After Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso led the way in FP1 at the Twin Ring Motegi, skies remained perfectly blue above the Japanese track as the engines fired up once more for MotoGP™ – with Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) topping the timesheets from Dovizioso and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Maverick Viñales.
With the second practice session beginning calmly enough, a spate of crashes in the final minutes of FP2 saw drama wrap up the first day of action as first Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) slid off at Turn 10, before teammate Dani Pedrosa suffered an unbelievable highside at Turn 11. That incident was quickly followed by another for Eugene Laverty (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) at Turn 6 – with Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) heading off to complete the drama-fuelled session. With attrition rates high, it was the reigning Champion who emerged fastest from the day, as the 2009, 2013 and 2014 winner at the track took over at the top in the final shootout.
Laverty and Pedrosa were taken to the Medical Center for checks following the two incidents, with Pedrosa then diagnosed with a broken right collarbone. The break marks another unlucky injury in the 3-time World Champion’s career, with Pedrosa beginning the 2016 season back to full strength following career-saving forearm surgery in 2015. Former 250 World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama will ride in place of the Spaniard for the Japanese GP – his home race.
Dovizioso had a solid first day as pre-race predictions came true – that Motegi looks good for the Ducati on paper. The Italian was also on pole position at the track in 2014, and seems to be a contender to take the honour once again in 2016. Viñales had a messier morning session with some run offs, before pulling it all together in FP2 to top timesheets briefly ahead of ending the day in third on combined times.
Championship leader Marc Marquez had one spectacular save on Friday as he pushed himself back upright on his knee, before the final minutes of FP2 saw the 2013 and 2014 MotoGP™ World Champion not quite repeat the feat and slide to a slow stop at Turn 10 – rider and bike ok. His best chance of a clean run at a quick laptime gone, Marquez ended Day 1 P4.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) had a good Friday in the land of the rising sun to complete the top five on combined times, with Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) in incredibly close company in P6 and P7 – the three men separated by only 3 hundredths.
Danilo Petrucci was eighth quickest in an impressive opening day for the Octo Pramac Yakhnich rider, with Dani Pedrosa ending up in P9. Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Pol Espargaro was tenth quickest on the opening day, back on track in Japan for the first time since a win in the Suzuka 8H.
FP3 begins at 9:55 local time (GMT +9), with qualifying later on Saturday and lights out for Sunday’s battle royale at 14:00.
Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) was quickest on Friday’s combined times in the intermediate class, moving up from P4 in the morning to take control by the end of the day. The Swiss former 125 World Champion took a lights-to-flag stunner at the venue in 2014. Local hero Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was second fastest after topping FP1, with Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli completing the top three.
Day 1 at the Twin Ring Motegi was punctuated by crashes for all classes, and Moto2™ was no exception. After an enormous highside saw Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa break his collarbone in FP2, Moto2™’s second session of the day saw a big incident for title contender Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40) that meant the Spaniard sat out the rest of the day – with Saturday now pivotal as he trails title rival Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) by only one point.
Zarco looked to end Day 1 in P4, before another key rival Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) just pipped the Frenchman to the post to push him down to P5. Lorenzo Baldassari (Forward Racing) was sixth fastest, with Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) suffering a fast crash in the second session but remaining seventh on the timesheets.
Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) was P8 on Day 1 as the 2014 Moto3™ World Champion returns to the venue that saw him take back-to-back wins in the lower class, with AGR Team’s Marcel Schrotter in ninth. Brno winner Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) completed the top ten.
Rins will be checked at the Medical Center following his crash, with FP3 on Saturday morning hoping to see the title contender back out on track.
With near-perfect conditions at the Twin Ring Motegi, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) took the top spot on Day 1, crossing the line late to take the lead from home hero Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia), who ended the day in P2 after rising to the top in FP2. Ono has a 3-place grid penalty for the event however, awarded for riding too slowly in some sectors of the track. On the final lap of the second session of the day, RW Racing GP BV rider Livio Loi moved up into P3 to make his mark on Friday, with laptimes lowering in the afternoon.
Fourth on Day 1 belonged to Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0), and the man currently P2 in the title had a solid opener as he looks to consolidate that position ahead of Bastianini. Fifth by the end of action on Friday was top rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), whose time from FP1 that saw him quickest out the blocks kept him in the top five; the Italian only a couple of tenths off his morning’s best in FP2.
Austrian GP winner Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) was sixth quickest, despite some run offs, with Francesco Bagnaia (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra) P7 as the Italian got back in with the frontrunners ahead of compatriot Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46).
2015 race winner Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) was another Italian making inroads back in the top echelons of the timesheets after a more difficult stint, signing off Friday in P9 ahead of Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing), who closed out the top ten.
The big story of the first day at Motegi proved to be newly crowned Moto3™ World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), as the South African had an uncharacteristic crash in FP1 before suffering the same fate in FP2 – consequently ending Friday in P12. Unhurt and looking for solutions to explain the front end woes of the squad, Binder will be looking to move much further forward on Saturday.
FP3 is next as Moto3™ head out at 9:00 local time once again (GMT +9) on Saturday, with Binder looking to recover as the fight for P2 hots up between Navarro and Bastianini.
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