MotoGP: Miller Leads Fast And Tight FP1 At Motegi (Updated)

MotoGP: Miller Leads Fast And Tight FP1 At Motegi (Updated)

© 2022, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. By David Swarts.

Editorial Note: The top 17 riders were under the Race Lap Record of 1:45.350!

 

MotoGP FP1

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Dorna:

Miller, Bagnaia, Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro split by 0.068 at Motegi

Miller tops the title rivals, Marquez fifth in a top ten covered by 0.288 on Friday

Friday, 23 September 2022

Jack Miller set the pace in a Ducati Lenovo Team one-two in an extended opening practice session at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, but it could hardly have been closer at the top as Miller headed the three closest in the title fight: Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – and all four were split by just 0.068.  Aragon GP winner Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), on the other hand, was just 14th-fastest after a late crash and he’ll be looking for more on Saturday.

With a special timetable in place for the Japanese GP, the premier class’s sole Friday practice session was an extended, 75-minute affair. While that gave teams and riders plenty of flexibility to work on race runs, the threat of rain in Saturday morning’s FP2 session, the only other running before the starting order for Q1 is set, meant that there was always going to be a big emphasis on single-lap pace. Even the appearance of the rain flag, 30 minutes in, for some very light showers was not enough to dissuade anyone, with riders coming on for fresh Michelin slicks at regular intervals.

Miller had a very brief spell at the top inside the first quarter-hour of the session, but it was not until his final run that he really laid down a marker. The ‘Thriller’ leapt from 17th to first with a 1:44.660 as he lapped Motegi with a brand-new soft front tyre and soft rear. Then, despite seemingly being held up by Team Suzuki Ecstar replacement Takuya Tsuda through the Hairpin, he went quicker again with the 1:44.509 which would not be beaten. Just for good measure, Miller clocked a 1:44.549 next time through which would be bettered only by Bagnaia.

By the time everyone had completed their time attacks, Miller was back on top, Bagnaia just behind, and Quartararo moved up with a 1:44.558. Aleix Espargaro, who was only 14th with a minute to go before the chequered flag came out, then pulled out a great lap to end the session fourth and just 0.068 seconds off the very best pace.

Fifth was also a fair bit to write home about as Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), who has never ridden around Motegi on a MotoGP™ bike before, rounded out the top five on a 1:44.645 and was top Independent Team rider to boot.

Then comes Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). At Honda’s home track, the number 93 claimed sixth with a 1:44.656 after also proving the initial pace-setter very early in the session. It was an encouraging result for the eight-time World Champion despite displaying obvious shoulder soreness when he got off his RC213V at the end of one run, in what is his second round back following surgery on his right arm. There was one mishap for MM93 though, when he got his leathers snagged on the onboard camera as a crew member wheeled his bike back into the Honda box. Teammate Pol Espargaro finished seventh on a 1:44.678.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing duo Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira took eighth and ninth, respectively, while Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) rounded out the top 10.

Those who will be hoping weather forecasts of rain on Saturday morning don’t come true include Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) in 11th and Bastianini in 14th. Both had late crashes, Zarco at Turn 7 after Bastianini had gone down at Turn 5, and for the latter it could prove to be a big blow to the title hopes which he had breathed life back into with his win just five days ago at Aragon. Splitting them in 13th was Alex Rins, who debuted some eye-catching new aerodynamic pieces (pictured below) on the tail unit of his Team Suzuki Ecstar entry.

There’s just one more session before we find out for sure who is going straight into Q2 and who will be fighting to get out of Q1. Don’t miss FP2 on Saturday from 10:50 (GMT +9), before qualifying then gets underway at the later local time of 15:05. 3 riders within 17 points make grid positions more vital than ever…

FRIDAY: TOP 3

1 Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – 1’44.509

2 Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – +0.028

3 Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) – Yamaha – +0.049

Fernandez pips Chantra by less than a tenth on Friday

The Championship leader opens the weekend on top, but Ogura is close in P4

Moto2™ World Championship leader Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) got his Motul Grand Prix of Japan off to the right start as he went fastest in FP1, putting in a 1:50.493 to finish just 0.084 ahead of Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) as light rain disrupted the day for the intermediate class. Their teammates were next up: Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Aragon winner Pedro Acosta was P3 and Fernandez’ key title rival Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) took P4 on home turf.

