Bagnaia hits back with record Jerez practice lap

rugby26 April 2024 17:41| © AFP
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Francesco Bagnaia © Gallo Images

A wounded world champion roared back on Friday, Francesco Bagnaia lowering his own lap record in practice at Jerez for this weekend's Spanish MotoGP.

The factory Ducati rider, champion in 2022 and 2023, won the opener in Qatar yet has subsequently fallen to fifth in the championship standings coming into this fourth round of the season.

But the Italian sent out a warning to the pretenders to his crown by dominating Friday practice with a sizzling late lap of 1 minute 36.025 to better his own previous best time at the circuit in Andalusia of 1 minute 36.170 set in 2022.

He topped second practice ahead of Maverick Vinales, the Aprilia rider on a cloud after his heroics at the Grand Prix of the Americas, where he won both the sprint and the race itself off a record pole.

In third came Marc Marquez, who briefly led the United States race before abruptly parting company with his Ducati satellite Gresini bike.

The six-time MotoGP world champion, who has switched stables after 10 years at Honda, is on the hunt for his first win since October 2021.

"The aim for the time being remains making the podium," said Marquez, a top-3 finisher in the sprints in Portugal and the USA.

If Acosta, second in Texas last Sunday, emerged victorious in front of his home fans this weekend he would deprive Marquez of the record of the youngest MotoGP winner in history.

Jorge Martin, who leads this season's championship by 21 points (30 clear of Bagnaia), posted the fifth fastest time, four tenths of a second quicker than teenage rookie sensation Pedro Acosta.

The top 10 automatically go through to the second qualifying session shaping the first four rows of the grid on Saturday, this group joined by the two fastest riders from the first session.

Saturday qualifying is followed by the 12-lap sprint race, with the 25-lap main event on Sunday where Bagnaia is seeking a third consecutive win.

In the championship, Martin leads on 80 points from Enea Bastianini (59 pts), Vinales (56), Costa (54) and Bagnaia (50).