Motegp MotoGP Day One Report plus quotes from all riders
Lorenzo draws first at the Twin Ring Motegi as Pedrosa breaks collarbone in dramatic highside
After Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso led the way in FP1 at the Twin Ring Motegi, skies remained perfectly blue above the Japanese track as the engines fired up once more for MotoGP – with Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) topping the timesheets from Dovizioso and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Maverick Viñales.
Jorge Lorenzo – P1 – 1m45.151
“It’s been quite a positive day. This afternoon the conditions dropped a lot in terms of the temperature and that’s why some riders crashed, because it was quite tricky and you need to be very careful with the temperature of the tyre. We were able to improve a lot on the last set of tyres and improved the bike a little bit also in the corners. The bike is working quite well and I’m in good shape, so I’m very motivated to make it a good race.”
With the second practice session beginning calmly enough, a spate of crashes in the final minutes of FP2 saw drama wrap up the first day of action as first Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) slid off at Turn 10, before teammate Dani Pedrosa suffered an unbelievable highside at Turn 11. That incident was quickly followed by another for Eugene Laverty (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) at Turn 6 – with Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) heading off to complete the drama-fuelled session. With attrition rates high, it was the reigning Champion who emerged fastest from the day, as the 2009, 2013 and 2014 winner at the track took over at the top in the final shootout.
Laverty and Pedrosa were taken to the Medical Center for checks following the two incidents, with Pedrosa then diagnosed with a broken right collarbone. The break marks another unlucky injury in the 3-time World Champion’s career, with Pedrosa beginning the 2016 season back to full strength following career-saving forearm surgery in 2015. Former 250 World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama will ride in place of the Spaniard for the Japanese GP – his home race.
Dani Pedrosa – P9 – +1.076
“I’m obviously very sad about what happened, as I was looking forward to racing in Japan at Honda’s home circuit and one of my favourite tracks. I was on the out-lap of my last run in FP2 when I momentarily lost the rear entering turn 11, and when the tyre found grip again it launched me in the air. There’s not much more to say; now I just want to focus on recovering in order to get back on my bike as soon as possible. My best wishes to Hiro (Aoyama), who is replacing me and will race in front of his home crowd.”
“First of all, I’m very sorry for Dani and I wish him a fast recovery. This definitely is not the best way to come into a race, but anyway, I’ll try and give my best for Honda in front of my friends and fans. I won’t be able to use my racing number, as 7 has already been taken by Mike Jones, so I’ll use 73, which is the number I used in my first season in the 250cc GPs.”
Dovizioso had a solid first day as pre-race predictions came true – that Motegi looks good for the Ducati on paper. The Italian was also on pole position at the track in 2014, and seems to be a contender to take the honour once again in 2016.
Andrea Dovizioso – P2 +0.053
“I’m very happy with the way things went today, because we started off by immediately finding a good base for the rest of the weekend. For the first two exits in the afternoon, we ran with the soft tyre we had already used in FP1, and confirmed our pace. We still have to work on a few details because managing the front on this track, where you brake very aggressively, is not easy. For the moment there are five or six of us who have a similar pace, and I think there is still some room for improvement. We’ll have to see who will work the best tomorrow, but in any case I’m really satisfied with my first day here at Motegi.”
Viñales had a messier morning session with some run offs, before pulling it all together in FP2 to top timesheets briefly ahead of ending the day in third on combined times.
Maverick Viñales – P3 +0.097
I feel very good, today we have worked very hard with the tyres to prepare for the race and the results are positive. We still need to work on the rear to find a good set-up that could allow me to save the tyre until the end of the race. My team did a very good job, I can feel the improvements we have done throughout the season in being more effective in the adaptation of set-up and electronics between the sessions, our learning and adaptation process is getting faster and faster, allowing me to make big steps. For tomorrow we will work to find an even better feeling with the rear, improving acceleration, focusing on the electronics configuration, and then try a good time attack which is a thing we didn’t focus on today.”
Championship leader Marc Marquez had one spectacular save on Friday as he pushed himself back upright on his knee, before the final minutes of FP2 saw the 2013 and 2014 MotoGP World Champion not quite repeat the feat and slide to a slow stop at Turn 10 – rider and bike ok. His best chance of a clean run at a quick laptime gone, Marquez ended Day 1 P4.