Ogura was first to get into the 1:51s and at one point he and Fernandez had identical fastest laps, before Fernandez was first into the 1:50s with less than eight minutes to go – except he wasn’t. That lap was outside of track limits, and it was instead Ogura who put in a 1:50.885. Chantra then set a 1:50.577 before Fernandez hit back with the 1:50.493, and that remained the fastest lap of the session. Acosta earned third with a late 1:50.783, and Filip Salac (Gresini Racing Moto2™) also joined the party with a 1:50.967 before more rain meant the pace dropped again.

Despite rain spitting, conditions improving and then worsening again over the course of the session, there wasn’t too much drama for the intermediate class. Sean Dylan Kelly (American Racing) crashed twice, Simone Corsi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) slid out and Keminth Kubo (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp) was the first off, riders all ok.

Two key headlines heading into Saturday see Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40) in 15th and former World Championship leader Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) in 21st on a 1:52.573, putting them both outside the top 14. They’ll have a nervous wait to find out whether there will be more rain on Saturday morning as Moto2™ head back out for FP2 from 9:55 (GMT +9), before qualifying from 13:30!

FRIDAY: TOP 3

1 Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – Kalex – 1’50.493

2 Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – Kalex – +0.084

3 Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – Kalex – +0.290

Moreira fastest as Moto3™ get first taste of Motegi

The rookie heads the field, with Foggia and Sasaki on the chase as the lightweight class avoid the rain

MT Helmets – MSI’s Diogo Moreira set the pace in FP1 for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, putting in a 1:57.252 in the first 40-minute session around the Mobility Resort Motegi. Leopard Racing’s Dennis Foggia was second on Honda home turf, with Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max’s Ayumu Sasaki third and the quickest home hero as he looks to take another GP victory.

World Championship leader Izan Guevara sits inside the top 14 cut-off for Q2 as it stands in P7, but fellow Autosolar GASGAS Aspar Team rider – and closest title rival – Sergio Garcia went 17th-quickest in FP1 and needs to find more on Saturday morning.

Despite overnight rain and grey clouds hanging overhead, it was a dry for start to the Friday afternoon session for the lightweight class, allowing some solid running. There were five crashers: Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia), Elia Bartolini (QJMotor Avintita Racing Team) and teammate Nicola Carraro, Scott Ogden (VisionTrack Racing Team) and Lorenzo Fellon (SIC58 Squadra Corse). Fellon headed to the Medical Centre and will be reviewed before FP2 after suffering pain in his foot.

FP2 begins on Saturday morning at 9:00 (GMT +9), before qualifying begins at 12:35.

FRIDAY: TOP 3

1 Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) – KTM –  1’57.252

2 Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) – Honda –  +0.195

3 Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) – Husqvarna – +0.241

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP Team:

Strong times by WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP Team duo on opening day in Japan

Cal Crutchlow and Darryn Binder had a decent Free Practice one in Motegi today.

Friday at the Mobility Resort Motegi saw just one session for the MotoGP class. To ensure all the material will arrive in time for all teams straight from Aragon, the Japanese GP started late on Friday with an FP1, which was extended to 75 minutes. Although the circuit was overcast all day and it drizzled a bit in some sectors of the track, the practice remained mainly dry and gave riders and teams a good opportunity to arrive back in Motegi after the last two Grand Prix’ in the land of the rising sun had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

It was a great comeback by Cal Crutchlow, who though had been testing at the Japanese venue some weeks ago but on the newly developed Yamaha, he now is riding the actual YZR-M1 for this weekend. Yet, he showed some fantastic speed from the word go. He ended Friday in P17, but was missing out on the top by just 0.678 seconds.

Meanwhile Darryn Binder was impressive as well. Riding his big machine for the first time at Motegi today, he quickly found confidence and did one very fast lap straight behind his teammate. The South African MotoGP rookie concluded Free Practice one just 0.179 seconds behind Crutchlow in P18, although he unfortunately registered a small crash at the end of the session.

Saturday will see a normal program for the premier class. Both WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP Team riders might have a chance to improve tomorrow from Free Practice two at 10:50 local time (03:50 CET), followed by FP3 at 14:25 local time (07:25 CET) and the Qualifyings from 15:05 local time (08:05 CET), yet the weather forecast doesn’t look too promising.

