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The two men at the top of the title fight top the timesheets on Day 1
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.
Ducati Team riders get off to a great start in the Grand Prix of Japan: Andrea Dovizioso first and Jorge Lorenzo fourth after first day at Motegi
The two Ducati Team riders both had an excellent start to their Motegi weekend today in the GP of Japan. After the first day of free practice, which was held in the pouring rain and with an air temperature of 15° C, Andrea Dovizioso set the quickest time in 1’54.877 at the start of the second session, while his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was classified fourth with a lap of 1’55.234.
This morning the Spanish rider was the victim of a spectacular crash, luckily without suffering any serious harm, when he was hit violently by the bike of Cal Crutchlow, who had crashed a couple of seconds earlier while braking for Turn 9.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 1’54.877 (1st)
“I’m very pleased with my Friday performance here at Motegi because we started off really quick. We were in some doubts about the grip, but I already found a good feeling this morning, while this afternoon I confirmed my speed, and even more importantly, I did my best time immediately at the start of the session. We have got off to a really good start and we’ve already got a good base setting: now we have to work on the details because the rear tyre wear is quite substantial, even though we used the hardest tyre available.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 1’55.234 (4th)
“Today it was raining a lot and the track was in a very difficult condition, but I’m quite satisfied because I’m up at the front, together with the quickest riders, and starting off as well as this on Friday is always a good sign. In the afternoon we improved the bike and I lapped with a good pace. This morning I was quite lucky because when Crutchlow’s bike hit me and I crashed, I could have been badly hurt. Luckily in the end, apart from a bang on the hand, it was nothing serious. As for tomorrow, if the weather is still the same, my aim will be to go in the same direction as today.”
Zarco fastest Yamaha on wet day 1 at Motegi
Johann Zarco showed his formidable form in the wet by closing the opening day of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan in 5th position. With rain expected for the entire weekend, Zarco got straight into gear and began undertaking the key setup work in preparation for Sunday’s race. He notably finished the day only 0.407 back from the top three and as the leading independent rider.
Meanwhile, Kohta Nozane, who is stepping in for Jonas Folger at this round, lit up the Twin Ring Motegi circuit with a highly promising display on his MotoGP debut. The young Japanese rider delighted his home crowd by powering to 13th in the afternoon and now he confidently awaits the second day of action, which begins with FP3 at 09:55 local time or 02:55 in central Europe.
Position: 5th – Time: 1’55.468 – Laps: 31
Johann Zarco – 2017“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.”
Position: 13th – Time: 1’56.453 – Laps: 35
“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.”
Motegi (Japan), 13th October 2017
Today Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi prepared for an intense weekend at the Twin Ring Motegi track. The teammates searched for grip in the rainy first free practice sessions and took 11th and 12th place respectively in the combined timesheets, ahead of Sunday’s Motul Grand Prix of Japan.
The weather was the biggest challenge for Viñales this morning. He found himself starting Yamaha’s home GP weekend in the pouring rain, and he had to up his pace gradually, careful not to cross the limit. Despite the treacherous conditions, which made it harder to get heat into the tyres and caused impaired vision due to the spray, he started working on his YZR-M1‘s setting. The Spaniard took ninth in FP1 with a 1‘56.917s best lap, 1.499s from the front.
The Yamaha Factory rider looked more confident during the second 45-minute session. Working on corner entry and minimising rear spin, he found a better pace, posting multiple 1‘57s laps to ultimately secure 11th place with a fastest lap of 1‘56.376s. He was again 1.499s from the leader and ended up in 11th position in the combined results.
Teammate Rossi took his time in FP1 to get up to speed at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit. The track‘s various heavy braking zones make it vital to get the tyres up to temperature. Despite still recovering from his leg injury, the nine-time World Champion made progress, especially towards the end of the session, and finished 19th with a lap of 1‘58.618s, 3.200s from first.
With the weather conditions barely improving for FP2, the Doctor made some changes to increase downforce. He started working on the feeling of the rear of his bike going into the corners, and was able to improve his time by more than two seconds to a 1‘56.435s by the end of the day. He finished less than 1.558s from the top, good for 12th position. The result also keeps him in 12th place in the combined times, ahead of tomorrow‘s sessions.
We weren‘t expecting to face such difficulties today. Unfortunately, we struggled with a lack of rear grip, especially on corner entry, even though the grip level of the Motegi track is always good. Our performance level in wet conditions continues to be a point of improvement. We tried to solve this issue during today‘s wet sessions, but we didn‘t get the breakthrough we hoped for. Since we weren‘t ready to exploit the extra soft tyre, as we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy its full advantage, we decided against using it, also because of the small quantity that we were given. The weather conditions are expected to remain the same, so we‘ll continue to keep pushing in the rain, because we‘re eager to make a big step over the weekend for Sunday‘s race.
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.
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.
After a three-week break, the MotoGP World Championship resumed today with the first of three flyaway races at the Twin Ring in Motegi. However, the weather at the Japanese circuit on Friday was far from ideal with heavy rain ensuring a tricky start to practice for the premier class riders. Indeed, LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow fell foul of the conditions as he suffered a dramatic fall, before recovering well to end the day in ninth position overall.
Crutchlow had performed impressively on the drenched track in FP1 but, towards the end of the session, lost control of his RC213V under braking and collided with the Ducati of Jorge Lorenzo. Fortunately, both men were able to walk away from the incident unharmed.
Further rain ensured FP2 was a similarly wet affair, although all the field managed to improve their morning times. In the end, a competitive Crutchlow claimed ninth spot, just behind fellow Honda rider Dani Pedrosa, with Andrea Dovizioso edging out the Spaniard’s team-mate Marc Marquez at the top of the timesheets.
Cal Crutchlow – 9th
(1’56.149 – lap 12 of 19)
“We had quite a good day today. I feel quite strong in the rainy conditions, but we need to improve the engine braking of the bike a little bit. The track has great grip and we worked very well as a team today, but unfortunately I put the new tyre on at the wrong time and didn’t improve my lap time towards the end of the session.
“I had an unfortunate incident with Jorge (Lorenzo) this morning that was a difficult situation, but I’m glad that we are both okay after it.”