Japanese GP, Motegi: Friday roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) ended Day 1 at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan as the fastest man on track, but the Italian was only 0.043 ahead of his nearest challenger – Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). Marquez was fastest in the morning by some margin before ‘DesmoDovi’ hit back, and the reigning Champion ended his afternoon session prematurely with a crash at Turn 4 – rider ok.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was top Independent Team rider on Day 1, and impressed in both sessions – second in FP1 and third in FP2 to go third overall. He was just ahead of Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo, who was fourth in both the morning and afternoon – despite an incident in which the Majorcan was collected up in a crash for Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda).
Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was the top Yamaha on Day 1 and completed the top five, 0.073 seconds clear of fellow Indendenpent Team rider Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) – who was another 0.073 ahead of compatriot Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar).
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) managed to find something in the afternoon session to move up to P8, having struggled in FP1 with the combination of wet weather and relatively low temperature. He headed Crutchlow, with rookie Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) completing the top ten as both Hamamatsu factory machines were amongst the potential Q2 graduates. Suzuki also had a new aero-fairing out on track.
As Pedrosa moved up the combined timesheets, it was a tougher first day for Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) as he moved down from FP1 to FP2, ending Friday in eleventh and just over a tenth faster than his teammate Valentino Rossi.
0.018 seconds further back was one of the most impressive performances of the first day as Kohta Nozane (Monster Yamaha Tech 3 – replacing Jonas Folger – took thirteenth, ahead of Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) and Karel Abraham (Pull&Bear Aspar Team).
The weather sadly looks unlikely to change too much, but it remains to be seen how the skies look for FP3 as graduation to Q2 is decided, and then the grid for the race on Sunday.
Wet and rainy was the forecast for Friday at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, and the forecast turned out to be wholly accurate. It was Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) who mastered conditions best to top the combined timesheets with his best in FP2 despite a lowside, ahead of Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) – fastest in the morning – and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Championship leader Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), who leads Lüthi by an apt 21 points going into the race, was fifth quickest.
Fourth overall and impressive in both sessions was Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) despite a fall for the Malaysian, with Xavier Simeon (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) showing some impressive wet weather pace in P6 behind Morbidelli. Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) was seventh on combined times and once again quickest rookie.
Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) was P8 overall after putting in his quickest lap in FP2, just edging Swiss rider and Misano winner Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) overall as the two switched order in the afternoon. Stefano Manzi (Sky Racing Team VR46) pulled off an impressive save in FP1 and completed the top ten on combined timesheets, another who was faster in the morning than the afternoon.
Tetsuta Nagashima (Teluru SAG Team) was the fastest Japanese rider on Friday at Motegi, with some impressive pace in FP2 especially to go eleventh ahead of Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2). Just 0.014 behind the Spaniard was Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team), who crashed at the end of FP2 – rider ok. The top fifteen was completed by his compatriot Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) and Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing).
With weather uncertain going forward, it’s advantage Lüthi on Day 1.
Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) began the first day of the Japanese GP fastest in FP1 ahead of teammate Andrea Migno, and that’s how the top of the timesheets remained at the end of the day. With wet conditions throughout both sessions and the rain not showing any sign of stopping, the two Italians headed out in FP1 to do a long run and completed 18 consecutive laps, not returning to pitlane until the flag and fastest in a 1-2 for the team. Compatriot Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) locked out the top three overall with his laptime from FP1 and was the quickest in FP2 in the tough conditions, showing more good wet weather form following his win at Misano by 28 seconds.
One headline of note saw a tough first day for Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) as he searches to wrap up the Championship this weekend, with the Majorcan P17 overall and suffering a crash in the afternoon – only his fifth of the year.
Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was fourth quickest overall as he, like Fenati, prepares for a last stand in the title fight, with the top five on combined times completed by Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – the first of those able to improve in the afternoon.
Manuel Pagliani (CIP) had an impressive start to the Japanese GP in sixth, ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) and Malaysian Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team), who was one to crash on Day 1 but rider ok. Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) improved his FP1 time to go ninth overall by the end of action, with Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) the leading home hero to lock out the top ten.
Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had an eventful Day 1 with a number of crashes but was eleventh fastest, with Japanese rider Ayumu Sasaki (SIC Racing Team), Albert Arenas (Aspar Mahindra Moto3), Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and John McPhee (British Talent Team) taking P12 to P15.
Now it’s time for FP3 and qualifying on Saturday as Mir faces down the chance at the crown.