MotoGP Buriram: Zarco heads Ducati trio in FP2

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Prima Pramac’s Johann Zarco headed a dominant Friday for Ducati at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit.

The Frenchman’s 1’30.281 final effort denied factory rider Pecco Bagnaia the spoils by a mere 0.018s as teammate Jorge Martin completed the set for the Bologna manufacturer in third.

A dry FP1 found Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez confirming his recovery as he set the pace with a 1’30.523 despite an early off as Friday’s action fired up. Defending champion Fabio Quartararo claimed second in the standings from Japanese winner Jack Miller with the trio just 0.065s apart after the opening 45 minutes while Mooney VR46’s Luca Marini impressed a further three hundredths back, in fourth.

Danilo Petrucci’s return to MotoGP kicked off with a 1’32.706, two seconds away from the Honda, as he familiarised himself with the Suzuki GSX-RR, while Cal Crutchlow’s third appearance found him on the fringes of the top ten.

The afternoon action began with Zarco setting the target, albeit a second down on FP1. VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi followed suit before Quartararo slotted in between and Martin bettered overall. The times began to tumble as Bezzecchi improved again, Marquez returning to command with a 1’31.351 as Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder claimed third, before the running off at turn four two laps later.

Ducati Lenovo’s Bagnaia hit the top after ten minutes on track, 0.025s ahead of the Repsol Honda as Franky Morbidelli entered the top ten on the second Monster Energy M1. Just WithU Yamaha’s Darryn Binder and HRC stand-in rider - for the injured Takaaki Nakagami - Tetsuta Nagashima having improved on their FP1 efforts from 22nd and 23rd in the opening stages.

Both Aprilias appeared to struggle as day one unfolded. Aleix Espargaro led Maverick Viñales from 16th and 17th in the combined times with the pair 15th and 19th respectively as FP2 reached the halfway stage.

Crutchlow tipped the WithU M1 off at turn three as the final quarter of an hour approached. Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins, Zarco and Fabio di Giannantonio leading the session ahead of the final time attacks before the Gresini rookie also went down at the third corner.

The final seven minutes brought out the soft Michelin rears as the hot laps fired up. Enea Bastianini and Martin the first to strike, as the Gresini rider found fifth in the session while the Pramac hit the top overall thanks to a 1’30.471.

Marquez, Miller and Rins looked the next to challenge before a crash for Darryn Binder derailed the charge. Bagnaia losing out in the final sector on his first flyer as Zarco improved to lock out FP2 for the Prima squad.

Ducati was on the move next time around as Bagnaia made his 18th effort count. The Italian bettering the outright target with a 1’30.299. Marini consolidating his place in the top six as Crutchlow took an M1 beating at turn seven.

The final minute saw Zarco deny the title-fighter by 0.018s as the chequered flag came out, Bagnaia unable to respond in the dying moments as he settled for second ahead of Martin. Marquez, Quartararo and Miller claimed fourth to sixth despite failing to improve on their FP1 times with Marini, KTM’s Miguel Oliveira, Rins and Morbidelli securing the provisional Q2 promotion.

Bastianini was the first to miss out, from 11th, with both Aprilias and Motegi podium-sitter Binder likewise hoping for a dry FP3.

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