A soaking wet Motegi greeted MotoGP this morning

Andrea Dovizioso pips Marquez for top spot on Friday

Moto2 – Tom Lüthi leads from the front in Japan

Moto3 – Bulega blasts to the top on Friday

2017 MotoGP content on MCNews.com.au brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils
2017 MotoGP content on MCNews.com.au brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils

MotoGP 2017 – Round 15 – Motegi

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).

Andrea Dovizioso
Andrea Dovizioso

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.

Marc Marquez – P2

“This morning everything was perfect and I felt very, very good on the bike. That was the case until the last exit of FP2, despite having to go back from a change to the setup that hadn’t work as well as we hoped. At the end of the session we fit a new set of tyres and I had a different feeling, less grip. I suffered a high-side, which is a bit uncommon in MotoGP now, but in the end, I’m fine. We need to check for why it happened, and we can certainly work a bit on the electronics to understand how to improve that side. Anyway, our speed was there and our lap times came out good, so our mentality will remain the same. I feel confident for the weekend.”

Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez

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.

Aleix Espargaro
Aleix Espargaro

Espargaro 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).

Johann Zarco – P5

“I am feeling good and I’m happy to be in Japan. It’s a shame to have the bad weather, however, I think that it could be an advantage for me. FP1 went well but then it was even better this afternoon. The others riders were really fast and Dovizioso rode an incredible lap time, yet I am not far back from him so I am pleased. I still need to work more with the team in order to feel as strong as possible on the bike because you can be fast for one lap, but the most important thing is to be quick on every lap, especially if it rains. I am working on it and I need to keep focused so let’s see if we can improve in FP3 tomorrow, however, to be in the top ten at the moment is the main point. When it rains, it can be quite tough on a full power MotoGP bike because of the water on the track and there’s a lot of spinning. Yet, we can see that the tyres are working really well and, along with the suspension and the bike, we have a strong feeling because this circuit has very good grip. If it stays like this for Sunday, it will be advantageous but we are working positively already.”

Johann Zarco
Johann Zarco

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.

Dani Pedrosa – P8

“This morning was very tough as we struggled to put heat into the tyres and I had no grip at all. In the afternoon we modified the setup, aiming to cope with these cold temperatures, and we improved a little bit but not enough yet. I’m still feeling uncomfortable on the bike due to the lack of grip. We had a softer tyre spec available, but looking at the forecast, we expect more rain to come. We preferred to continue with the tyre configuration that we think can last the race, looking to understand how to make them work better for us.”

Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa

Pedrosa 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.

Maverick Vinales – P11

“It‘s been challenging throughout the year to be strong in the wet. We didn‘t find a good set-up so far. The gap to the front is quite big, so we have to try to better the setting of the bike to improve the rear grip. It‘s a pity, because the conditions weren‘t really tricky and the grip level of the track was good. We still have tomorrow‘s sessions to find a solution.”

Valentino Rossi – P12

“I’m in some pain, but it’s not a big problem. Unfortunately we struggle, because today we had two complete practices in the full wet and we could work on the setting, but both sessions were not fantastic. We are a bit in trouble, the bike is a bit difficult to ride and we don’t have enough rear grip, so it’s difficult. We hope that the conditions become better, or we try something tomorrow and we’ll see.”

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).

Kohta Nozane – P13

“Day one went quite well and it was enjoyable as well as exciting to compete against the fast MotoGP riders and this is good. I am confident in myself and although it is only the first day and it’s too early to say which position I will finish in, I feel positive. Motegi is my local racetrack as my home is not so far from here. Tomorrow, it will be cloudy and the conditions could be dry, so the other riders will be faster. However, I am really enjoying this moment and I will try my best for the race on Sunday.”

Kohta Nozane
Kohta Nozane

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.

MotoGP 2017 – Motegi Friday Combined Practice Times
  1. DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Ducati Team 1’54.877
  2. MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team 0.043
  3. ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 0.184
  4. LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA Ducati Team 0.357
  5. ZARCO Johann 5 FRA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 0.591
  6. PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA Octo Pramac Racing 0.664
  7. IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA Team Suzuki Ecstar 0.737
  8. PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA Repsol Honda Team 0.896
  9. CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR LCR Honda 1.272
  10. RINS Alex 42 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 1.352
  11. VINALES Maverick 25 SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1.499
  12. ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1.558
  13. NOZANE Kohta 31 JPN Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1.576
  14. REDDING Scott 45 GBR Octo Pramac Racing 1.803
  15. ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE Pull&Bear Aspar Team 1.899
  16. BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA Pull&Bear Aspar Team 1.950
  17. SMITH Bradley 38 GBR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 1.976
  18. ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 1.995
  19. LOWES Sam 22 GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2.373
  20. BAZ Loris 76 FRA Reale Avintia Racing 2.382
  21. BARBERA Hector 8 SPA Reale Avintia Racing 2.663
  22. AOYAMA Hiroshi 7 JPN EG 0,0 Marc VDS 2.671
  23. RABAT Tito 53 SPA EG 0,0 Marc VDS 2.768
  24. NAKASUGA Katsuyuki 21 JPN Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing 3.464
MotoGP 2017 - Motegi Friday Combined Practice Times
MotoGP 2017 – Motegi Friday Combined Practice Times

Moto2 – Tom Lüthi leads from the front in Japan

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.

Tom Luthi
Tom Luthi

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).

Young Australian Remy Garder was 17th at the end of day one.

Remy Gardner – P17

“It was very wet today and it looks like it’s going to be this way for all three days. Therefore, it was important to discover a good setting and understand the conditions early on in the weekend. Overall, I would say that it was quite a positive day but we need more. We’re still looking for that extra edge but hopefully, we can come back tomorrow and have an awesome qualifying session.”

Remy Gardner
Remy Gardner

MotoGP 2017 - Motegi Friday Combined Practice Times Moto2
MotoGP 2017 – Motegi Friday Combined Practice Times Moto2

Moto3 – Bulega blasts to the top on Friday

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.

Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46)
Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46)

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.

Tom Toparis - Motegi MotoGP - Image by AJRN
Tom Toparis – Motegi MotoGP – Image by AJRN

Australian Moto3 wildcard debutant Tom Toparis finished both sessions inside the qualifying cut-off as he familiarised himself with the KTM Moto3 machine for the first time in the treacherous conditions.

Tom Toparis - Motegi MotoGP - Image by AJRN
Tom Toparis – Motegi MotoGP – Image by AJRN
MotoGP 2017 – Motegi Friday Combined Practice Times Moto3
MotoGP 2017 - Motegi Friday Combined Practice Times Moto3
MotoGP 2017 – Motegi Friday Combined Practice Times Moto3

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