Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi kicked off the first flyaway race at Twin Ring Motegi, making the most of the perfect riding conditions in the first practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix of Japan.
Lorenzo didn’t let the slight shoulder injury, which he sustained last week whilst training, stop him reminding race fans of his strong form at the Japanese circuit. The Aragón race winner started the morning Free Practice session with a competitive pace and needed little time to position himself ahead of his rivals when he dropped under 1’46 mark. He continued to improve his times and led for most of the session to ultimately top the FP1 standings with a 1’45.432.
The Spaniard duplicated his strong performance in the second 45 minute session. Directly on the pace, he posted multiple 1’45 laps and comfortably led the way. His fastest lap of 1’45.426 remained unchallenged until the final minutes of the session. Having been pushed back one place by fellow Yamaha-rider Bradley Smith, Lorenzo felt encouraged to put his head down once more and quickly set a 1’44.731 to reclaim the lead by 0.128s at the end of the session and top the overall times.
Teammate Rossi also showed his determination to fend off the competition and defend his lead in the world championship in FP1. He slowly brought heat into the bigger carbon brake disks, which are cooled with braking cooling ducts because of the Twin Ring Motegi circuit’s heavy braking character, and soon topped the rankings with a 1’46.265 until he was pushed down a place by his teammate. The Doctor went on to spend most of the morning practice perfecting his setup and finished third with a lap of 1’45.844.
The nine-time World Champion also had a positive session in the afternoon. Once again making most of the perfect weather conditions, he held provisional fifth position with a best time of 1’45.785 before the pace picked up at the end of the session. Rossi also gave another push and set a 1’45.554 at the very end for eighth place, 0.823s from his teammate. The result also leaves him in eighth place in the combined times ahead of tomorrow’s sessions.
This weekend Yamaha’s usual rider line-up is joined by five-time All Japan Superbike Champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who won this year’s Suzuka 8-Hour race alongside Bradley Smith and Pol Espargarò. He finished his first day as a wildcard for the Yamaha Factory Racing Team riding his special ‘60th Anniversary’-styled YZR-M1 to 23rd place in the combined free practice times.