Marc Marquez – P4 +0.152
“I’m very sorry for Dani, as it seemed that he was really coming back to his usual speed. I just wish him a quick recovery. Regarding today, honestly, the feeling was better than I was expecting here. I thought we would struggle a bit more, but from the beginning I didn’t feel so bad and we were able to do a good job on the bike. In the afternoon I had a small crash when I was trying the harder front tyre spec and I was trying to push a bit more, but I was able to continue on the same run and improve my lap time, which is a positive. I know that our opponents are quite strong here, but we’re not far off.”
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) had a good Friday in the land of the rising sun to complete the top five on combined times, with Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) in incredibly close company in P6 and P7 – the three men separated by only 3 hundredths.
Cal Crutchlow – P5 +0.350
“It wasn’t a bad day today, even if I feel a little bit tired, but overall I am generally quite happy with how the bike is working. There is still room for lots of improvement though – there are a couple of areas around the circuit where we are struggling a little, but we are quite happy. We tried some different settings on the bike and perhaps wasted a bit of time in the two sessions, but they had been part of the plan before the weekend began. We’re continuing to look at the data for tomorrow, and hopefully we are able to take some more steps forward.”
Aleix Espargaró – P6 +0.362
“I’m satisfied with the day as my feeling is good, this is not a track I’ve felt fast on in the past but today I got a positive outcome. Already in the morning I felt confident and in the afternoon I could improve even more, we are working very hard and this is paying back. Also I’m expecting to be even faster tomorrow, today I had to work a lot on the lines as the track had some tricky conditions in some points; it’s a learning process that gave me some hints already but still leaves me room for improvement.”
Valentino Rossi – P7 +0.381
“It was a mixed day, because this morning wasn’t so bad and I was quite fast, but this afternoon was a difficult practice. We tried the harder tyres, but both the front and the rear didn’t give very good grip so I lost some feeling. At the end we put the softer tyre back in and I improved my lap time, but it wasn’t enough because I’m not very happy with the setting and the balance of the bike. It is very difficult to stop in braking, so we have to work and try to recover. About the tyres, the feeling is not so bad. The lap times are also not so far from last year’s, but this afternoon we unfortunately had a lot of crashes and also some injuries for Pedrosa. This is because in the afternoon it looks like the temperature drops down very quickly and after that it becomes dangerous. Good luck to Pedrosa and for us tomorrow, we will try to modify the balance and we try to be strong.”
Danilo Petrucci was eighth quickest in an impressive opening day for the Octo Pramac Yakhnich rider, with Dani Pedrosa ending up in P9.
Danilo Petrucci – P8 +1.021
“I am satisfied because this circuit has never been one of my favorite. That is why I did not expect to be so fast from the beginning. We did not make many changes compared to Aragon and I quickly found a good feeling. I am sorry for the time attack. We had a small problem before the last run, but especially, I found traffic on the track that did not allow me to set a better time. It will be hard to stay among the officials tomorrow, but we will try.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Pol Espargaro was tenth quickest on the opening day, back on track in Japan for the first time since a win in the Suzuka 8H.
Pol Espargaro – P10 +1.094
“Overall, today was a solid start to the weekend. This morning’s result wasn’t incredible but I believe that we still had a good session. In FP2, I went out with the hard rear compound and felt comfortable straight away and so I was posting strong lap times which put me inside the top six. Yet, not long into the session I unfortunately made a slight mistake and lost the front in the ninth corner. This was a pity because we only have one M1 with the chassis that I like a lot so when I went out on my second bike, the feeling was completely different. Therefore, we decided that it was better to wait for tomorrow’s morning session to continue our setup work. Nevertheless, it is positive to end the day inside the top 10. Now we will try to analyse today’s data and maybe we can learn something from Valentino and Jorge, plus with a good rest, I am sure that I’ll be back stronger tomorrow.”
A positive first day of practice opened up Aprilia’s Japanese weekend. The RS-GP machines ridden by Bradl and Bautista finished respectively in eleventh and twelfth place in the combined standings for the first two sessions.
