Red Bull Ring MotoGP: KTM's Espargaro tops FP1

Pol Espargaro led the opening MotoGP practice session for KTM’s home Austrian Grand Prix, while race-winning teammate Brad Binder was a low-key 16th.

Red Bull Ring MotoGP: KTM's Espargaro tops FP1

With an unpredictable weather forecast for later today, the latter stages of FP1 featured riders trying to secure provisional Q2 places.

Championship leader Fabio Quartararo set the early pace in the opening 45-minute session with a 1m26.282s, though this was quickly beaten by Espargaro on the KTM.

Espargaro tested at Red Bull Ring during the coronavirus-enforced break along with KTM test rider Dani Pedrosa, and he used this relatively recent knowledge of the track to lead much of the session. 

He improved on his second effort to a 1m24.858s, bettering this further to a 1m24.685s with 21 minutes remaining.

Due to the extreme heat build-up in the tyres at the hard-acceleration Red Bull Ring, Michelin has once again brought a special construction tyre to cope.

Ducati, and particularly Andrea Dovizioso, has struggled to get to grips with Michelin’s new construction tyre in use in 2020 – though Dovizioso on Thursday noted that the alternate tyre for the Austrian double-header could work in his favour.

Briefly hitting top spot with a 1m24.772s around 10 minutes into the session, Dovizioso would end the session just 0.044 seconds adrift of Espargaro.

Espargaro was briefly deposed by LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami on the year-old Honda, but fired in a 1m24.193s with three minutes remaining which would remain the best time at the chequered flag. 

Joan Mir got the Suzuki up to third, 0.129s off the pace, but had his best lap cancelled for improving his laptime through a yellow flag sector for a crash for Aprilia’s Bradley Smith at Turn 4, which dropped him down to ninth.

That promoted Nakagami to third, with Alex Rins the lead Suzuki ahead of Petronas’ Franco Morbidelli leading the Yamaha charge on the ‘A-spec’ M1.

Fellow Brno podium-finisher Johann Zarco (Avintia) was sixth on the Ducati which won last year’s race in the hands of Dovizioso, with Tech 3’s Miguel Oliveira seventh on the KTM ahead of Pramac’s Jack Miller and Mir.

Quartararo completed the top 10, bumping his future factory Yamaha teammate and nearest title rival Maverick Vinales down to 11th late on in a frustrating session for both.

Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) headed Valentino Rossi on the other works team Yamaha, with Brno race winner Binder 0.812s off the pace down in 16th as he gets to grips with the Red Bull Ring on a MotoGP bike for the first time.

The injured Francesco Bagnaia has been replaced by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro at Pramac. He was 17th at the end of FP1 ahead of Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro and Alex Marquez on the works Honda.

Austrian Grand Prix - FP1 Results:

Cla # Rider Bike Time Gap
1 44 Spain Pol Espargaro
KTM 1'24.193
2 4 Italy Andrea Dovizioso
Ducati 1'24.237 0.044
3 30 Japan Takaaki Nakagami
Honda 1'24.378 0.185
4 42 Spain Alex Rins
Suzuki 1'24.573 0.380
5 21 Italy Franco Morbidelli
Yamaha 1'24.588 0.395
6 5 France Johann Zarco
Ducati 1'24.655 0.462
7 88 Portugal Miguel Oliveira
KTM 1'24.718 0.525
8 43 Australia Jack Miller
Ducati 1'24.724 0.531
9 36 Spain Joan Mir
Suzuki 1'24.743 0.550
10 20 France Fabio Quartararo
Yamaha 1'24.753 0.560
11 12 Spain Maverick Viñales
Yamaha 1'24.779 0.586
12 9 Italy Danilo Petrucci
Ducati 1'24.837 0.644
13 46 Italy Valentino Rossi
Yamaha 1'24.879 0.686
14 35 United Kingdom Cal Crutchlow
Honda 1'24.944 0.751
15 27 Spain Iker Lecuona
KTM 1'24.991 0.798
16 33 South Africa Brad Binder
KTM 1'25.005 0.812
17 51 Italy Michele Pirro
Ducati 1'25.152 0.959
18 41 Spain Aleix Espargaro
Aprilia 1'25.165 0.972
19 73 Spain Alex Marquez
Honda 1'25.249 1.056
20 38 United Kingdom Bradley Smith
Aprilia 1'25.297 1.104
21 6 Germany Stefan Bradl
Honda 1'25.371 1.178
22 53 Spain Tito Rabat
Ducati 1'25.729 1.536
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