Jorge Lorenzo tops day one at Motegi MotoGP
Movistar Yamaha’s Lorenzo took advantage of ideal conditions (Track temp. 40˚C) at the Twin Ring Motegi to set a 1’44.731 in FP2 to top Friday’s practice. Lorenzo showed no ill effects from the shoulder injury he picked up earlier in the week as he completely dominated proceedings on Friday at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. Lorenzo’s time was less than three-tenths off Andrea Dovizioso’s Pole Record from last year (1’44.502), as the Spaniard looks to close a 14-point gap to his teammate Valentino Rossi in the standings.
Jorge Lorenzo – P1 – ”It was a surprising day, because I didn’t expect to be so competitive, especially in the morning. I expected to improve little by little, but starting from the first run I was the fastest rider and I improved even more on the last outing, so I finished first in the morning and the afternoon. The bike is going better than last year and we have a great setup. Obviously my shoulder isn’t perfect, but even with my shoulder in this condition I’m still able to ride and be quite consistent. I believe that with normal physical conditions I could have been even faster, but there’s no point in thinking about what could have happened. It’s better to focus on the current situation and take the maximum profit. For tomorrow we still have a margin to improve the bike to suit my riding. I hope it won’t be raining on Sunday, so let’s hope the weather forecasts improve.”
Repsol Honda’s Pedrosa (+0.128s) seemed buoyed by his podium finish at Aragon and ended the day in second overall after improving by over a second from FP1 to FP2.
Dani Pedrosa – P2 – “We tested a lot of things out in the practice sessions today and we finished in a good position, but we encountered more problems than we had expected. However, we are working as best we can to reduce these problems and go faster. We shall see just how much we are able to improve tomorrow.”
Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone was third fastest on a day that saw 0.312s separate the provisional front row. The Italian finished ahead of his teammate Andrea Dovizioso in fourth as just 0.016s separated the two, despite Iannone also carrying a shoulder injury.
Andrea Iannone – P3 – “Today was quite a positive day for me. We were competitive right out of the box this morning and our bikes proved to be fast and have a good performance. This is very important for the work that we are doing and for the way my bike behaves: I think that this circuit manages to highlight our strong points, and so we are satisfied. Let’s hope we can continue along this path tomorrow, improve a bit more and always be as close as possible to the guys at the front.”
Andrea Dovizioso – P4 – “I am pleased because today we went well straight away, and more importantly, we managed to improve in both sessions. My GP15 is a bit more stable under braking, but it’s not enough for the moment and so we are going to have to try and make another step forward in this direction for tomorrow. In any case our race pace is quick and this is vital in view of Sunday.”
The Ducati Team GP15’s made use of special cooling ducts to keep the front brakes cool, as did both the Movistar Yamaha team and Team Suzuki Ecstar.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith (+0.519s) impressed as the leading Satellite rider in fifth overall, after he had finished fourth fastest in FP1.
Bradley Smith – P5 – “Firstly, I enjoy coming to Motegi because it is always good fun due to the Japanese fans and seeing the amount of passion that they have for MotoGP. With regards to today, things were very positive for us on track. We did a really good job with making the bike as stable as possible which was our main focus today because this is very important here due to the circuit’s hard braking points. In addition, we were able to run a lot of laps on the soft rear tyre and with the modifications we made, I am quite confident that we will have a good pace at the end of the race on Sunday. Overall, I am very pleased as my time put me in 5th, and I am especially happy as I completed that lap whilst I was using the harder rear tyre, so this shows that both compounds are working well. For tomorrow, the main aim is to work more with the softer rear option because I believe that this will be the race choice so we will continue in that direction in order to be able to close Yamaha’s home Grand prix with a strong result.”
Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro (+0.617s) was sixth fastest with Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez in seventh.
Aleix Espargaro – P6 – “I’m very happy for this start, the day has been positive for me and I’m proud to be performing so well here in Japan. Almost the whole factory is coming to visit us at the circuit and it’s very nice to see how hard all the Suzuki people work for and trust in us. It’s an important day for the company, being the first race on the home soil after the comeback. The performance today was pretty good, finally with my crew we managed to find an effective approach, in Aragon I got some hints on how to be better performing in acceleration, we have analysed the data and finally came here with some good ideas for the electronics which proved to be effective. We found a way, we still need to refine it but the feeling so far is positive.”
Marc Marquez – P7 – “The first practice was useful for us to see how my finger felt, and to correctly adapt my riding position and it went pretty well. At least I was able to ride correctly and brake late, which is the important thing. Obviously it hurts, but it is bearable. As for the setup, we have made improvements but we still have room to do better -above all with the electronics, which we need to adjust to this circuit. We will see tomorrow if we can take another step forward and get amongst the top five.”
The reigning MotoGP champion was using a modified handlebar to accommodate the broken fifth metacarpal on his left hand and at one point pulled off a remarkable save at turn 8 to stop him from doing any further damage.
