before Zarco took it back, Binder claiming third but Aleix Espargaro was now in the mix, taking second from the Yamaha on his 23rd lap. The closing minute saw the attacks coming thick and fast but Zarco maintained his lead on the overall times.

Viñales reclaimed second from Espargaro with Quartararo through to fourth at the flag, Binder, Mir and Dovizioso claiming the top-seven ahead of Pol Espargaro, Miller and Morbidelli who hold the final Q2 spots overnight. Bradl finished Friday in 11th with Nakagami, Oliveira and Crutchlow for company, Pecco Bagnaia, Lorenzo Savadori, Rins and Alex Marquez concluded the afternoon in the top-18 with Danillo Petrucci, Tito Rabat, Valentino Rossi and Mika Kallio rounding out the standings.

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