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Yamaha Takes 1-2 in Thrilling Qualifying at Twin Ring Motegi

Yamaha MotoGP 101015

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi delivered superb performances in this afternoon’s thrilling qualifying session to take first and second place for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Japan.

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo has been the man to beat so far and continued to set a high bar during qualifying. He will start the Grand Prix of Japan weekend from pole position 0.081s ahead of teammate Valentino Rossi, who was the only other rider to lap in the 1’43s at Twin Ring Motegi circuit and secured a second place on the grid.

Eager to chase his third consecutive win at Motegi, Lorenzo was quick to exit pit lane at the start of the 15-minute qualifying heat. His first flying lap of 1’44.768s gave him provisional pole, until his rivals completed their first laps, dropping him to fourth.

He quickly returned to the pits with nine minutes remaining for a quick stop and returned to a relatively empty track a minute later as it was the other riders turn to change tyres. The Spaniard took the opportunity with both hands and posted the first ever 1’43 MotoGP lap of 1’43.990s on his next hot lap to reclaim pole.

With more than three minutes remaining Lorenzo hurried back to the box to change bikes and complete his three-stint strategy. When he rejoined the action he had just enough time left for one last time attack. Having been pushed to second place by his teammate in the final minute, but he had one more trick up his sleeve. He put his head down and set a sensational 1’43.790s lap to secure his fourth pole position of the season.

Rossi also rode a strong qualification session at Twin Ring Motegi. He was the second rider out on track in the second qualifying session and closely followed his teammate. The Italian soon topped the timesheets with his first lap of 1’44.662s, until a rival took over the top spot few seconds later. With more than ten minutes on the clock his second effort saw him take provisional pole, setting a new pole position record at that time of 1’44.222s, but the duel between the teammates was far from over.

The Doctor quickly returned to the pit box for a new rear tyre. He was back on track with more than four minutes remaining, but unable to improve on his third flying lap. He had one more try and put his head down to post an impressive 1’43.871s in the last minute, to move from third back up to the top of the rankings, only to get moved back one place by his teammate again at the very end of the session.

Yamaha Factory Racing Team wildcard rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga also had a good day at the track today. He continued to make progress and positioned his special ’60th Anniversary’-styled YZR-M1 in 15th place on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

Jorge Lorenzo

1st / 1’43.790 / 8 laps

“I did the maximum and I am very happy with my pole position. The humidity that came in the last hour also didn’t help me to enter the corners with confidence like I could in the morning. I struggled a little bit, trying not to crash, but I gave my all and it’s a good lap time.”

Valentino Rossi

2nd / 1’43.871 / 7 laps

“We hoped to get the pole, but it didn’t happen. It’s a shame, because getting a pole position doesn’t happen very often, especially not to me. On the other side, I’m very satisfied about today’s progress. Already this morning we made good improvement with the team, but the important step came this afternoon when I was consistently fast in the fourth free practice session. I was confident for qualifying and we used a good strategy and I was in the right place. Unfortunately I made a small mistake, but it was OK and I hope I can be competitive enough tomorrow to fight with Jorge.”

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director

“Today we have seen an amazing qualifying session. It was a great duel between Jorge and Vale, played on thousandths of a second. It’s very impressive that both Jorge and Vale set those spectacular lap times under the 1’44 mark and it also shows how strong they are mentally. To see both our riders compete for the top spots on the grid gives us confidence that we can fight for the win tomorrow. The weather conditions will be the biggest challenge but, despite this, we will be ready to give a great show whatever the conditions will be.”

Smith to begin Japanese GP from 3rd row after eventful qualifying

Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Bradley Smith will kick off his campaign to finish Yamaha’s home Grand Prix as the leading satellite rider from back of the third row on the grid after an action packed Qualifying 2 session today. In the morning, the young Briton continued his setup work for the 24 lap sprint tomorrow and he rode a strong pace as he pushed onwards. He unfortunately suffered a crash in the final moments of the practice, yet his time of 1’45.250 from FP2 yesterday saw him finish in 9th overall and therefore safely through to the afternoon’s second qualifying. The last free practice of the day saw Smith riding again with very consistent as well as fast lap times and as a result his confidence was high when the final shootout began. The session itself commenced slightly later due to a red flag being shown in FP4 because of another rider crashing. Yet, once the action commenced, the 24 year old dug deep and launched into his assault as he aimed to land a top grid position. However, when Smith was undertaking his second flying lap, luck went against him and he fell. He bravely remounted and raced back to the pits before changing to his second bike and then returned to the track with just over five minutes left to go. A short time later and whilst running in the last sector during another fast lap which would have placed him highly on the MotoGP grid, the Briton fell again. Yet, his best completed lap of 1’45.067, will see him begin the Motul Grand Prix of Japan from 9th position as Smith will intend to undertake a rocket start before he aims to meet the chequered flag inside the top six.

On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team pit box, Pol Espargaro delivered a resolute effort in what was a challenging qualifying session and he will begin the 15th round of the 2015 MotoGP World Championship from the fourth row of the grid. The young Spaniard had an eventful morning practice after falling mid way through FP3, yet he determinedly sprinted back to the pits before producing a lap time of 1’45.088 which left him in 7th overall and able to pass through to Q2. When the 15 minute qualifying battle commenced, Espargaro jumped onto his Yamaha YZR-M1 and quickly got up to speed. After gaining momentum, he launched into a series of flying laps and produced a top time of 1’45.219. The 2013 Moto2 World Champion then aimed to lower this lap further, yet time ran out. However, this result saw him as the second fastest MotoGP bike through the first sector of the 4.8 kilometre Twin Ring Motegi track and he will begin from 11th position tomorrow. Nevertheless, Espargaro is fully confident of being able to fight as the leading satellite bike at Yamaha’s 60th anniversary home Grand Prix.

Bradley Smith

9th / 1’45.067 / 5 laps

“First of all I want to start by apologising to the team for the extra work that I created today with my three crashes, which were all on laps where I was really pushing. A big thanks as well to Pol’s guys who helped out to make sure both of my bikes were ready for FP4. Aside from that I have to say that we had a very strong day and I am feeling confident for the race tomorrow as we know what we can achieve. Of course it is a bit disappointing to crash twice in Q2, but I know why it happened and the fact is that I pushed a bit too hard as I knew that if everything went perfectly then I would have probably been able to get onto the front row and so for myself, it was worth a try. The first fall was a pity as I locked the front going into turn five and the fork bottomed out. I could have picked up the bike but the electronics didn’t shut down fully so I had to jump on my second Yamaha. However, the front tyre on that M1 had already done 17 laps when I left the garage, so running at only 0.3 off the top time just before I fell was a bit too much! Both crashes were quick and I know that they happened because I was really at the limit. Nevertheless, I have a firm battle plan for tomorrow and I am feeling optimistic for the race after what happened in FP4. There, Jorge was behind me and didn’t make too many inroads into me and I set low 1’45 lap times as I have been for the entire weekend. I still believe a top five is a definite possibility and it is what I will be aiming for as my main ambition is to not lose many points on Dani and I have to try and stay in front of the Ducati’s. So, I intend to have a consistent race with a good start to conclude the first of the three back to back flyaway races solidly.”

Pol Espargaro

11th / 1’45.219 / 8 laps

“Overall, I tried my best but it was a challenging day and we have some work to do ahead of the race tomorrow in order to be able to perform how we want to. A positive about today was that we managed to solve the grip issue that was affecting us yesterday. However, I’m still struggling with the turning of my M1 because when I enter the corners it is really tough to hold the right line as the bike keeps running wide. Therefore I found myself in the wrong positions when exiting the turns and it goes without saying that I can’t be fast like this. Moreover, it is physically challenging and makes it nearly impossible to change direction quickly. As a result we will have a long night and need to take a deep look into the data to improve this situation for tomorrow morning’s warm up which will hopefully be dry. However, I know that if we can recover a decent feeling with the turning, we will have a good chance in the race, but I guarantee that I will do my best tomorrow to give the Japanese fans a good show.”

Difficult qualifying for Forward Racing at Motegi

A difficult qualifying is over at Motegi for the Forward Racing team. Loris Baz and Toni Elias struggled on the Japanese track and will start for tomorrow’s race respectively from the 23rd and 25th place on the grid.

After his debut yesterday, Baz suffered the different track conditions and did not find the right feeling with the Yamaha Forward closing at just over three tenths off the pole of the Open category. With his 1’46.048 he clinched the eighth row, but remains confident for the race, despite the uncertainty of the weather.

It was a similar situation also for Toni Elias who has never raced on a wet track after returning to MotoGP. The Spaniard, who is pleased with the progress made after Aragon, set his personal best at 1’46.256 and will start from the ninth row.

Loris Baz

23rd / 1’46.048 / 6 laps

“It was not an easy day. I struggled a lot in FP3 and in qualifying I could not find the right feeling. I like the track, but at the same time it is difficult to learn, so I will have to attack during the race. We start behind our opponents, but we can regain some positions. It will also be a difficult race because of the uncertain weather.”

Toni Elias

25th / 1’46.256 / 7 laps

“I improved during all rounds of free practice and qualifying and I was able to lap in 1.46. I am satisfied overall: I have a better feeling than at Aragon and I have made a positive step forward. We are not far from the other open and I finally found a good setup to start with. We can do well tomorrow, but much will depend on the weather.”

Katsuyuki Nakasuga to start race from 15th grid position

After the three free practice sessions, Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha Factory Racing Team) stood in 19th position overall as he went into the Q1 qualifying session. Only the top two finishers in this Q1 session would qualify to move on to Q2 and compete for pole position, and shortly after the start of the session, Nakasuga’s name did indeed sit at the number two spot on the time board for a while. In the end, however, he had dropped to 5th position and failed to move on to Q2.

Still, he had managed to better his personal best for Motegi (1’46.7) in the third free practice session with a time of 1’46.280. Then, in Q1 he lowered his time again to 1’45.476 and thus proved that his machine was indeed set up well for Sunday’s race.

Katsuyuki Nakasuga

15th / 1’45.496 / 7 laps

“Yesterday’s fall really boosted my motivation. Then in today’s third free practice session I beat my personal best with a time of 1’46.280, and then I got a 1’45.476 in Q1. That time even surprised me, and it was a time that my team wasn’t expecting either. By getting a time in the 1’45 range, I feel that I have gotten a little closer to a point where I can get a better understanding of how Rossi and Lorenzo are riding. Of course, they are riding at a different level from me, but I feel that I have now gotten a better idea of things, that I haven’t experienced before like how they are sliding their front and rear tires. In tomorrow’s race, my primary goal will be to be in the top 15. And from there, I will try to move up as high as I can. There are a lot of fast riders in this year’s MotoGP, so it is no easy job to finish in the top 15, but I am going to give everything I have to that challenge.”

Team Manager Ogata Hiroaki

“Yesterday we went through our test menu aimed at Rossi and Lorenzo, and from today we have been setting up the machine for Nakasuga to race on. And, in the third free practice session he managed to get a personal best lap time for Motegi at 1’46.280. Then in the qualifying Q1 session he bettered that with a time of 1’45.496. I feel that this was a time that Nakasuga achieved with pure guts and determination. He said that he almost fell a number of times, but the lap time he got shows that the machine was set up well for him by Q1. With the test menu all done and nothing left for him to do but concentrate on the race ahead, I want to do our best to support Nakasuga’s race effort now. Without a doubt, the overall competitive level [of MotoGP] has risen considerably this year, and I feel that the value of finishing in the top 15 and earning points has increased significantly. So, I hope he will be able to finish at least in the top 15, and as high as possible from there.”

2015 MotoGP Japan

Twin Ring Motegi 10/10/2015

1 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha ESP 1’43.790
2 Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 1’43.871
3 Marc Marquez Honda ESP 1’44.216
4 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati ITA 1’44.322
5 Andrea Iannone Ducati ITA 1’44.436
6 Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 1’44.582
7 Aleix Espargaro Suzuki ESP 1’44.809
8 Cal Crutchlow Honda GBR 1’44.932
9 Bradley Smith Yamaha GBR 1’45.067
10 Maverick Viñales Suzuki ESP 1’45.081
11 Pol Espargaro Yamaha ESP 1’45.219
12 Scott Redding Honda GBR 1’45.333
13 Stefan Bradl Aprilia DE 1’45.432
14 Yonny Hernandez Ducati COL 1’45.438
15 Katsuyuki Nakasuga Yamaha JPN 1’45.496
23 Loris Baz Yamaha FRA 1’46.048
25 Toni Elias Yamaha ESP 1’46.256

Circuit Length:
4801

Lap Record:
1’45.350
(Jorge Lorenzo, 1-1-2014)

Fastest Lap Ever:
1’43.790
(Jorge Lorenzo, 11-10-2015)

Last Years Winner:
Jorge Lorenzo