Threat of Rain Makes FP2 Mini-Qualifying Session


These just in from Japan

 

MotoGP Press

 

Friday at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan saw Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) unleash his by-now traditional pace to top the combined timesheets, with the Frenchman ahead of the field by 0.321 seconds by the end of FP2 as he begins his bid to wrap up the Rookie of the Year title this weekend. The next man up was Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), who had the tables turned on him in the afternoon after topping FP1, with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) completing the top three after a classic last dash scramble for most near the end of action.

Dry but grey skies were the name of the game on Day 1 and the program was a full one as rain threatens the rest of the weekend, with places in Q2 seemingly up for grabs already. As a manufacturer, it was Yamaha who were quickest out the blocks, with Viñales leading a 1-2-3 for the Iwata marque in the morning and Quartararo strking late to take over as the first of four Yamahas in the top six after FP2. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was a late mover to take fifth overall on Day 1, ahead of Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in P6.

So who spoiled the party? Only Marquez in third and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in fourth were able put paid to Yamaha domination, although that ends up proving a good omen for both the Iwata marque and the two men who were able to join the upper echelons of the timesheets.

Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) was exceedingly close to the top six, however, with the Australian seventh overall by just 0.015. He also suffered a crash on his very final lap of the day, rider ok but bike needing a little T&C overnight. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) was P8 and 0.042 off his fellow Ducati rider, with Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) impressing to end Day 1 as top Suzuki once again – just as he did in Thailand. He was 0.022 off Petrucci despite a run off at Turn 5.

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) is the final man who stands to take an automatic place in Q2 if the expected weather closes in, with the Spaniard pushing out some high-profile hopefuls: Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was P11 by just 0.009, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was 12th and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) 13th. Both Rins and Crutchlow were on the podium last year behind winner Marquez, although in reverse order.

Rookie Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) was 14th on Day 1 and just ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), who locked out the fastest 15. The home hero is scheduled to undergo surgery after Motegi and miss the final three races of the season, so a solid finish will be in his sights.

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) had a fast one at Turn 12 on Friday, but the Portuguese rider was given the all clear and will be back out on Saturday. He was 19th on Day 1.

That’s it from an interesting opening day at Motegi, as Quartararo’s Thursday assertion stands true: he doesn’t seem to pay much heed as to whether it’s meant to be a Honda or Yamaha track. But then, neither did the rest of the Iwata marque machines…can they keep that form on Saturday? Will Marquez blast back to take pole at the last venue he has yet to reign in the premier class? Or…will the weather steal the headlines? Find out who’s heading through to Q2 at 10:50 local time (GMT+9) as FP3 begins slightly later than normal, before qualifying from 15:05 to decide the grid for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan.

 

Petronas

PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team duo Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli made a flying start at the Grand Prix of Japan, finishing the day first and sixth on the timesheets at the Twin Ring Motegi. Vitally, with heavy rain forecast on Saturday morning at the Japanese track, it also means that the pair have already secured their places in Q2 tomorrow afternoon.

Making his MotoGP debut at the Motegi circuit, Quartararo took time to come to grips with the track this morning but was still able to finish second, before going one better at the end of FP2 to secure P1 with a time of 1min 44.764secs. 0.3 secs clear of his nearest rival, tomorrow’s forecast of heavy rain should give Fabio a chance to increase his understanding of the Yamaha YZR-M1 in wet conditions.

Team-mate Morbidelli also completed the first day of Japanese action strongly, finishing FP1 just behind Quartararo in third and ending the day in sixth, just 0.798secs behind. Taking positive steps forward with his bike setting and one of four Yamaha machines inside the top six, tomorrow’s weather should also provide a chance to work on a different aspect of his set-up to be prepared for any eventuality on Sunday.

MotoGP action at Motegi is scheduled to resume tomorrow with practice at 1050 local time (0950 Malaysian time) and qualifying at 1425 (1325 Malaysian time) ahead of Sunday’s 24-lap race.

 

“It was a positive Friday and we were fast in both sessions. I was expecting a little bit more from the rear tyre on the time attack and I’m not too satisfied with my time – but we have to be pleased with the work that we accomplished. It’s still only the first day but we’ve been able to try lots of things and we’ve gathered plenty of interesting data. There is rain forecast for tomorrow and to say that I’m already prepared to race in the dry would be a bit brave, but we’ve made the right steps today.” –Morbidelli

“This morning I struggled to find some reference points because there is a lot of heavy braking at Motegi; it wasn’t easy at first. Step by step I found my line and realised where I needed to improve. In the end, we did an amazing job not only with the time attack but on race pace as well – but there’s still more to come if it doesn’t rain. We completed 40 laps today, but the more you do the more you learn, and if the weather is good then for sure we’ll be able to go faster. If it does rain tomorrow, then I’ll just go out and do my best. I don’t have a lot of MotoGP experience in wet conditions yet so we’ll see what happens, but we’re already in Q2 so we can aim for the front three rows in qualifying.” –Quartararo

LCR

LCR Honda CASTROL rider Cal Crutchlow had to settle for 12th position after the opening day of free practice for the Japanese Grand Prix. In what is the home race of HRC, the Briton narrowly missed out on a top 10 spot at the Twin Ring Motegi and now has work to do ahead of qualifying.