CAL CRUTCHLOW

“Today was a strange day. Waiting around until 3 o’clock to ride is not ideal, but I think all MotoGP riders have just been waiting to go out on track today. The lap times were very impressive for the first session. There was a little bit of drizzle in the session as well, so everyone was pushing to be in the top 10 because it looks like it’s going to rain tomorrow. Me being competitive, but disappointed not to be in the top 10 because at one point I thought we had a chance. I just didn’t have a good feeling with the rear tyre on the last run. I did a good banker lap of 1:44.2 and knew where I could improve, but we struggled with the rear tyre, it was not feeling great in the last run. I went a tiny bit faster, I made this in the corners. But the team did a good job today. I’m happy with how we performed, but we need to understand the braking, because I struggled in the braking zone with the performance of the brakes at the moment to be able to stop the bike. Let’s see if we can improve, if we get some dry sessions tomorrow, but it looks unlikely. Overall, the team did a good job, thanks to them for today.”

DARRYN BINDER

“Today has been a bit of a strange day with starting so late and having only one Free Practice. Luckily the weather held out, although there were some slight drops during the session, but fortunately, it stayed dry. We had a 75 minutes session, so a lot of time to spin some laps and get used to the track. It was so nice to be back here in Motegi after three years. I really enjoy riding this circuit and I had a lot of fun on the MotoGP bike. Unfortunately, I had a little crash at the end of the session, which is an unfortunate way to end the day. But overall, it has been a really positive Free Practice and I’m just 0.8 seconds from the first one, so I’m very happy about the work we’ve done today and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Mooney VR46 Racing Team:

POSITIVE RETURN AT MOTEGI WITH LUCA MARINI IN THE TOP5

A unique 75-minute free practice session for the riders of the Mooney VR46 Racing Team with Luca in the slipstream of the very first guys and Marco Bezzecchi in P19

Motegi (Japan), September 23rd 2022 – After three years, first more than positive approach, as a rookie in MotoGP on the Japanese track of the Mobility Resort in Motegi, for Luca Marini who closes today’s session just a tenth behind the P1 (Miller, 1:44.509) in fifth place overall. 19th, in a very short standings with 19 riders in a gap of a second, Marco Bezzecchi.

Working to adapt himself as soon as possible to the demanding Japanese track riding the Ducati Desmosedici GP, Luca is the protagonist of a good step forward in the final run of the day and scores a lap time of 1:44.645, a time which means the momentary access into the Q2 (tomorrow, 03.30 pm local time, 08.30 am CET).

Six tenths of a second from the qualifying for the second round of the QP, instead for Marco (1:45.426) who uses the 75-minute session to gain as much confidence as possible and thus bring the Top10 closer.

Luca Marini

I am very satisfied with this first session at Motegi, I did not expect to be immediately there with the very first ones, just a tenth from the P1, to be my first time with MotoGP. There is really a lot to do, we have not been riding here for three years and we have made great improvements in terms of electronics and tires in recent seasons. Let’s try to understand where to work, what to do for another jump and to improve ourselves for the race. The weather will be crucial: if it doesn’t rain we could continue to work more easily for the race.

Marco Bezzecchi

It was not a very easy day: the track is beautiful, but demanding with the MotoGP. The single session did not help me, we had a lot of tests to do and the management was particularly complex. In the time attack I was not perfect, I tried again a second time, I was improving my lap time, but I saw the yellow flags and I had to slow down. We know where to work for tomorrow, I hope there will be good weather, but I’m not too worried about the rain.

Pablo Nieto, Team Manager

I am happy with Luca’s start on a very demanding track like this one. He is continuing on his way and has managed the 75 minute shift well. Marco certainly has room of improvements; the ranking is very short with 19 riders in a second. Let’s hope for the weather for tomorrow, it would be very useful for him to be able to continue working in dry conditions.

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Gresini Racing:

JAPANESE GP BEGINS FOR TEAM GRESINI MOTOGP AT MOTEGI

It was not the best start to the Asian trip for Team Gresini Racing MotoGP, who at the moment is far from the top positions with both standard bearers. Luck was not on the riders’ side in what was an unusual first day with only one session of free practice: Enea Bastianini found himself in the gravel trap at turn five with few minutes left while Fabio Di Giannantonio’s performance was halted first by a technical problem and then by a yellow flag situation during his final quick-lap attempt.

