MotorLand Aragon - Works Honda rider Dani Pedrosa was the man with a target on his back after Day 1 at the Aragon Grand Prix. The 2012 winner at this circuit went fastest in Friday’s second free practice to top the combined timesheets on 1m59.858, the only man under the two minute barrier after weather affected track time for the premier class.
Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo was second quickest after also striking late in the second session, ahead of Yamaha Tech 3 rookie Johann Zarco.
The morning’s session was run in full wet conditions and saw Honda’s reigning champion Marc Marquez hit the ground running to go quickest; the local man was fourth overall after the second session.
The skies were largely dry for the second session, but riders remained on rain tyres with some parts of the track much wetter than others and spray kicking up. That’s when Pedrosa and Lorenzo shone and lap times improved, with the man in - Ducati privateer Karel Abraham - also impressing.
The biggest story of the day, however, belonged to Yamaha Factory rider Valentino Rossi, who ventured out in the wet in the first session to put in some laps and test his fitness, then completed another 13 laps in the afternoon. ‘The Doctor’ ran off the track once but posted more than 20 laps on Friday in his attempt to race in the Aragon Grand Prix, three weeks after breaking his right leg and having missed only one Grand Prix.
Rossi finished the day in 20th on 2m01.917, only three places and less than three tenths behind his hotshot team-mate Maverick Vinales, who was little more than a year old when Rossi made his Grand Prix debut at Sepang in Malaysia on 31 March 1996.
Honda privateer Cal Crutchlow had a good first day to go sixth ahead of Aprilia’s Sam Lowes (who won the Moto2 race at Motorland Aragon in 2016), championship challenger Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), who rode conservatively in the unpredictable conditions eighth overall, just ahead of the second Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro.
His brother Pol Espargaro was another impressive performer on Friday, rounding out the top 10 on a KTM RC16, while Alvaro Bautista (Ducati, Jack Miller (Honda), Bradley Smith (KTM), Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) and wildcard KTM test rider Mika Kallio – who was fifth in the wetter morning session – completed the top 15 on combined times for Friday.