With heavy rain forecast for Saturday, the chance to secure automatic entry into Q2 looks to have escaped Crutchlow. He claimed tenth spot in FP1 but, despite improving by nearly half a second in FP2, was pushed down into 12th position as he missed out by less than a tenth. Despite that setback, he remains hopeful of a good result at a venue where he finished second last year.

Cal Crutchlow – 12th
(1’45.084 – lap 17 of 17)
“It was a disappointing day here in Motegi. I missed out on the top 10 which is obviously disappointing not to go through to Q2 directly. We know that there is heavy rain forecast for tomorrow so this makes the situation and day very difficult. But I don’t have a great feeling with the bike, we are struggling to decelerate it and we have difficulties in turning the bike and turning the corner so it makes for a difficult lap around the Motegi circuit. As, I’ll endeavour to improve with my team and improve the feeling, but that can’t be done tomorrow with the weather that is due.”

Ducati

MotoGP | 16 – Motegi | Friday 18 October 2019
Andrea Dovizioso fourth and Danilo Petrucci eighth at the end of day 1 of practice for the GP of Japan at Motegi

At the end of the first day of practice for the GP of Japan, to be held this weekend at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, both Ducati Team riders were classified inside the provisional top 10, with Andrea Dovizioso in fourth position and Danilo Petrucci eighth.

In cloudy conditions but with a dry track surface, all the MotoGP top riders improved their times in the afternoon’s FP2 session to try and qualify inside the top 10 and go directly through into Q2, seeing as tomorrow rain is forecast for the Japanese circuit.

Andrea Dovizioso (#04 Ducati Team) – 1’45.414 (4th)
“Today we immediately started off on the right foot, because our bike works very well at Motegi and it’s always great to be here. We were fast but, as has often happened this year, there are a lot of us with a good pace and so we’ll have to work on the little details to get set up for the race. Unfortunately, this afternoon the air was quite cool and the tyres from this morning didn’t work in the same way, but in any case we’re working well and I believe I have a good margin to improve: I’m very confident for the rest of the weekend.”

Danilo Petrucci (#9 Ducati Team) – 1’45.619 (8th)
“It was a positive day for me: I’ve got a good feeling with the bike and, even though I wasn’t perfect on my fast lap in FP2, I feel really good and I’m happy to have finished inside the top 10, even though it looks like it’s going to rain tomorrow. In any case I think I can also be competitive in the wet and so I’m sure I can do a good qualifying session.”

Yamaha

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Maverick Viñales made a very positive start to the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, taking first place in FP1 and following it up with a second position in FP2 and the combined times. Valentino Rossi kicked off the first of the overseas triple-header weekends focusing fully on riding on used tyres. He secured fifth place in the combined free practice results.

Viñales stuck his M1 in P1 early on in FP1 and then put his energy towards working on his bike‘s set-up to make it match the Twin Ring Motegi track‘s stop-start nature. He gradually improved his time, achieving provisional first place once more 25 minutes into the session, although it didn’t last long. But when a mini time attack started in the final five minutes, the number-12 rider was ready for the fight and reclaimed the top spot. Quartararo put in a late challenge, but the Factory team rider retaliated with a 1‘45.572s, ending the session in first place with a 0.258s advantage over second, for an early Yamaha 1-2-3.

The Spaniard also booked steady progress in the afternoon practice. He spent a large part of the session near the top of the provisional rankings, until the latter stages, when he put in a soft rear tyre for his final outing and dropped a fast time to top the session again for a short while. His best lap of 1’45.085s was 0.321s from the top and left him in second place in the FP2 and the combined free practice standings.

Rossi got off to a positive start at Yamaha‘s home GP. He briefly moved up to third place and started to work on race pace, like he announced he would before coming to the Japanese GP venue. He was eager to work on riding with used tyres, especially as the nine-time World Champion knows like no other how wearing the Motegi track can be. The Italian was so fixed on this task that he did not come in for a fresh set of tyres to put in a hot lap at the end of the morning session, like the majority of the rider field. He took 12th position, 0.848s behind his team-mate.

Rossi continued to test various setting options as well as some tyre specs in FP2, leaving it until the final seconds to put in a hot lap because of an issue with his first bike. Though the second bike had a different set-up, the nine-time World Champion quickly adjusted. The window of opportunity was extremely narrow when he started his fourth and final run just a couple of minutes before the end of the session, but the Doctor remained calm and collected. He crossed the start-finish line for his flying lap with 10s to spare, and gave it his all for a 1’45.466s, to take fifth in the FP2 and combined session results, 0.702s removed from first.