The schedule will get ‘back to normal’ tomorrow, with two more FP sessions aside from Q1 and Q2, but adverse weather conditions may play a big role. With 20mm of rain forecast (almost 0.8 inches) predicted, the #23 and the #49 may have their fate sealed and be forced to go through Q1.

14th – ENEA BASTIANINI #23 (1’44.978s)

“We had a good pace today; I started with the idea of understanding the track on a MotoGP bike and we did immediately well with new tyres. I then tucked the front at turn five during my second time attack and we ended up kind of throwing the session away. It’s clear that with one session, things are much more complicated, and we must have made the most of it given the rain expected for tomorrow. We’re hoping for a dry qualifying session, because we’re competitive.”

24th – FABIO DI GIANNANTONIO #49 (1’46.365s)

“We were expecting things to be a lot different in the first session because we had prepared it well strategy-wise, but from the very opening lap I had felt that there was an issue that kind of affected the whole session. When time-attack came, yellow flags were deployed due to a crash by another rider, so we can only think about tomorrow now.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Repsol Honda:

Strong opening day at home for Repsol Honda Team in Motegi

The Japanese and Honda fans provided a welcome boost as Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro powered into the top ten on a unique Friday in Motegi.

A busy Thursday saw the Repsol Honda Team work diligently to prepare everything just a few days after action concluded in Aragon. Due to the schedule of the events, just a single afternoon Free Practice 1 session of 75 minutes awaited the Repsol Honda Team on the opening day of the Japanese Grand Prix. Despite near constant threats of rain throughout the day, the track remained dry for the entirety of the extra-long session.

Returning to the circuit in which he has claimed three of his six premier class titles, Marc Marquez was immediately on the pace. Ending Friday in sixth with a best time of 1’44.656 provided positive reinforcement that both Marquez himself and the RC213V are making steps in the right direction since his recent return to competition. There was no relenting for the #93 who immediately went about setting a quick lap time to beat Saturday’s looming weather. With 75 minutes of track time, Marquez was also able to continue assessing his right arm in more intense scenarios.

After several difficult races, Pol Espargaro’s Grand Prix weekend started on the correct foot as he ended Friday seventh fastest. 0.022s back from his teammate and within 0.2s of the fastest time, the #44 was able to continually improve the setup of his RC213V over the course of the session. The 4.8-kilometre-long track had Espargaro return to his early season form of consistently running in the top ten as the RC213V immediately gelled with its home circuit. An evening of deep analysis for Espargaro and his team is scheduled as they aim to take the data gathered today and apply it to all remaining races.

Both riders’ performance on Friday puts the Repsol Honda Team pair in a strong position to advance directly into Q2 with heavy rain predicted on Saturday morning. Saturday’s schedule begins with Free Practice 2 at 10:50 Local Time with Free Practice 3 becoming the untimed session just ahead of Qualifying.

Marc Marquez

SIXTH  1’44.656

“From when I first went out I was feeling quite good. It seems the areas where we are usually suffering a bit and less here and we can manage everything. Today I went full attack because there was just one session and I knew it might rain tomorrow so getting into the top ten was important. Let’s see what happens tomorrow but I am hoping for rain honestly because then we are already in the top ten. I am feeling very good with the new tyre, but also my feeling with the old tyre is quite good.”

Pol Espargaro

SEVENTH  1’44.678

“I am quite surprised because with the medium at other tracks, we were suffering a lot but here we are able to take a lot of profit from it. Everything worked really well with a lot of edge grip and traction and I was able to ride how I want. Today has been very good and with the weather that is predicted for the rest of the weekend, I think we can keep this speed up. It is a really nice boost to be back to feeling competitive again, and to do it in front of Honda’s home fans is even better. Let’s analyse everything well and come back ready tomorrow.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Tech3 KTM Factory Racing:

Tech3 KTM Factory Racing Begins Action in Japan

New continent, new schedule…The MotoGP action kicked off at Motegi Mobility Resort on Friday for the first day of the Grand Prix of Japan, in a slightly different way than we are used to. Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner went on track for only one session (FP1) for one hour and fifteen minutes.

