Dani Pedrosa was the fastest man on the track during Friday's practice sessions at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa
topped the timesheet in MotoGP free practice at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit on Friday, beating out rival Jorge Lorenzo
of Yamaha Factory Racing by just one-tenth of a second. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso
finished the day in third, a meager 0.092 behind the current championship points leader.
Conditions were ideal at Motegi, with warm, sunny skies and a newly resurfaced track, and most riders were able to give it their all during both practice sessions. Lorenzo came out of FP1 in the top spot and held there for most of the afternoon practice, but Pedrosa was able to pull ahead in the final minutes, thanks partially to some minor adjustments to the front end of his RC213V. The Repsol rider focused mainly on tire choice throughout the day, but also worked to dial-in his suspension as well.
"Today was a perfect day for practice,” said Pedrosa. “The track conditions were very good, the warm temperatures helped as did the new surface, so we were able to do the job we wanted. The main target today was to test the tires and we completed some good laps on both hard and soft compounds. The asphalt is new and the grip is quite good, so the lap times are pretty fast from the beginning. We also did some work on the suspension and the mapping to will keep improving on this tomorrow.”
Jorge Lorenzo topped the timesheet during the morning practice but fell just short of Dani Pedrosa in the afternoon.
Lorenzo was also pleased with his start to the weekend, finding good feeling aboard his YZR-M1 right away. Like Pedrosa, he focused on finding the best tire choice and eventually put in his best time on the hard option, despite preferring the softer compound.
“We started in a very good way here, much better than in Aragon where we had issues with the life of the rear tire. We have a very good pace and with a little change in the electronics were able to go a bit faster. We tried with the hard tire, for me it’s not better than the soft although we can go fast on it. For tomorrow I think the soft one will be better. The Hondas are very good here but our bike is also so I think we can fight with them for the victory.”
Dovi found the hard-braking demands of Motegi suited to his riding style and is optimistic that he will be able to improve on the lap time he set during practice and contend with the front-runners come Sunday.
“It has been a really good start to the weekend because I did my time with the hard tire and that looks like being a probable choice for the race,” said Dovizioso. “The good thing is I am very competitive already but I know we can improve on the last part of the entry to the corner. I don't feel comfortable in that area, but even if I don't feel 100% confident with the bike and ready to push as hard as I know I can, I am very close to the fastest two. I believe I will be able to follow Dani and Jorge on Sunday and that is basically my aim for the weekend.”
His teammate, Cal Crutchlow
, on the other hand, struggled through both sessions to find a comfortable setting and finished the day in ninth.
“Nothing we tried seemed to work and give me the feeling I wanted and I certainly need to improve and be faster with the hard tire because that might be the tire I need to race with,” said Crutchlow. “There isn't one particular place where I am struggling. We have quite a few issues but I will sit down with my Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew tonight and see if we can come up with a solution to help me be more competitive tomorrow.”
Valentino Rossi improved grip on acceleration through the day and went on to post the fifth-fastest time during practice.
LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl placed fourth, just 0.340 off the lead pace. The German rider fell out of competition in the previous round at Aragon
and is focused on redeeming himself at Motegi. He had good feeling from the start in the morning session and was able to cut over one second from his lap time by the afternoon. Ducati’s Valentino Rossi
followed the Honda rider in fifth, half a second off Pedrosa’s top time, thanks to some late changes to his bike that allowed for better grip on acceleration.
“When I open the gas I’m able to exit the turns better, without spinning too much, and that’s why I went pretty fast,” said Rossi. “I’m especially happy because the gap isn’t too big. Tomorrow, though, we’ll have to improve our pace as well, because for now I’m able to ride well for some laps, and then the tire starts to slide a bit too much.”
Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies
posted the sixth-fastest time in both the morning and afternoon sessions. Returning Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner
followed Spies in seventh. Stoner ran into a host of difficulties during the day, some of which cost him valuable track time. In the morning his first bike failed and in the afternoon a brake issue kept him in the garage while time ticked away. His injured right ankle will also be a factor as it continues to pain him, especially during acceleration.
Casey Stoner made his return after missing a number of rounds due to a right ankle injury sustained at Indianapolis.
“At the moment the acceleration points are causing me most difficulty as there are many areas at this circuit where the bike wants to wheelie and you need to keep your body and weight over the front of the bike,” said Stoner. “Unfortunately my foot doesn't want to bend far enough to help me move forward so I'm having to pull myself forward which is giving me issues with my arms as they are working a lot harder than usual. We'll keep working tomorrow and see what we can do.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista
followed Stoner in eighth, and he too faced set-up problems through both sessions. He and his team spent much of the day working to fix front end suspension problems, but they were unable to find an adequate solution and there remains a heavy amount of vibration during hard-braking on his RC213V. Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden
, who finished in 10th, also struggled to find an acceptable set-up, though his difficulties were compounded by the fractured radius in his right hand that pained him throughout the day.
Leading the CRT effort is Power Electronic Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro in 13th. His teammate, Randy de Puniet, placed 15th, followed by NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards
MotoGP Motegi Friday 2012:
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’46.088
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’46.190
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1’46.282
4. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1’46.428
5. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’46.687
6. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’46.912
7. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’46.978
8. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1’46.983
9. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1’46.984
10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’47.551
11. Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha) 1’47.801
12. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’48.232
13. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 1’48.470
14. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1’48.757
15. Randy de Puniet (ART) 1’48.770
16. Colin Edwards (Suter) 1’49.539
17. James Ellison (ART) 1’49.652
18. Michele Pirro (FTR) 1’49.770
19. Roberto Rolfo (ART) 1’50.292
20. Yonny Hernandez (BQR) 1’50.924
21. Ivan Silva (BQR) 1’50.924
22. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda-Suter) 1’51.270