Like 2022, the track is being run in the clockwise direction and as always there is a loose top surface which quickly gives way to hard-pack underneath. It is familiar terrain for all the riders, especially Fernandez, who also rode here in the fateful Italian Championship round earlier in the year when Team HRC teammate Tim Gajser unfortunately broke his femur.
That familiarity allowed the Honda CRF450R rider to post an eighth place in both free and timed practice, without having to put in too many hotlaps. This allowed him to concentrate on the start of the qualification race which is extremely important, due to how difficult it is to pass on this tricky Pietramurata circuit.
From eighth gate-pick, he rounded turn one in sixth place, quickly moving into fifth by the mid-point of the first lap and then by the end of it, he was in fourth. Settling into a strong rhythm, the #70 kept up pressure on the rider in front and just after the halfway stage, he made his move and got himself into the top three. From there, he gave chase to the rider in second, but time expired just as he got within striking distance, however it was still an impressive ride and one that gives him confidence that he can stand on the podium this weekend like he did in Patagonia-Argentina. Those eight points also move him up one position in the championship table, and with 50 more still to play for tomorrow, hopes are high he can make it two podiums from four rounds at the start of his Team HRC career.
“A much better day today, feeling good and just riding how I know how to ride. It’s not always an easy track, because everyone knows it so well but I was able to make a couple of good moves and I’m very happy with third place. This now gives me a good gate-pick for tomorrow, so if I can round the corner in the top three, I really feel confident I’ll be on the podium again.”
Marcus Pereira de Freitas - HRC General Manager - MXGP
“Very happy with how Ruben rode today in all the sessions. The laptimes are very tight, but he gave himself a chance with top 10 times in both free and timed practice, and then he used that eighth gate-pick to round the first corner of the qualification race in sixth place. From there he rode really well and picked off riders, moving into third. Conditions should be similar tomorrow so we’ll make sure he’s happy with everything but we are excited he’s be back challenging at the front of the field.”