Spaniard Raul Fernandez was heading to Japan for the second time of his career, the last time being when he was still in Moto3. A lot has happened since then for the MotoGP rookie! Raul set off at 15:05 local time (GMT+9) for the FP1, out for the discovery of the layout on a MotoGP engine in front of Japanese fans. Whilst the first half of the session was about adaptation, the second half was about trying to get in a consistent rhythm. Raul did so and his best lap in 1’45.739 placed him twenty-first at the end of Friday.

Remy Gardner was in a similar situation than his teammate. With a session split in five runs, Remy managed to get his fastest lap towards the end in 1’45.991, a lap he could have improved had he not been shown the yellow flag due to the few crashes occurring towards the end of the session. He finished the day in P23, and will aim to improve tomorrow in order to start the Grand Prix of Japan in the best conditions possible.

 

Raul Fernandez

Position: 21th

Time: 1’45.739

Laps: 27

“I have to say…1h15 on the bike with the jet lag, it is tough! But I am happy to be back in Motegi for the second time. The first time was in Moto3 and it feels like ages ago. About today, I am quite happy with the work done, we had a good pace. Unfortunately I was disturbed by another rider during the final time attack but I could have done a better lap otherwise. Tomorrow we will continue the work, hopefully without rain because it can complicate things.”

 

Remy Gardner

Position: 23rd

Time: 1’45.991

Laps: 27

“Long session today at the end of which we started to feel better. Unfortunately, I had another yellow flag which bothered me as I had a good rhythm, but I have to accept it. We will continue to work tonight, get ready for tomorrow and try to do a good qualifying day here in Motegi.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Prima Pramac Racing:

JAPANESE GP – JAPANESE GP – Zarco P11 and Martin P15 after the first day of free practice at the Japanese Grand Prix.

The first day of free practice at the Japanese Grand Prix ended with Johann Zarco in 11th and Jorge Martin in 15th position. For the first time on Friday there was only one 1hr 15min session, in which it was crucial to try and get into the top ten and consequently into a hypothetical Q2 given the weather forecast for tomorrow. A crash on the last lap without any consequences did not allow the Frenchman to set the time, he remained outside the top ten by a thousandth (1:44.798). For the Spanish rider it was his first time on the Japanese track in the premier class, so team 89 focused on familiarising himself with the track, finishing with his best time of 1:45.009.

Jorge Martín

I like this new format, I like the idea of having longer sessions. Today we focused on trying to get familiar with the track and tried to change something on the front. Tomorrow hopefully it won’t rain we will try to get into Q2.

Johann Zarco

I had a very good start, it’s a track I like a lot and where I have many references. It’s a shame about the crash on the last lap because I was going very fast and would have made a good time. We have to hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow because otherwise it will be difficult to get into Q2.

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Team Suzuki ECSTAR:

MOTEGI BRINGS THE MADNESS FROM DAY ONE WITH TIGHT TIMES

Alex Rins: 13th – 1’44.913 (+ 0.404)

Takuya Tsuda: 22nd – 1’46.718 (+ 2.209)

The MotoGP paddock has finally returned to Japan for the 16th round of the 2022 season, and the race weekend is already promising close racing and unpredictable climatic conditions.

A scheduling change put in place to allow extra time for containers to arrive from Aragon meant that there was just one session for the riders on Friday, although it was extended to 75 minutes.

Alex Rins made the most of his time on track, setting the early pace, trying out a new rear aero device and getting a total of 31 laps in – the highest number of any rider.

Despite the constant threat of rain, Rins was able to set times within the Top 3 and he topped the timesheet several times, setting his best lap with around 10 minutes left on the clock. But the MotoGP field proved to be as close as ever, with just tiny margins separating the riders, and Rins slipped to 13th at close of play after catching two yellow flags on his final flying laps. Despite his position, he was just four tenths of a second down.

Suzuki Test Rider, Takuya Tsuda, is standing in for Joan Mir in Motegi and the experienced Japanese rider was just 2.2 seconds off the pace today. He was less than two tenths of a second from his personal lap record at the track.

