After two sessions of free practice in Austin, Texas at the Circuit Of The Americas, the day ended with Marquez continuing to post impressive times astride the factory Honda.
The winner at Qatar – and last years’ MotoGP champion - Jorge Lorenzo finished the first session just two-tenths shy of his younger compatriot for Yamaha but this increased to over a second in the later session, despite still posting consistent and almost effortless times that have become his metronomic trademark over the past few seasons. This was in some contrast to Pedrosa who - despite coming third in session one and then second in the afternoon - still looks to be missing some of the rhythm that he found towards the end of last year.
Whilst Marquez’s continuing placement at the top of the timing boards will still be seen as the biggest story of the weekend so far, the real surprise of the day for some was all set to be reserved for the factory Ducati riders of Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden who remarkably finished in 4th and 6th respectively in session one. This is a particularly impressive achievement when considering that neither of these riders had put in any major track time at the COTA before this week. The fact that Rossi could only manage fifth behind Dovizioso on his newly-beloved factory Yamaha during this same session shouldn’t be read into too deeply however, as his practice times in Qatar did little to reflect just how reinvigorated the new man and machine partnership have seemed when ridden in anger. This rang true during the afternoon session when both Ducati riders slipped down the order to finish with combined session placings of 7th and 9th; Rossi in turn chalked up a solid 5th overall placement with an expected, quicker ride in the later session of the day.
Stefan Bradl it was then who proved to be the day’s dark-horse, progressing from fairly unremarkable times earlier on to finish 3rd overall with a second session time that saw him four-tenths quicker than Lorenzo. This marked a solid day for Honda who ended up with the top three riders over the combined session times.
For the British-based riders, Cal Crutchlow had a mixed day posting some 2.4 seconds off of the pace in 8th during session one but picking up the pace to finish 6th in the combined times. His new Tech3 teammate Bradley Smith continued his learning of the premier class – and COTA, which he hasn’t tested on before - with steady, progressive rides, culminating in 13th position posted onto the board. The Paul Bird machine of Michael Laverty is also developing strongly under his stewardship; this is a bespoke machine developed independently of engine supplier Aprilla, and times and performances are improving at a good pace. A final days placement of 20th is testament to the work he and the team are putting in.
There are two final practice sessions left tomorrow - before qualifying takes place - on Saturday 20th April, at 20:10.