Espargaro quickest in Catalunya practice as Marquez struggles

motorsport24 May 2024 19:05| © AFP
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Aleix Espargaro © Gallo Images

Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro was quickest in practice for this weekend's Catalunya Grand Prix on Friday, as MotoGP world championship leader Jorge Martin had to settle for sixth on the time-sheet.

Six-time world champion Marc Marquez, eyeing his first win in almost three years after back-to-back runner-up finishes, could only finish 12th fastest and missed out on an automatic spot for Saturday's second qualifying session.

Marquez, who has been revitalised this season after leaving long-time team Honda for Ducati-Gresini, sits third in the riders' standings after the first five races.

Espargaro, who is yet to claim a top-five finish in a race this year, posted a track record time of one minute and 38.562 seconds, edging out the fastest laps of South African Brad Binder and rising Spanish star Pedro Acosta.

"It was a good day even if it was much more difficult than it looks because the grip is really difficult," said Espargaro.

"I didn't think I could go that fast and break the track record."

Two-time defending world champion Francesco Bagnaia was fourth quickest, ahead of Jack Miller and Martin, who was fastest in the opening session.

Leading practice times on Friday (Q = qualifies for second round of qualifying on Saturday):

1. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 1:38.562 (Q), 2. Brad Binder (RSA/KTM) at 0.072secs (Q), 3. Pedro Acosta (ESP/GasGaS-Tech3) 0.103 (Q), 4. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati) 0.133 (Q), 5. Jack Miller (AUS/KTM) 0.140 (Q), 6. Jorge Martin (ESP/Ducati-Pramac) 0.231 (Q), 7. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Ducati-Pramac) 0.269 (Q), 8. Enea Bastianini (ITA/Ducati) 0.455 (Q), 9. Alex Rins (ESP/Yamaha) 0.481 (Q), 10. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Aprilia) 0.496 (Q)

11. Alex Marquez (ESP/Ducati-Gresini) 0.551, 12. Marc Marquez (ESP/Ducati-Gresini) 0.591, 13. Miguel Oliveira (POR/Aprilia-Trackhouse) 0.788, 14. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha) 0.790, 15. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA/Ducati-VR46) 0.820