Alex Rins:

“I finished today just outside the Top 10, but everything had been going well until the last few minutes. I was able to set the quickest time, and then stay within the Top 3, but when I put fresh tyres on and went for my final push I got caught out by yellow flags and I couldn’t improve. It seems that it will be raining a lot tomorrow morning, so the likelihood is that I’ll be in Q1, but I want to be competitive in the wet conditions and find a good spot for the grid on Sunday.”

Takuya Tsuda:

“I know this track well, but the conditions were quite difficult today because there was light rain falling in some sectors and we couldn’t tell if it was going to get heavier at any moment. Other parts of the track were completely dry, and we did the whole session on slicks, but caution was needed. I’m going to study the data tonight and try to improve my time a bit more tomorrow; I want to make the most of this opportunity given to me at my home race – to enjoy it and to give my absolute best.”

Livio Suppo – Team Manager:

“Alex showed very good rhythm and pace, but unfortunately his last time attack laps were affected by two yellow flags. But anyway, let’s see what he can do in qualifying tomorrow, because Alex has already shown great speed, but the weather could make a difference. Tsuda-san is riding with us this weekend, and his priority is just to enjoy this last chance to ride the MotoGP bike.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Monster Energy Yamaha:

MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP SHOW HOT RACE PACE ON MOTEGI DAY 1

Motegi (Japan), 23rd September 2022

The lap times were hot this afternoon at the Mobility Resort Motegi track. Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli were on the pace early on in the extended MotoGP FP1 session, the only track time for the premier class on the Friday. A time attack at the end had Quartararo take 3rd, while Morbidelli finished the day in 16th.

3rd FABIO QUARTARARO 1‘44.558 / 30 LAPS

16th FRANCO MORBIDELLI 1‘45.065 / 28 LAPS

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP riders Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli had to push right from the start of the 75-minute FP1 session. The duo were keen to secure a place in the provisional top 10 as weather conditions are unsure for tomorrow‘s FP2. Quartararo completed the extended Friday free practice session in 3rd place. Morbidelli showed great early pace but in the end wasn‘t able to capitalise on the soft rear tyre in the closing minutes due to yellow flags on his final stint. He ended the day in 16th place.

You wouldn‘t have guessed Quartararo had abrasions on his chest, judging by his strong performance at the Motegi track this morning. He was quick to find a top-3 pace and with 55 minutes to go in the extended FP1 session, he hit the top spot with a 1‘45.807s. He held first place until about half an hour before the end, when the shoot-out started. El Diablo was putting in one hot lap after another to remain in the top 3. He knew it might not be enough and geared up for one final push. He set a 1‘44.558 on lap 28/30 that earned him third place, 0.049s from the top.

Morbidelli steadily improved his pace and climbed up to a fourth place early on in the 1h15m session. The Italian and his crew had been putting in the work since the Aragon GP, and the Yamaha rider was feeling visibly happier on his M1 compared to a week ago. When the times dropped, he initially responded by setting the sixth fastest time of the session thus far. With the pace getting even hotter, the number-21 rider dug even deeper and pulled a 1‘45.065s out of the bag for fifth, but it was brief. With three minutes to go, charging riders pushed Morbidelli down the rankings. Unable to respond due to yellow flags on his final run, he ended the session in 16th place, though he was only 0.556s from first.

MASSIMO MEREGALLI

TEAM DIRECTOR

Today‘s session was 1 hour and 15 minutes long. We tried to make the most of this extended session, gathering as much information as possible on tyre options and settings in case Sunday’s race will be dry. Both riders were quite comfortable from the start. Fabio is feeling a bit sore after FP1, which is to be expected. He‘s experiencing some discomfort whilst riding, but he is able to cope with it, as shown by the times he set. Both Fabio and Franky have a solid race pace, and that‘s something we‘re quite satisfied about after this first day. Everyone wanted to get in a time attack today in case of rain tomorrow, as expected. Franky was very unlucky. When we was trying to do a final time attack, he ran into two yellow flags on separate laps. It’s a real shame because his pace so far is good enough to run at the front. We hope for a dry FP2 session tomorrow so he can have another go at getting to Q2.

