MotoGP Motegi: Fernandez on form for Moto2 FP1

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Augusto Fernandez celebrated his birthday with the fastest Moto2 time at Motegi on Friday.

The championship leader secured a 1’50.493 to lead Idemitsu Honda Team Asia’s Somkiat Chantra by just 0.084s after the sole 40-minute practice of day one in Japan. The duo’s teammates completing the pattern as Pedro Acosta held off Ai Ogura in the top four.

The rain began to make its presence felt as the intermediate class ventured out for its first taste of the Motegi layout in three years. Taiga Hada leading the session at his home circuit with a 1’55.505 from Pertamina SAG teammate Bo Bendsneyder before Gresini’s Filip Salac and Italtrans’ Joe Roberts bettered.

With the conditions analysed as more mental rain than grip-affecting, Flexbox HP40’s Aron Canet and Fernandez hit the top, the KTM setting the second fastest time of the morning before the standings shuffled again. The duo instantly back in charge from Salac and Aspar’s Jake Dixon with Aragon victor Acosta circulating fifth.

Home hero Ogura was the first to break into 1’51 pace before his title-rival Fernandez matched the time. Second Idemitsu Honda rider Chantra bettering the pair at the halfway stage with a 1’51.919 as just 0.007s covered the rapid trio.

Elf Marc VDS’ Tony Arbolino was the next to shine a quarter of a second ahead. Teammate Sam Lowes tentatively making his return from injury towards the back of the times after an eventful set-up day for the squad following a garage fire late on Thursday night.

Simone Corsi’s MV Agusta expired at the side of the track with 20 minutes remaining on the clock. The majority of the pack hitting the pits for the mid-session lull.

Back in the action, Roberts advanced for the top three before Ogura rose to the challenge and topped the times overall. 1’51.102 now the benchmark, half a second fastest than Arbolino behind.

A quiet start to the session subsided for Albert Arenas as the Aspar rider made his way to fourth. Bendsneyder returning to the front runners, in fifth, shortly after before Roberts struck again, this time for second.

Seven minutes to go and Fernandez was back in charge with the first 1’50 of the weekend. CAG Speed Up’s Alonso Lopez setting his best of FP1 as he arrived to third before Arbolino once again challenged for the runner-up position. The Italian taking over at the top as Fernandez’s stunner was deleted.

The pace intensified in the final five minutes as Fernandez repeated his dominating effort. Chantra looking to match and falling just 0.084s short with Acosta completing the trio for the KTM team ahead of the second Honda of Ogura.

The rain arrived again with three minutes left to run. Sean Dylan Kelly suffering a second technical issue of the day as he pushed his American Racing Kalex to the sidelines. A final shuffle demoting Roberts to the danger zone in 13th with Bendsneyder meeting the flag in the final provisional promotions place.

Fernandez concluded FP1 in charge from Chantra, Acosta and Ogura, Salac the best of the rest from Arbolino, Lopez and Arenas with Flexbox HP40’s Jorge Navarro bettering Dixon in the closing stages to round out the top ten. Speed Up’s Fermin Aldeguer and RW Racing’s Zonta van den Goorbergh stoked their claim on the remaining Q2 potential from 11th and 12th with Canet the first adrift in 15th.

Mooney VR46’s Celestino Vietti and Niccolo Antonelli completed day one in Japan behind Cameron Beaubier and just outside the top 20 while Lowes retuned to action in 26th.

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