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MotoGP Valencia #2: Navarro sets the pace at home, Lowes fourth

Jorge Navarro was Friday’s Moto2 pacesetter as the class returned to Valencia for his home GP, after his morning lap of 1’34.855 proved unbeatable throughout the day’s final practice at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit.

Equally fast times from Luca Marini, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Sam Lowes saw the quartet separated by just 0.102 in the combined standings with Championship-leader Enea Bastianini concluding the first day fractionally behind in sixth.

Moto2’s morning practice began with a near-miss for Marcos Ramirez followed by a crash for Andi Izdihar as Navarro hit top after the opening 10 minutes. Lowes claimed the lead two minutes later before the Speed Up rider struck back on his eighth lap - the squabbling duo the only riders who had broken into the 1’34’s so far - Marini and Bastianini sitting fifth and seventh respectively as the lead pack entered the pits with 15 minutes done.


Mid-session saw the current championship-leader advance to join the top-three, just a tenth down on his nearest title-challenger, Lowes, while the Intact pair of Marcel Schrotter and Tom Luthi locked out the top-five. Marini and Marco Bezzecchi circulated in sixth and eighth with DI Giannantonio splitting the Sky team as the final 10 minutes began.

The closing five initially saw little change to the top times, Hector Garzo seeming to be the only rider to advance as he slid into third on his 13th lap of the 40-minute session before a late-charge from Di Giannantonio moved the second Speed Up initially to fifth, then second as he slotted in behind his teammate, Navarro. An impressive final effort from Marini matched DiGi’s late-pace as the VR46 rider stole second by just two-hundredths of a second, with Lowes another mere fraction back, as one-tenth separated the top-four riders.

The track temperature rose to a balmy 24℃ for the afternoon session, Di Giannantonio taking the first bite at the top of the times before Bo Bendsneyder bettered with his third lap of the Ricardo Tormo layout. It was a Speed Up one-two with eight minutes gone as Bastianini’s Italtrans machine fell at turn six before Lowes took over as pacesetter, Schrotter and Stefano Manzi looking to challenge in second and third.

A somewhat calm session ensued as the majority worked on race-simulations and settings rather than hot laps. Marini circulated in 22nd with Joe Roberts narrowly ahead in 19th while Bezzecchi and Bastianini sat 11th and eighth respectively.

The pace finally looked to ramp up for the closing minutes as Di Giannantonio became the first rider of the afternoon to enter the 1’34’s, however, the Italian remained unchallenged until the penultimate minute, Bastianini and Lowes both responding with fast laps in the dying seconds but falling fractionally short of the number 21’s effort. Lowes outperformed his title-rival with his final lap to take P2 in the session, Bastianini, Bendsneyder and Schrotter closing FP2 in the top-five with Marini eighth.

The slower session saw no change to the combined standings with Navarro maintaining the fastest time of the day ahead of Marini and Di Giannantonio - the latter Italian the only member of the top-five to improve their time but his position remained static. Lowes concluded Friday fourth overall from Schrotter and Bastianini with Garzo, Bendsneyder, Aron Canet and Lorenzo Baldassarri rounding out the top-10. Manzi, Jorge Martin, Luthi and Bezzecchi secured the final provisional Q2 positions with Roberts and teammate Ramirez narrowly losing out.

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