It may have been Suzuki's Andrea Iannone that prevented Marc Marquez from a clean sweep of the Friday practice timesheets at the Austin MotoGP, but it was Maverick Vinales whose pace registered most on Marquez's radar.

The Repsol Honda rider, seeking a perfect sixth pole and win at COTA this weekend, was 0.396s clear of Valentino Rossi in FP1, then just 0.056s from Iannone in the quicker FP2. Vinales was just behind Marquez in third, 0.264s from the top.

But while Iannone was on the soft rear, Marquez - who suffered a mid-session fall - ran the hard.

"I did the best lap time with the hard rear and the soft front," he confirmed. "Because when I crashed with the medium it was a little bit damaged and so we changed. Anyway still on the setup of the bike we can improve a little bit. I'm fast but I didn't find the correct feeling. So we need to improve.

"But I feel good, I was happy, riding well… But anyway Vinales is not far, I mean of course we have a good rhythm - at the moment the best one - but the most important will be on Sunday and at the moment Vinales is not far.

"Now we will see if tomorrow is dry or wet. Because it looks like tomorrow will be wet."

Marquez's fall had occurred when he was caught out by one of the many bumps, the main talking point of the day.

"Is a lot of bumps. We were trying a different setup and I braked earlier than the previous lap, but I was a little bit more in I think and then I take a bump and lose the front. You need to be really precise and very careful, because small bump, lock the front and it's quite dangerous for the race. but better now than on Sunday."

Despite efforts made to grind down the worst of the bumps the reigning world champion, looking to fight back from a chaotic and controversial race in Argentina, was among many who believes the circuit is actually worse in places.

"I think everybody expected less bumps and we have the same like last year - or even more in some areas, some areas less. It is more difficult to ride like this. Especially because you can push less. I mean the limit is earlier, because with the bumps you cannot slide and turn like I want."

Marquez feels the root of the issue lies beneath the track surface.

"Last year we asked to reduce the bumps. They tried. But for me every year when we come here, something is moving under the ground. Because it looks like the track is moving.

"I mean it's not a normal bump, something is moving under the ground and every time it's different bumps and different bankings in the corners."

In terms of more mechanical matters, Marquez found the RC213V's power delivery needed tuning for the first gear corners.

"Still we are learning [about this year's engine] and every circuit we find something we can improve," he said. "For example in the previous races we don’t have first gear corners. And here we have many first gear corners and we found some problems.

"It's difficult to understand the engine with the throttle. I don’t like the feeling that I have. the connection between the gas and the wheel. When you don't understand - you can believe in the electronic, but it's not the way.

"But we are able to improve, so this is the most important."

Injured team-mate Dani Pedrosa also has provisional access directly into Qualifying 2 after setting the tenth fastest time despite his freshly fractured wrist.

“I’m happy with this afternoon’s result, as we finally managed to get a bit better position than I was expecting, and this is very positive. That said, both of today’s sessions were tough, especially FP2, because this afternoon I gave maximum effort in order to understand if there’s any reason to race on Sunday.

"This morning I felt quite a lot of pain, but I just tried to feel what I could do on the bike. My pace wasn’t so good, so I tried to put myself in a better position this afternoon, and I’m very pleased with the outcome.

"Now we have to try and control the swelling ahead of tomorrow’s action. This is one of our biggest targets now, as the swelling has increased due to the efforts. We’ll try our best to handle a bit better pace tomorrow so that we may approach the race with the aim of getting some points."

 

 

 

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