MASSIMO MEREGALLI
TEAM DIRECTOR

“We had a productive start to the Japanese GP, which is positive, especially since the weather for tomorrow predicts rain. We had quite a few things that we wanted to try here, so we had to work hard today to fit in most of it. Maverick showed good speed right from the start and is feeling confident overall, which shows in his placements: first and second in today’s sessions. Vale focused on riding on used tyres in both FP1 and FP2. When it was the right moment for the time attack, he had an issue with his first bike, which cost him a lot of time. Luckily, he was able to cross the line 10s before the chequered flag came out and then set the fifth time of the day. Overall, Maverick and Valentino had a good pace, even with a good number of laps on the tyre. Having both our riders firmly in the top 10 after today could be very important, especially considering the weather predicted for tomorrow. The fact that all Yamahas are in the top 6 at what‘s not naturally an easy track for us, shows the steps Yamaha has made. That said, it’s only Friday…”

MAVERICK VIÑALES

“I‘m really happy. Today I‘m feeling very positive. We‘ve tried many things on the bike, which is very positive, because we don‘t know what the weather will be like tomorrow. I actually felt really good with the bike all the way through FP1 and FP2. Now we have to make another step, but more mechanically. We need to try to understand the best way to improve. We will try to be fast on the wet. Normally that‘s one of our strong points, and we’re usually amongst the first places. So our main target for tomorrow will be the front row, also in the rain. I had a monitor showing my heart rate today. I can feel my heart beat faster sometimes, especially on braking, where I struggle the most. When you do about 10-11 laps you start to feel it.”

Honda

Positive progress for the Repsol Honda Team on Friday in Motegi

Eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez finished a consistent first day in Japan as the third fastest rider as Jorge Lorenzo made a step forward.

Cool conditions on Friday at the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit didn’t deter the local fans who filtered into the track from early in the morning. A track temperature of 21°C kept riders some distance from the outright lap record in Japan but potential rain on Saturday meant they still had to push hard for a Q2 spot in the closing moments of Free Practice 2.

Fresh from being crowned the 2019 MotoGP World Champion, Marc Marquez showed no signs of relenting his fearsome work ethic. Working towards Sunday’s 24-lap race, Marquez was fourth in Free Practice 1 and improved his time by just under a second to go third on the combined time sheets. The World Champion is not resting on his laurels and is determined to find more speed on Saturday, whatever the conditions.

Jorge Lorenzo enjoyed a positive day aboard the Repsol Honda Team RC213V in Japan, spending the majority of it running inside the top 15 and cutting the gap to the top ten to just a few tenths. Ultimately ending the day in 17th, the five-time World Champion was unable to take full advantage of fresh tyres in the afternoon’s conditions. Continuing to close the gap to the front remains Lorenzo’s objective for the weekend after Friday’s positive start.

Action is scheduled to resume at 10:50 Local Time on Saturday with Free Practice 3, the session later in the day than usual due to Japan’s unique schedule.

Marc Marquez
3rd 1’45.100

“It’s nice to be on the bike again after Thailand! Today was not the best day for us because we missed a few things and it wasn’t our best FP2 of the year but still we are in a good position and close. At the moment we’re focusing on the race weekend and understanding a couple of ideas we have had with the geometry. We still need to understand the tyres a bit more so hopefully the weather will be OK tomorrow.”

Jorge Lorenzo
17th 1’46.661

“Today was a positive day, maybe my best practice since I returned from injury. We changed something on the bike from earlier in the season and we had a good day. I improved my feeling and my speed; it wasn’t a full second improvement, but I felt better and could see the improvements on track. Our final position isn’t perfect because I couldn’t take the most from a new tyre like other riders but our pace is closer to the front.”

 

Aprilia

PROVISIONAL Q2 FOR ALEIX AFTER A GOOD FIRST DAY OF PRACTICE IN JAPAN

With the looming threat of rain conditioning practice strategies, the first two sessions on the Japanese Motegi circuit had all the riders pushing hard straight away, almost in a sneak peek of qualifying. This was especially the case in the afternoon FP2 session, fundamental for going straight through to Q2 in the event of a wet track tomorrow morning.

Aleix Espargaró managed to get into the top 10 on his final attempt with a time of 1’45.721, less than one second behind the leader. There were good sensations for the Spanish rider who, even on the Japanese track, is continuing the positive streak demonstrated in Aragón and Buriram.

Andrea Iannone had a bit more difficulty, lacking that extra punch in his time attack during FP2. Andrea complained of a certain aggressiveness in his RS-GP’s behaviour, exacerbated by the characteristics of the Japanese circuit.

ALEIX ESPARGARO’
“I am very pleased with this first day, both for the top-10 position and for the final time that was very fast. In the last few races we found a good base setting and along with my crew chief, Antonio, we decided not to make too many drastic changes to the bike. The strategy seems to be working. I am able to get the most out of the technical package and that remains my goal in this season finale.”

ANDREA IANNONE
“Today’s sessions, especially FP2, were a sort of qualifying. Unfortunately, in my final attempts I went long and lost time, but that is not what concerns me. Instead, I am still struggling to control the bike. Behaviour is not stable and that comes out particularly on a circuit like this one. We already have a few ideas of what to try, so I hope we are able to solve the problem.”


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