FABIO QUARTARARO

Today was intense, but it was good. Our pace doesn’t look too bad, but I was on the limit from the first lap. Our margin for improvement is not a lot, but we did our best, and it was quite okay. The abrasions didn’t affect my riding today. It was a bit strange at the beginning because it burns a little bit, but after a few laps you adapt to it. It was okay, even with the extra-long session. And the jet lag also didn’t bother me, because I don’t suffer from going to this side of the world. We need to analyse well which tyre we’ll use. The front is clear, but the rear isn’t yet. But our pace seems quite okay, so I’m ready.

FRANCO MORBIDELLI

I’m quite pleased with the speed I had today, but not with my final result. Unfortunately, in my second time attack I got two yellow flags, so I couldn’t make even one fast lap. I found myself in 16th place when I felt I could have been much higher than that. Anyway, during the practice the pace looked really decent, and I felt quite good. I knew that this track, with this lay-out, suits my latest style a bit more. We also made a step forward with the bike, and that let me do another step. That was really good and interesting to feel. The programme went smoothly and well until the second time attack.

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by HRC:

Nagashima enjoys Motegi MotoGP debut

HRC Test Rider Tetsuta Nagashima realised his dream as he made his premier class debut in Motegi. Working on improving his time and comparing himself to the rest of the MotoGP field.

A best time of 1’45.845 saw Nagashima end Friday in 22nd, just 1.336 seconds behind Jack Miller.

Tetsuta Nagashima  45

Rider – MotoGP

“It was a really great feeling to make MotoGP debut today at home in Motegi. But wow, you arrive here and you are alongside everyone and you see that the level is so high. Speaking honestly, I was a little bit nervous because it has always been my dream to ride in MotoGP and today I achieved it. Like this I wasn’t riding exactly as I want, but Marquez gave me some advice that I will try to use tomorrow. Let’s keep on pushing and improving this weekend.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Aprilia:

FIRST PRACTICE SESSION AT MOTEGI

20 RIDERS WITHIN ONE SECOND, CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE CONTENDERS WITHIN 40 THOUSANDTHS, AND APRILIA IS IN THE MIX!

ALEIX FOURTH AND MAVERICK TENTH FOR DIBS ON A SPOT IN Q2

The Friday practice format changed at Motegi, but the extremely balanced competition typical of MotoGP 2022 was the same. At the end of the single 75-minute session, 20 riders were all within one second of one another, with those in the top 10 all within 3 tenths.

In any case, the Aprilias shone throughout, with Aleix and Maverick working skilfully in preparation for the race (in what could be the only dry practice session) without missing a beat when it was time to push to the limit for a time attack. Espargaró, despite two yellow flags during his flying laps, stopped the clock at an outstanding 1’44.577, which earns him a provisional fourth place and a time that basically overlaps those of the riders at the top.

Viñales had no trouble finding confidence on a track that he is tackling for the first time astride the RS-GP, demonstrating a good pace and reporting good sensations. There is room for improvement, especially on the flying lap, but his tenth place today means that he’ll be able to focus on tomorrow’s sessions with peace of mind.

ALEIX ESPARGARÓ

“I’m happy to be back racing on this track in a country that I absolutely love. The atmosphere is fantastic and I must say that the session also went well. We struggled a bit at the beginning because the only points of reference we had for the settings were from 2019 when I was riding an extremely different RS-GP, but everyone on the team did a great job, quickly finding the right direction we needed to go. I was also lucky on the last time attack because only one of my three attempts wasn’t cancelled by a yellow flag, but it was enough to get me fourth place. There are a few places on this track where I lose a bit of ground and I’m very fast at others, but the bike is working pretty well and that makes us optimistic.”

MAVERICK VIÑALES

“After so many top-10 spots slipping through my fingers by a matter of a few thousandths, my luck finally changed this time! Given the weather forecast, doing a good lap today was important and I managed to do just that. The bike is working well here. I think that the base settings are already at a promising level but we have a few ideas that will help us improve further. I’m pleased with the pace I maintained in race configuration. We were able to work well, taking full advantage of the single, long session.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by LCR Honda Idemitsu:

BRAVE TAKA JUST OUTSIDE TOP 10 AT MOTEGI

Taka Nakagami narrowly missed a top 10 spot after a courageous performance in Friday’s sole free practice session at his home GP at Motegi. Suffering with the hand injury he sustained in Aragon, the LCR Honda IDEMITSU star rode through the pain barrier in front of his fans and was unfortunate not to claim an automatic spot in tomorrow’s Q2.