Looking for the best setup on the Motegi track, Stefan and Alvaro tested different chassis and electronics configurations, as well as trying out the performance of the tyre options that Michelin has provided for this race. Work in the Aprilia Racing Team garage will continue tomorrow with particular attention on the FP3 times. In fact, this is the morning session where the riders could go straight through to Q2, a result that Aprilia has achieved in the last two championship rounds at Misano and Aragón.
Stefan Bradl, also involved in a harmless crash in FP2, assessed today’s two sessions as positive. Having found a good feeling straight away, the German rider now intends to focus on consistency in his performance. Ninth in the morning session, Alvaro Bautista made a few important changes to the setup for the afternoon without finding any major improvements, but continuing to explore how his RS-GP reacts.
Alvaro Bautista – P12 +1.683
“This morning went well. We got the base settings right. In the afternoon, precisely for this reason, we decided to try a rather significant change to see if we could take another step forward as we have in recent races. We did not achieve the result that we had hoped for, but in any case our situation is good. Tomorrow we will resume with the references from FP1, working on the details to shave of a few more tenths”.
Stefan Bradl P11 +1.216
“This was a good start for us. In both sessions we were quite fast. We had a few uncertainties in FP1 that we were able to solve and the second session was very positive. The base setting proved to be good and we improved it during practice. We can still improve. We need to work on both the setup and the electronics to keep performance consistent in view of the race, a phase where we need the bike’s support. I hope to continue in this direction tomorrow as well”.
Hector Barbera, who stepped onto the Ducati Team’s Desmosedici GP for the first time today as stand-in rider for the still convalescent Andrea Iannone, clocked the fourteenth time. The Spanish rider set his quickest lap of 1’46.853 in the morning’s FP1 session but was unable to improve in the afternoon.
Eugene Laverty suffered a big crash on the first flying lap of his final run of the day. The Irishman had just switched to a soft rear tyre but was struggling to get it up to temperature when he crashed. Medical checks at the circuit and later at the Dokkyo Medical University Hospital have ruled out any injuries although Laverty must wait for confirmation of his fitness from the circuit medics. day was cut slightly short when he lost some power from the engine at the end of the final session.
Eugene Laverty – P13 +1.702
“The afternoon practice went very well. I started the session with the hard rear tyre, I was doing really good lap times with good rhythm and was up in thirteenth position. So at the end we tried the soft rear tyre and I noticed it was taking more time to warm up so I tried to be careful. But on the first lap I crashed at the fast turn six when the rear tyre spun up. I was quite lucky in some ways because it was a huge crash. Thankfully the scan results were all clear and I will look to ride tomorrow. I’d like to thank the staff from the circuit at Motegi, the MotoGP doctors and the Clinica Mobile staff for taking care of me.”
Hector Barbera – P14 +1.725
“Today was a very special day for me, because for the first time I stepped onto the Desmosedici GP 2016 I will race next year. At first it all felt good, but when I started to use the harder front tyre I lost a bit of feeling and was unable to push hard. We did a few different tests with the settings and towards the end of FP2 the feeling came back again, but the most important thing is that I feel good with the bike, which goes really well as Dovi showed today. In any case we picked up a lot of useful information that will allow us to work well tomorrow.”
Scott Redding was not able able to find the right feeling, especially with grip in corner speed. After an intense set up in the afternoon, the British rider managed to lower by six-tenths of a second his Fp1 time, but he was unable to go under the wall of 1’47. His fastest lap-time (1’47.072) did not allow him to get closer to the Top 10 (16th place).
Yonny Hernández finished both of today’s free practice sessions in fifteenth position, the Colombian lapping 1.8 seconds shy of Lorenzo after finding an improved setting in the afternoon. Hernández’s
Yonny Hernández – P15 +1.830
“The first session wasn’t bad, my pace was fairly decent and we were already up to fifteenth position. In the second session I felt more comfortable with the changes we made to the bike but when I went to push the lap time the engine started to lose power and I had to come back into the box. The good thing is that we improved our feeling with the bike so tomorrow we will start work from that point.”
