Aleix Espargaró and Maverick Viñales will start tomorrow’s Motul Grand Prix of Japan from the second and third rows following today’s final MotoGP™ qualifying.
Both GSX-RR riders qualified directly through to the final Q2 from this morning’s FP3 with Espargaró fifth and Viñales sixth and in the all-important final qualifying secured sixth and seventh positions.
Espargaró’s positive day started in the morning with a solid FP3 in the top positions and a consistent and fast pace in FP4. The improvements done on his GSX-RR proved to be effective as the Spaniard could find a confident feeling with the machine, especially with the rear-end. This helped also in qualifying when Espargaró posted a 1’44.494 lap-time that gave him the second row.
Viñales’ second day in Motegi was a little more complicated. The morning session saw him make some progress, as well as the consistency test done in FP4, but he couldn’t be as effective as he wanted in qualifying, ending the session below his expectations. His race is expected to be an aggressive one, trying to be very fast at the start.
“I’m happy for the whole weekend in general, to be honest I was expecting a little better for the chrono, I hoped to fight for the first row, but I made a little mistake in sector one and this affected my fast-lap attempt. But, while the pole was slower than last year, from my side I improved my last year’s time by nearly half a second and this makes me very happy. The pace in FP4 was very good, even a couple of tenths better than what we expected, so I’m happy. We have already decided the rear tyre, while we still have some doubts about the front one, we will have to check some other solutions tomorrow and then take our decision. Also the brake management will be crucial for the race; this circuit has some very hard braking, this means that the brakes get hot very quickly and for me this is an issue. I’m a heavy rider, so this problem is more evident to me than to other riders, meaning that I will need to manage the brake temperature trying to have a clear line in front of me so to allow much air to intake and cool down the braking system.”
“This qualifying didn’t end how I was expecting and being seventh is a lot below our potential. We made some good improvements in the morning session, and also the pace is very good, but then in qualifying we decided to apply a set-up that proved not to be as improved as we wanted. This didn’t allow me to find a perfect feeling and resulted in a not-so positive position. Seventh place is not that bad, but makes the race a little harder. I feel very confident on this track and I’m sure we can find improvements before tomorrow, the strategy will be pretty easy; get a perfect jump at the start and try to recover as soon as possible, because the pace is consistent and fast.”
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