Nakagami quickest in practice for Styrian MotoGP, retiring Rossi in 16th

Spielberg (Austria) (AFP) –


Takaaki Nakagami recorded the fastest time in rain-hit practice for the Styrian Grand on Friday.

A day after announcing his retirement, Valentino Rossi began his official farewell tour in front of a sparsely populated grandstand and was 16th fastest out of the 23 riders.

Attendance restrictions have been lifted at the Red Bull Ring for fans who are vaccinated, tested or recovered from COVID-19.

More than 130,000 spectators attended the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix at the track at the beginning of July.

Nakagami, a Japanese Honda rider clocked a fastest lap of 1min 23.805sec at the end of the morning session.

He was seven hundredths of a second quicker than world champion Joan Mir on his Suzuki and 378/1000 ahead of another Spaniard Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).

Six-time champion Marc Marquez was sixth for Honda.

Championship leader Fabio Quartararo was eighth fastest on track where the Yamaha team has often struggled.

Another Frenchman, Johann Zarco, was next, the fastest Ducati rider.

A shower hit at the start of the second practice, slowing times by eight seconds a lap for every rider.

"Free practice 2 was a bit of a nightmare," said Quartararo.

Rain is forecast for Sunday's race so when water started to collect most riders used the second session to practice their wet-weather riding

Italian Lorenzo Savadori of Aprilia, second-slowest in the morning, gave his morale a boost by recording the fastest time, though it was 7.5sec slower than Nakagami's time.

Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira of KTM sat out the session after crashing heavily in the morning and complaining of pain in his hand.

The abbreviated practice puts pressure on those outside the top 10 for Saturday morning's session. Only the 10 fastest go through automatically to final qualifying for the top grid positions

While Rossi is speeding toward his finish line, two other veteran riders made their returns on Friday.

Spaniard Dani Pedrosa, who retired in 2018 and has been working as a test rider for KTM, returned at 35 as the Austrian team fielded a third factory bike. He recorded the 11th best time.

Briton rider Cal Crutchlow, who became a Yamaha test rider this season, took the place of injured Franco Morbidelli in the SRT satellite team and finished with the slowest time.

Best times from the first two MotoGP free practice sessions at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg

1. Takaaki Nakagami (JPN/Honda-LCR) 1min 23.805sec, 2. Joan Mir (ESP/Suzuki) at 0.076sec, 3. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 0.378, 4. Alex Rins (ESP/Suzuki) 0.416, 5. Pol Espargaro (ESP/Honda) 0.449, 6. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 0.670, 7. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) 0.687, 8. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/ Yamaha) 0.775, 9. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Pramac) 0.775, 10. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati) 1.022.


16. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 1.459.