With a reduced schedule today and rain forecast all day on Saturday, the extended FP1 session effectively became a shoot-out for Q2. Taka showed impressive pace throughout an ultra-competitive 75 minutes, forcing his way into the top-10 on a couple of occasions, but had to settle for 12th position in the end, despite being just three tenths off early pacesetter Jack Miller.

Takaaki Nakagami – 12th

(1’44.886)

“It was a tough session, but my speed potential was good. We were able to get into the top 10, then at the end we dropped some places and ended P12, but just three tenths from the top. The performance was incredible, really, really good, to be honest I didn’t expect that speed. Of course, I felt a little bit uncomfortable with my fingers, but all my fans gave me a lot of energy during the session which was good. Now I will try to rest as much as possible for the second day.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by LCR Honda Castrol:

CHALLENGING FIRST DAY FOR ÁLEX MÁRQUEZ AT MOTEGI

Álex Márquez has set his sights on improvement after a tough opening day at the Grand Prix of Japan at Motegi. With the premier class returning to the venue for the first time in three years, the LCR Honda CASTROL rider got his first taste of the track on MotoGP machinery and ended in 20th position on the timesheets.

With only one extended free practice session on Friday, there was added pressure on the teams to produce a lap time, especially with rain dominating Saturday’s forecast. Álex gave his all and, although he struggled to find his best rhythm in overcast conditions, was only a second off the leading time.

Álex Márquez – 20th

(1’45.600)

“First day in Japan and it was a new track for me and it wasn’t easy. We focused a little too much on race pace and the tyres, with just an hour and a quarter it wasn’t easy to understand everything. Also, I wasn’t happy with the set-up of the bike, I was uncomfortable and had a lot of front-end problems. I tried my best, I wasn’t able to make a good lap time, but I feel I have margin to improve so we’ll see. It looks like it will rain all day tomorrow, so we need to be focused and, if we get the chance to ride in the dry, we’ll need to improve a lot and make a step forward. We have a lot of information now to use if it’s dry on Sunday.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Ducati Lenovo Team:

Jack Miller sets the quickest time in the first free practice session for the Japanese GP at Motegi. Second Pecco Bagnaia

Jack Miller ended on top on the first day of free practice for the Japanese GP, the sixteenth round of the 2022 MotoGP season, held this weekend at Motegi. Compared to a typical Friday, today saw had a different timetable to allow the teams’ material to arrive in Japan after the last Grand Prix held at Aragón last Sunday.

Riders took part in a single 75-minute session this afternoon, during which they were able to reacquaint themselves with the Japanese track, which had been missing from the MotoGP calendar for three years, following the last edition held in 2019. In a first session characterised by dry track conditions despite a few light drops of rain, Jack Miller was immediately quick, setting the fastest time of the day in 1:44.509 in the final minutes of the session. Just 28 thousandths behind closed teammate Pecco Bagnaia. Even for the Italian rider, the first day at Motegi has reserved positive sensations that make him confident ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying, despite the weather forecasting rain.

Jack Miller (#43 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 1st (1:44.509)

“I’m satisfied with this first day at Motegi. Even though we haven’t raced here for three years, we were able to be fast right from the start. Having a longer session allowed us to try some things with the setting we don’t usually have time to do, and I really liked the changes we made to the bike towards the end of the session. Our Desmosedici GP works well here, and I’m enjoying riding it. Rain is forecast for tomorrow, but, usually, the grip on this track is good even with the wet asphalt, so I’m confident I can do well in any condition.”

Francesco Bagnaia (#63 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 2nd (1:44.537)

“I struggled a little at the start, but together with my team, we managed to do a great job, and in the last two runs, I’ve found a good feeling with the bike, so I’m very happy. It’s nice to be back racing here at Motegi, which is one of my favourite tracks because as well as having places where you have to brake hard, it also has some very fast corners. Compared to three years ago, my feeling has improved a lot, and I think I already have a good base setup for the race. The goal for tomorrow’s qualifying session will be to place in the first two rows: it won’t be easy since it will probably rain, but we’ll try”.

The Ducati Lenovo Team riders will be back on track tomorrow at 10:50am local time for FP2, while qualifying for the Japanese GP will be held from 3:05pm local time at the end of FP3.

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