Tricky and changing conditions in Japan have made for an intriguing, yet surprisingly calm set of practice sessions with Quartararo toping practice at Motegi. Friday’s weather ended up being the best for setting a representative time ahead of qualifying, and it was once again Fabio Quartararo leading the way by over three-tenths as we head into Q1 and Q2.
A resurgent Maverick Viñales was able to split up the usual squabble between Fabio and Marc Marquez, the Yamaha factory rider edging out his Honda counterpart by 0.15s. The final practice session saw little in the way of drama, as riders gingerly explored the drying Twin Ring layout.
Jack Miller was the first man out on slick tires on Saturday, venturing out with 15 minutes left in Free Practice 4. The Ducati satellite rider has delivered a brave wet-weather pole lap in the past and clearly backed himself to get into Q2 early in FP4. It took another eight minutes for the dry tires to do their work though, and Miller was only able to go 0.5 seconds faster than Maverick Viñales with 7 minutes remaining in the Motegi practice.
By that time everyone was on the changeover and fast times began to flood in. Miller’s heroics were for naught as the Aussie was bumped out of the top 10, but that wouldn’t matter in the scheme of things anyway. Times never got better than those set in FP2, and it was that session that ended up setting the groups for Q1 and Q2.
Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales led the combined time sheets, with Honda’s Marc Marquez nipping at their heels behind. Ducati lead rider Andrea Dovizioso was fourth ahead of Valentino Rossi and Franco Morbidelli. Jack Miller and Danilo Petrucci can be happy to be in Q1 with the seventh and eighth quickest times in FP2. Joan Mir and Aleix Espargaro round out the confirmed starters for that session.
The battle for the final two spots in Q2 looks like it could be down to Alex Rins, Cal Cruthlow and Pol Espargaro. That trio are the only men tickling the high 1m45s and there’s a 0.3 second gap back to Francesco Bagnaia, Taakai Nakagami and Karel Abraham who are all running in close quarters time wise.
Jorge Lorenzo has moved slightly further up the charts at the Motegi practice to recent history in 17th on his factory Yamaha while Andrea Iannone continues to struggle on his Aprilia. Perhaps most interesting is the lack of pace from KTM parachute rider Mika Kallio. He has failed to make any impact since taking over from the disgruntled Johann Zarco. Zarco will be returning to the MotoGP paddock for the final three rounds of the season, taking the place of Nakagami who needs surgery ahead of the 2020 season, where he will once again ride for LCR Honda.
Tito Rabat was a non-starter in FP4 after crashing out of the Motegi practice and tweaking his wrist. The Ducati rider is expected to start from pit lane for tomorrow’s race as he will likely miss qualifying. Sylvain Guintoli had no time set for FP1 or 2 but did make it out for FP3 and FP4 so will be able to take part in qualifying later this afternoon local time.
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|1||20||Fabio Quartararo||FP2||Petronas Yamaha SRT||Yamaha||1’44.764|
|2||12||Maverick Viñales||FP2||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||1’45.085||0.321 / 0.321|
|3||93||Marc Marquez||FP2||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||1’45.100||0.336 / 0.015|
|4||4||Andrea Dovizioso||FP2||Ducati Team||Ducati||1’45.414||0.650 / 0.314|
|5||46||Valentino Rossi||FP2||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||1’45.466||0.702 / 0.052|
|6||21||Franco Morbidelli||FP2||Petronas Yamaha SRT||Yamaha||1’45.562||0.798 / 0.096|
|7||43||Jack Miller||FP2||Pramac Racing||Ducati||1’45.577||0.813 / 0.015|
|8||9||Danilo Petrucci||FP2||Ducati Team||Ducati||1’45.619||0.855 / 0.042|
|9||36||Joan Mir||FP2||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||1’45.641||0.877 / 0.022|
|10||41||Aleix Espargaro||FP2||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||1’45.721||0.957 / 0.080|
|11||42||Alex Rins||FP2||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||1’45.730||0.966 / 0.009|
|12||35||Cal Crutchlow||FP2||LCR Honda CASTROL||Honda||1’45.804||1.040 / 0.074|
|13||44||Pol Espargaro||FP2||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||1’46.020||1.256 / 0.216|
|14||63||Francesco Bagnaia||FP2||Pramac Racing||Ducati||1’46.330||1.566 / 0.310|
|15||30||Takaaki Nakagami||FP2||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda||1’46.557||1.793 / 0.227|
|16||17||Karel Abraham||FP2||Reale Avintia Racing||Ducati||1’46.576||1.812 / 0.019|
|17||99||Jorge Lorenzo||FP2||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||1’46.661||1.897 / 0.085|
|18||29||Andrea Iannone||FP1||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||1’46.745||1.173 / 0.210|
|19||88||Miguel Oliveira||FP2||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||1’46.800||2.036 / 0.139|
|20||82||Mika Kallio||FP1||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||1’46.898||1.326 / 0.135|
|21||53||Tito Rabat||FP2||Reale Avintia Racing||Ducati||1’47.158||2.394 / 0.189|
|22||55||Hafizh Syahrin||FP2||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||1’47.974||3.210 / 0.662|
|23||50||Sylvain Guintoli||FP2||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki|