Sunshine bore down on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the seventh round of 2018 MotoGP and Bradley Smith was the quickest Red Bull KTM racer to register the 17th fastest lap-time in qualification for the 24 lap sprint tomorrow.
MotoGP travelled to the rapid and demanding layout that is the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and with fresh parameters of newly laid asphalt and a revised configuration. Temperatures soared to almost thirty degrees and pushed grip and traction to a premium.
Bradley Smith, competing at the event where a crash led to a ghoulish finger injury twelve months previously, worked diligently on the set-up of the KTM RC16, and through the Q1 period was less than a second from making into the Q2 cut-off point. The Brit focused on refining the balance between feel and necessary modifications to prolong tyre wear for Sunday.
Pol Espargaro, born almost in the shadow of the vast circuit grandstand and the town of Granollers, had a frustrating day. #44 looked to improve his confidence through some of the long Catalan turns but some mistakes during the short qualification phase meant he could do no better than 19th; still just over 1.5 seconds from Jorge Lorenzo’s pole effort.
Mika Kallio made his second wild-card appearance of 2018 and with the next generation prototype of the RC16. The Finn circulated on the boundaries of the top ten through Free Practice on Friday but further experimentation with race set-up today – coupled with some misjudgement in Q1 – pushed the former GP winner to the last row.
Smith: “In twelve months we have made huge steps (but) we’re within 1.3 and we’re still 17th. We are doing the best that we can at the moment on the bike that we have but we’re still missing something. The job that the manufacturer and the team is doing is phenomenal judging by the lap-times that we do and how close we are compared to podium-position bikes. I’m comfortable on the bike and I’m happy with race pace and one lap pace. We’ll see what happens tomorrow but it will be an awfully long race and the rear tyre is crucial.”
Espargaro: “We knew it would be tough for us here…but when you face it then it’s hard! I remember last year we were not having such a problem with the front wheel but with this track and the super long-corners you need to turn a lot and this is a problem for us. It looks like this front tyre does not fit us too much, plus I didn’t do a nice qualifying. I struggled a bit with some riders and I made some mistakes. We’ll see for tomorrow.”
Kallio: “Yesterday we decided to bring some new parts on the bike for the morning and a different set-up, the bike balance was a bit different and during the day we did some small modifications and it seems it didn’t bring anything to our riding. The good feeling and the mood from yesterday: I didn’t have it today and that was a shame because we expected to be close to the same positions as we were. Let’s concentrate for the race and see what happens.”
Sebastian Risse (Technical Director MotoGP): “On one hand there is the gap and on the other there is the position and if you look at the grid at the moment then this is a crazy time for MotoGP! I think we are in a much better position than we were a year ago and with the small gaps to the others anything is possible tomorrow. Also it is quite obvious we are struggling a bit more compared to other tracks and our competitors here. It is do with the layout of the track and the tyre allocation. It is difficult to find a tyre that ‘does it all’ and that means a compromise, so it took a while to understand the tyres and find which one to use for that compromise! I don’t think we’ll have the perfect bike tomorrow but we’ll try to have the best compromise for the race distance.”
Moto2 & Moto3
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder will set off from the second row of the grid after securing 5th place this afternoon on his KTM Moto2 bike. Teammate Miguel Oliveira was further down the order in 17th but less than a second from the pole sitter. Scotland’s John McPhee, riding the CIP – Green Power KTM RC250 GP, took 7th position in the Moto3 qualification and is less than half a second away from the Pole laptime set by Enea Bastianini.
Binder: “I’m very happy. I’ve been training very hard all week preparing for this race and I’ve been fairly fast since FP1. During the entire weekend I’ve had a pretty good pace but I needed to get a slightly faster lap during qualifying in order to get a good spot on the grid; in qualifying I took that step up and I’m very happy about it. I am excited to start from fifth position tomorrow. It will be nice to be up there with the riders at the front, right from the start; I’ll try to hold on at the beginning and save something for the final laps. I think I can do a great job tomorrow. Of all the GPs this year, this is the race where I am the most prepared.”
Races: June 17, 2018 – Moto3 11:00 | Moto2 12:20 | MotoGP 14:00 CET
Results Qualifying MotoGP Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya 2018
1. Jorge Lorenzo (ITA), 1:38.680 min
2. Marc Marquez (ESP), Honda, +0.066 sec
3. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA), Ducati), +0.243
4. Maverick Vinales (ESP), Yamaha, +0.465
5. Andrea Iannone (ITA), Suzuki, +0.468
17. Bradley Smith (GBR), KTM, +1.339
18. Pol Espargaro (ESP), KTM, +1.498
23. Mika Kallio (FIN), KTM, +1.892
Results Qualifying Moto2 Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya 2018
1. Fabio Quartararo (FRA), Speed Up, 1:43.474 min
2. Alex Marquez (ESP), Kalex, +0.116 sec
3. Marcel Schrötter (GER), Kalex, +0.145
4. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA), Kalex, +0.347
5. Brad Binder (RSA), KTM, +0.393
9. Sam Lowes (GBR), KTM, +0.741
17. Miguel Oliveira (POR), KTM, +0.955
Results Qualifying Moto3 Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya 2018
1. Enea Bastianini (ITA), Honda, 1:48.806 min
2. Jorge Martin (ESP), Honda, +0.107 sec
3. Tatsuki Suzuki (JAP), Honda, +0.251
4. Ayumu Sasaki (JAP), Honda, +0.253
5. Aron Canet (ESP), Honda, +0.309
7. John McPhee (GBR), KTM, +0.385
8. Gabriel Rodrigo (ESP), KTM, +0.427
9. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA), KTM, +0.493
20. Darryn Binder (RSA), KTM, +1.091