Championship leader Rossi found himself down in eighth overall, after ending FP1 in third. Rossi was 0.823s off the pace of Lorenzo and will have work to do on Saturday to try and maintain his 14-point lead.
Valentino Rossi – P8 – ”This morning was not so bad and also in the afternoon I felt quite good with the harder tyre. I expected to improve more when I put on the softer option at the end, but unfortunately this didn’t happen because we’re not good with the setting yet and have to work a bit further. We have to check the data and check which way we want to follow for tomorrow. It’s always difficult to improve in MotoGP. At the end of the practice on the Friday everybody puts in new tyres and already the lap times are very quick and faster than last year, so we have to work hard and try to stay at the top.”
Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was ninth ahead of the leading Open Class rider, Hector Barbera on the Avintia Racing Ducati, who completed the top ten ahead of his scheduled 100th premier class appearance.
Pol Espargaro – P9 – “It was a bit of a tricky opening day for me at Motegi and we struggled in a few areas, but I am certain that we can turn everything around for the vital qualifying session tomorrow. Our biggest issue is that there was a low grip level and when this happens, we suffer more than most. Having said that, we managed to undertake some good work and we have a direction to work towards tomorrow. Moreover, we will now check the other Yamaha’s data in order to understand where we can make up a few more tenths. The lap time itself is a solid base to start from, yet it is further back compared to where I want to be. However we have still two more days and I am fully confident that we can get to where we need to be in Sunday’s Japanese GP.”
British riders Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and Scott Redding (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) were in 11th and 12th respectively.
Cal Crutchlow – P11 – “I’m not too pleased with today, but hopefully we will go better tomorrow. We had some problems with the bike in this morning’s session so we lost quite a few laps and this afternoon we were only able to do the work we needed to do in the morning session. As a result my position is not the best at the moment. I also had some problems with the rear tyre in my last run, but I’m looking forward to seeing whether we can improve tomorrow in a lot of areas as I’m confident we can. We need to gain time in some of the braking zones and also in the middle of the corner with the rear grip. But the team will be working hard tonight as always and hopefully I will be able to push harder tomorrow.”
Scott Redding – P12 – “This morning was difficult, not because of any problems, but because we had to make some changes to the electronics to account for the extra grip that’s available here this year. In the afternoon we started to make some progress, with the lap times getting faster and faster, with my quickest lap coming on the harder option rear tyre. I would have liked to have got into the 1’45s bracket, and I did try, but we didn’t quite get there today. I feel quite comfortable with the bike, we’re just missing a little from mid-corner to exit, but I’m sure we can make further improvements to both the bike and the lap time tomorrow. The soft tyre will be a big advantage here at Motegi, so avoiding the first qualifying session will be important, which means I need to push for the top ten in the final free practice session tomorrow. Overall I’m pretty satisfied with today.”
Maverick Viñales – P13 – “Honestly I’m not happy, there is something wrong with my feeling with the bike since the last two or three races and I can’t understand how to improve. My feeling at mid-season was so good, while now it looks like we can’t find a proper way to finalise the set-up. Here we’ve almost lost the Friday, my lap times are far away from where I think I could be and we still need to find a proper way. The base-setting is good, I still feel we have a good approach, but we need to work harder to be more effective for tomorrow.”
LCR Honda rider Jack Miller made an encouraging start at what is Honda’s home circuit, the Australian produced excellent progress throughout the day to set himself up nicely for qualifying. On Friday morning Miller could only manage to go 22nd fastest, but after working hard on the bike he then shaved off over a second with his best lap in the afternoon session to sit 15th on the timesheets at the end of the day. The 20-year-old is now feeling very positive about the weekend ahead.
Jack Miller – P15 – “I’m really happy with this afternoon. We were able to go back to the original plan with the bike and it worked really well for us. We’ve still got a few little points to focus on tomorrow with the bike, but it’s been an encouraging start. I think we will need to look at braking stability and how we improve that tomorrow. I’m confident we can do well and I’m looking forward to qualifying.”
Irishman Eugene Laverty (Aspar MotoGP Team) was in 19th, ahead of his teammate Nicky Hayden (20th).
The 2006 MotoGP World Champion Hayden announced on Friday he will be leaving MotoGP for WorldSBK in 2016.
Wildcards Takumi Takahashi (Team HRC With Nissin) and Katsuyuki Nagasuka (Yamaha Factor Racing Team) ended the day in 18th and 23rd respectively despite the latter crashing late on in FP2, while Kousuke Akiyoshi, the replacement for the injured Karel Abraham in the AB Motoracing Team, was in 27th.
Takumi Takahashi – P18 – “I am very happy to be here racing with Team HRC Nissin. Today was a positive day and I was able to do my best ever time around Motegi by almost half a second and using the harder tyre, however, the gap to the front riders is still too big. We will work hard tomorrow to reduce this gap as much as we can.”
