Not even pouring rain at Twin Ring Motegi Friday could stop the two leading MotoGP riders from intense battling.When free practice sessions one and two ended Friday, Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso claimed the top time. But not by much; the Italian finished a mere 0.043 of a second ahead of the man he chases in the points race, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez.
The Honda RC213V pilot Marquez was quickest in the morning session, and quickly got up to speed during FP2. But the three-time MotoGP Champion, who leads Dovizioso by 16 points with four rounds remaining, crashed at turn 4, ending his afternoon session a bit earlier.Marquez walked away unharmed, and was able to take second quickest ahead of Saturday qualifying for the Japan Grand Prix at Motegi.Dovizioso ended the rainy day with a best time of 1:54.877. To put this time into perspective, the Circuit Record (under race conditions) is a 1:45.350, which was set by Jorge Lorenzo in 2014 while riding the factory Yamaha YZR-M1.“I’m very pleased with my Friday performance here at Motegi because we started off really quick,” Andrew Dovizioso says. “We were in some doubts about the grip, but I already found a good feeling this morning, while this afternoon I confirmed my speed, and even more importantly, I did my best time immediately at the start of the session.“We have got off to a really good start and we’ve already got a good base setting: now we have to work on the details because the rear tire wear is quite substantial, even though we used the hardest tire available.”Earning third, 0.184 of a second behind Dovizioso, was Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro. The Spaniard finished 0.173 of a second ahead of the other factory Ducati GP17 pilot, Lorenzo, who has won at Motegi three times in the premier class.The five time World Champion, who finished third two weeks ago at Aragon, also had a huge crash at turn 9 in FP1. LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow had crashed a few seconds before Lorenzo, and the Brit’s bike smashed into Lorenzo’s Ducati.The top Yamaha time went to Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Johan Zarco, who finished fifth, just ahead of fellow Independent Team rider Danilo Petrucci on the Octo Pramac Racing Ducati.Finishing seventh was Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Andrea Iannone. Rounding out the top 10 were Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who has won at Motegi three times in the premier class; Crutchlow; and the other Team Suzuki Excstar GSX-RR pilot Alex Rins.As for the factory Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo of Maverick Vinales and nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, who finished fifth two weeks ago at Aragon only 25 days after breaking his leg. Vinales claimed 11th, and Rossi 12th.Rain is expected Saturday for qualifying, which can have a major affect on this year’s title chase, which is mathematically down to five riders:
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda, 224 points)
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team, 208)
Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, 196)
Dani Pedrsoa (Repsol Honda, 170)
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, 168)
Sunday’s 24-lap Motegi MotoGP goes green at 2 p.m. local time.
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at email@example.com and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!