Scott Redding – P16 +1.881
“It was not a good Friday. We struggled with the set up mainly because there was no grip in corner speed. I have not found any particular differences between the hard and the soft tire. The situation is a bit difficult at the moment. We will have to work hard to try to find the right pace. I do not say that in the last three races we have lost our way, but we were unable to make progress. There is a lot of work to do but I am sure we can find the right solution to fight for Q2.”
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller made a welcome return to MotoGP action on the opening day of practice for the Japanese round at the Twin Ring Motegi today. This morning’s FP1 session was the first time the Australian had ridden his Honda RC213V machine since he appeared in Q1 during the recent Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli encounter in San Marino. Despite his recent injury enforced absence, Miller was able to set the 16th fastest time this morning and more importantly he passed a stern examination of his physical condition with flying colours. A 15-lap stint in FP1 gave Miller the perfect chance to gauge the recovery of his recent right hand injury and he was happy with the strength in the brutally hard braking zones around the stop-and-go Twin Ring Motegi track. Miller was able to improve by half-a-second in this afternoon’s session and he was determined to improve on a best lap of 1’47.244 when he was uninjured in a late fall at turn three.
Jack Miller – P18 +2.093
“It hasn’t been the easiest return to the bike today and I was struggling with the set-up. Hopefully we can find something to improve the bike and make me ride a little better tomorrow but today was difficult. I’ll try and clear my head for tomorrow and see what I can do. It will be a long night poring over data to see where we can improve and it won’t be easy, but hopefully we can find something to make me more confident. I’m struggling with a bit too much spinning from the rear tyre and I need to get better handling from the front-end too.”
Rear grip under acceleration out of the Twin Ring Motegi’s low gear hairpins proved particularly problematic for Miller on his return today. And it was a similar story for teammate Tito Rabat, who finished the day one place behind Miller on the combined timesheets. The Spaniard was also able to knock half-a-second off his lap time in the second 45-minute session and his focus for tomorrow’s final practice and qualifying action will be on gaining better rear grip from Michelin’s two rear tyre options available for round 15 of the MotoGP World Championship.
Tito Rabat – P19 +2.821
“I like this track a lot and it is an important race for Honda in Japan. I was happy with how the weekend started this morning and I’m pleased I’ve been able to improve my times and do all my laps on my own. I think I could have gone quicker at the end of the second session but Laverty had a very big crash in front of me at turn 6 and I couldn’t complete the lap. I have to admit though it is hard to see how big the gap is to the fastest time. I have to stay calm and focused and hope we can find improvements with the bike tomorrow.”
Loris Baz did not have an easy day of it either, the lack of confidence of the French rider has been obvious on the Twin Ring Motegi with its challenging stop-and-go characteristics. He crashed this morning, but fortunately walked away without any injuries. Tomorrow, he aims to improve and score a better result.
Loris Baz – P20 ++3.518
“It was a difficult day. This is the first time for a long period that I’m riding the bike without injuries, and it is clear that I have to get my confidence back and try to enjoy riding the bike again. Right now I go where the bike drives me, because I’m not able to ride as I want, and it is quite difficult to be fast when this is happening. I have to focus on doing many laps to build my confidence step by step. This morning I crashed after the flag had come down and it was a really strange crash, so maybe the tyre was a little bit cold. The bike is okay, even though we can still improve it, but the main problem is me, because I don’t feel comfortable.”
Bradley Smith courageously eased back into riding his Yamaha YZR-M1 as he made his first MotoGP appearance since sustaining a knee injury in August, which forced him to sit out the previous three Grand Prix’s. The main target was to complete as much distance as possible and become accustomed to his MotoGP bike again whilst also building up to race fitness as he rode 13 laps in FP1. In the afternoon, he bravely continued his work and after covering an additional 15 laps, he cut 2.518 seconds from his best time in FP1. The Briton will now rest overnight before returning to the track tomorrow morning for FP3.
Bradley Smith – P21 +3.746
“First and foremost, I have to say that it was quite emotional to ride my bike again this morning because these last seven weeks haven’t been easy but I finally reached my goal of returning to the track. Many friends, family and physiotherapists have spent a lot of time and effort to help me get fit enough to race again and the only ambition in these past fifty days was to compete in the last four Grand Prix’s with Tech3, so it is great to finally get back to where I need to be. Of course, today has been challenging because my knee is obviously not perfect, however, we made a good step forward from this morning to this afternoon, which has given me a confidence boost. I hope that with a bit of rest, we can achieve more tomorrow. I must give big thanks to the Tech3 team, because the guys have been very patient, plus they modified the bike to suit my needs. Most importantly, the team worked in a fantastic way to keep me calm so I can enjoy my experience back in Japan.”
Mike Jones, had his first experience in MotoGP today. The young Queenslander came straight to the circuit this morning and after a quick briefing, he jumped on Barbera’s bike. Everything was new for him, the bike, the track and the tyres, but he steadily improved his pace with the Avintia Racing Ducati Desmosedici GP14.2 and made more progress every time he left pitlane.
Mike Jones – P22 +5.804
“The first day was incredible! I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity given to me by Avintia Racing and Ducati and I’m just absolutely amazed by the experience I had here on my first day with a MotoGP bike. It’s been quite an eye opener, that’s for sure. Everything is very different from what I’m used to, but it is an amazing experience. I got so much learning to do, because everything is new and I’m trying to absorb as much information as I possible can. It is quite difficult, but I couldn’t be happier. Just being here and being able to ride with the best riders of the world is the best thing ever. I missed some sleep but I don’t care! The target for tomorrow in qualifying is to qualify for the race and I really think I can do that.”
Luthi hits top gear in Japan
2014 winner back on top at the Twin Ring Motegi as Rins crashes out
Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) was quickest on Friday’s combined times in the intermediate class, moving up from P4 in the morning to take control by the end of the day. The Swiss former 125 World Champion took a lights-to-flag stunner at the venue in 2014. Local hero Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was second fastest after topping FP1, with Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli completing the top three.
Day 1 at the Twin Ring Motegi was punctuated by crashes for all classes, and Moto2 was no exception. After an enormous highside saw Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa break his collarbone in FP2, Moto2™’s second session of the day saw a big incident for title contender Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40) that meant the Spaniard sat out the rest of the day – with Saturday now pivotal as he trails title rival Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) by only one point.
Zarco looked to end Day 1 in P4, before another key rival Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) just pipped the Frenchman to the post to push him down to P5. Lorenzo Baldassari (Forward Racing) was sixth fastest, with Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) suffering a fast crash in the second session but remaining seventh on the timesheets.
Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) was P8 on Day 1 as the 2014 Moto3 World Champion returns to the venue that saw him take back-to-back wins in the lower class, with AGR Team’s Marcel Schrotter in ninth. Brno winner Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) completed the top ten.
Rins will be checked at the Medical Center following his crash, with FP3 on Saturday morning hoping to see the title contender back out on track.
Italian hits back in FP2 to top Friday as Binder crashes – twice
With near-perfect conditions at the Twin Ring Motegi, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) took the top spot on Day 1, crossing the line late to take the lead from home hero Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia), who ended the day in P2 after rising to the top in FP2.Ono has a 3-place grid penalty for the event however, awarded for riding too slowly in some sectors of the track. On the final lap of the second session of the day, RW Racing GP BV rider Livio Loi moved up into P3 to make his mark on Friday, with laptimes lowering in the afternoon.
Fourth on Day 1 belonged to Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0), and the man currently P2 in the title had a solid opener as he looks to consolidate that position ahead of Bastianini. Fifth by the end of action on Friday was top rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), whose time from FP1 that saw him quickest out the blocks kept him in the top five; the Italian only a couple of tenths off his morning’s best in FP2.
Austrian GP winner Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) was sixth quickest, despite some run offs, with Francesco Bagnaia (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra) P7 as the Italian got back in with the frontrunners ahead of compatriot Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46).
2015 race winner Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) was another Italian making inroads back in the top echelons of the timesheets after a more difficult stint, signing off Friday in P9 ahead of Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing), who closed out the top ten.
The big story of the first day at Motegi proved to be newly crowned Moto3 World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), as the South African had an uncharacteristic crash in FP1 before suffering the same fate in FP2 – consequently ending Friday in P12. Unhurt and looking for solutions to explain the front end woes of the squad, Binder will be looking to move much further forward on Saturday.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.