Katsuyuki Nakasuga – P23 – “In the second free practice session, I took a fall, and I owe it to the fact that the harder tire we had chosen didn’t fit my riding style. I just slipped and went down, so I wasn’t personally injured, but at that moment I was full of regret for what I had done to the team’s efforts. This year I have been working from images of how Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo ride and trying to change my riding to get closer to theirs in my role as development rider for the YZR-M1. As a result, I think I have evolved and progressed to some degree as a development rider, but this time I want to improve a bit more in terms of my lap times. The reason is that the pace of the machine development itself is moving faster than last year and the chassis-related development has reached quite a good level. My best lap time until now is 1’46.7, so I at least want to better that. Although I took that fall today, it has relieved some of the tension for me, and now I feel that if I don’t a little closer to the actual race speeds, I won’t really be able to understand exactly what Rossi and Lorenzo are saying. So, tomorrow I am going to come back with renewed determination to get faster lap times.”
Loris Baz – P24 – “It was a working debut today at Motegi. In FP1 I concentrated on getting comfortable with the bike and I rode the whole session with the hard tyres. In the afternoon I went out on track with two different settings to find the right feeling. Unfortunately I crashed and I had to finish the session with the second bike. I’m confident for tomorrow: the pace is good, I like the track, I just have to be able to put it all together to do a good lap.”
Toni Elias – P25 – “I am pleased with the work done today. We preferred to not focus on the lap time but to improve several new solutions. Compared to Aragon we made a good step forward and the feeling on the front has improved. I can push harder and I’m confident that I can lower my lap time significantly in qualifying tomorrow.”
Zarco celebrates Moto2 title by topping Friday’s practice
Ajo Motorsport’s Johann Zarco capped a day that saw him declared 2015 Moto2 World Champion by topping the combined timesheets at the Twin Ring Motegi. The French rider lifted the title after the only man who could stop him from being crowned champion in Japan, Tito Rabat, was forced to withdraw from the Grand Prix due to injury. Rabat tried in vain to take to the track in FP1, before being declared unfit for the rest of the weekend, handing Zarco the title.
Zarco then set a 1’51.158 in FP2 to finish fastest overall, 0.039s ahead of Paginas Amarillas HP40’s Alex Rins. Rins crashed late on in the session at turn 10 but his time was good enough to end the day in second, ahead of the Derendinger Racing Interwetten of Thomas Lüthi (+0.194s), as less than two-tenths of a second separated the provisional front row.
Speed Up Racing’s Sam Lowes (+0.382s) was fourth fastest overall, ahead of Luis Salom (+0.552s) on the of the second Paginas Amarillas HP40 Kalex. Idemitsu Honda Team Asia’s Takaaki Nakagami ended the day in sixth at his home Grand Prix, despite being one of a number of riders to fall foul of turn 10 during the two sessions.
Jonas Folger (AGR Team) Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP), Axel Pons (AGR Team) and Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) completed a top ten that was separated by just 0.941s.
Josh Hook (Technomag Racing Interwetten), substituting for the injured Dominique Aegerter, was another one to crash during the day, finishing down in 28th overall.
Wildcards Yuki Takahashi (Moriwaki Racing) and Tomoyoshi Koyama (NTS T.Pro Project) were in 24th and 30th respectively.
Antonelli heads Friday’s practice in Moto3
Ongetta-Rivacold’s Niccolo Antonelli set a 1’57.500 to top Friday’s practice in ideal conditions at the Twin Ring Motegi. The 19-year-old Italian recorded his best time in FP1, as track temperatures of 42˚C in FP2 meant most riders failed to improve in the afternoon. His time was less than a second off Danny Kent’s 2014 Pole Record (1’56.555) and saw him end the day 0.107s ahead of Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Miguel Oliveira. Oliveira, buoyed from his victory last time out at Aragon, also set his best time in the morning session as he ended the day in second overall.
Gresini Racing Team Moto3’s Enea Bastianini (+0.299s) ended the day in third despite a heavy crash at turn 9 during FP1. The Italian currently trails championship leader Kent by 55 points after they both crashed out on the last lap at Aragon.
RW Racing GP’s Livio Loi (+0.581s) headed out on fresh set of slicks at the start of FP2, unlike most riders who ran on used tyres from FP1, to set his fastest time and finish in fourth overall. Oliveira’s teammate Brad Binder (+0.613s) was fifth, with Alexis Masbou (+0.618s) on the SAXOPRINT RTG Honda in sixth despite crashing at turn 10 halfway through the session.
Leopard Racing’s championship leader Kent, who has his first chance to lift the Moto3 title at Motegi, found himself down in seventh after he spent FP2 working mostly on used tyres.
Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46), Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Francesco Bagnaia (Mapfre team Mahindra) completed the top ten.
Fabio Quartararo (Estrella Galicia 0,0) ended the day in 19th on his comeback from injury, while Scotsman John McPhee (SAXOPRINT RTG) was in 23rd.
Remy Gardner (1’59.059): “I’m happy about my performance and progression from first to second Free Practice because it shows that we are working well. This is a very flat track that combines technical and fast sections and I felt comfortable from the beginning of the first Free Practice. Let’s hope to continue pushing as hard as today and get a good starting grid position”.