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Yamaha Tops First Day at Twin Ring Motegi

Yamaha MotoGP 100915

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo continued his dominant form at the start of the Grand Prix of Japan weekend, topping both of today’s free practice sessions. Teammate Valentino Rossi also had a strong start at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit and completed the day in eighth place.

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.

Jorge Lorenzo

1st / 1’44.731 / 30 laps

“It was a surprising day, because I didn’t expect to be so competitive, especially in the morning. I expected to improve little by little, but starting from the first run I was the fastest rider and I improved even more on the last outing, so I finished first in the morning and the afternoon. The bike is going better than last year and we have a great setup. Obviously my shoulder isn’t perfect, but even with my shoulder in this condition I’m still able to ride and be quite consistent. I believe that with normal physical conditions I could have been even faster, but there’s no point in thinking about what could have happened. It’s better to focus on the current situation and take the maximum profit. For tomorrow we still have a margin to improve the bike to suit my riding. I hope it won’t be raining on Sunday, so let’s hope the weather forecasts improve.”

Valentino Rossi

8th / 1’45.554 / 38 laps

“This morning was not so bad and also in the afternoon I felt quite good with the harder tyre. I expected to improve more when I put on the softer option at the end, but unfortunately this didn’t happen because we’re not good with the setting yet and have to work a bit further. We have to check the data and check which way we want to follow for tomorrow. It’s always difficult to improve in MotoGP. At the end of the practice on the Friday everybody puts in new tyres and already the lap times are very quick and faster than last year, so we have to work hard and try to stay at the top.”

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director

“We were unsure about Jorge’s condition until the start of FP1, but he quickly reassured us with his strong pace. Despite his shoulder injury, he experienced no difficulties setting those very fast times and he clearly displayed that he has good pace and speed. Vale also started the weekend off well, even if he’s still trying to make his setting suit his needs better. Though we are quite satisfied with how the bikes are performing in general, there are some areas that can be improved. We will look to make some further steps to be even more competitive in the following sessions and arrive to Sunday stronger for the race.”

Smith kicks off Motegi challenge by completing day 1 in 5th

Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Bradley Smith got off to a promising start in the land of the rising sun by completing the opening day of practice in 5th position overall. The 24 year old immediately got to grips with his Yamaha YZR-M1 at the demanding stop and go Twin Ring Motegi Circuit in FP1. After undertaking the initial shakedown laps, he got stuck into the preparation of his race setup for the 24 lap sprint on Sunday. As the chequered flag was waved, the British rider sped across the line with a time of 1’45.888, leaving him in 4th and merely 0.061 behind the second placed bike. When the afternoon session commenced, Smith continued to make adjustments to his setup and he also evaluated the tyre life of the softer rear compound. In the end, he concluded a total of 17 laps and impressively set a personal best of 1’45.250 which left him in 5th whilst using the harder rear tyre. This performance sees the Briton begin his weekend in Japan positively and he will now be seeking to clinch a strong grid position tomorrow as he aims to finish Motul Grand Prix of Japan in the leading satellite bike position.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team garage, Pol Espargaro started the round 15 of the 2015 World Championship with a run to 9th place overall. The Spaniard, who holds fond memories of racing in Japan after winning the Suzuka 8 hour race this year and also celebrating his 2013 Moto2 World Title at the Motegi circuit, got straight to work as he started his assault. After making the initial modifications to his base setup of the Yamaha YZR-M1, the 24 year old completed the opening session positively and in 9th with a time of 1’46.323. In the afternoon, he continued his preparation work with further steps forward being made and Espargaro completed the session in 9th with a top lap of 1’45.597, just over three tenths of a second behind his teammate. Tomorrow, he will line up for the all important qualifying session full of confidence as he aims to grab a solid grid position at Yamaha’s 60th anniversary home Grand prix.

Bradley Smith

5th / 1’45.250 / 38 laps

“Firstly, I enjoy coming to Motegi because it is always good fun due to the Japanese fans and seeing the amount of passion that they have for MotoGP. With regards to today, things were very positive for us on track. We did a really good job with making the bike as stable as possible which was our main focus today because this is very important here due to the circuit’s hard braking points. In addition, we were able to run a lot of laps on the soft rear tyre and with the modifications we made, I am quite confident that we will have a good pace at the end of the race on Sunday. Overall, I am very pleased as my time put me in 5th, and I am especially happy as I completed that lap whilst I was using the harder rear tyre, so this shows that both compounds are working well. For tomorrow, the main aim is to work more with the softer rear option because I believe that this will be the race choice so we will continue in that direction in order to be able to close Yamaha’s home Grand prix with a strong result.”

Pol Espargaro

9th / 1’45.597 / 37 laps

“It was a bit of a tricky opening day for me at Motegi and we struggled in a few areas, but I am certain that we can turn everything around for the vital qualifying session tomorrow. Our biggest issue is that there was a low grip level and when this happens, we suffer more than most. Having said that, we managed to undertake some good work and we have a direction to work towards tomorrow. Moreover, we will now check the other Yamaha’s data in order to understand where we can make up a few more tenths. The lap time itself is a solid base to start from, yet it is further back compared to where I want to be. However we have still two more days and I am fully confident that we can get to where we need to be in Sunday’s Japanese GP.”

Long working day for the Forward riders in Motegi

A long day of work has just ended on the track at Motegi for Loris Baz and Toni Elias. Both have focused on finding the setting and ended respectively in 24th and 25th position in the combined standings.

Baz, for the first time at the Twin Ring, used the practice sessions to get familiar with the track. Despite a crash in the afternoon session that fortunately had no consequences, he posted a positive 1’47.219 which earned him the sixth place among the Open bikes.

It was an intense day of work also for Toni Elias at his second race with Forward Racing. The Spaniard is looking to get more confidence with the front and lapped in 1’47.626.

Loris Baz

24th / 1’47.219 / 35 laps

“It was a working debut today at Motegi. In FP1 I concentrated on getting comfortable with the bike and I rode the whole session with the hard tyres. In the afternoon I went out on track with two different settings to find the right feeling. Unfortunately I crashed and I had to finish the session with the second bike. I’m confident for tomorrow: the pace is good, I like the track, I just have to be able to put it all together to do a good lap.”

Toni Elias

25th / 1’47.689 / 35 laps

“I am pleased with the work done today. We preferred to not focus on the lap time but to improve several new solutions. Compared to Aragon we made a good step forward and the feeling on the front has improved. I can push harder and I’m confident that I can lower my lap time significantly in qualifying tomorrow.”

Nakasuga 23rd in lap times on Day 1 of his 4th Japan GP at Motegi

For Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha Factory Racing Team), this year marks his fourth wild card entry in a row in the Japan GP. Each year his role has been primarily as the development rider for the YZR-M1, and that is the case again this year. But this year, the development work has been moving forward faster than in past years, and the machine he will be riding has already reached a very high level in terms of chassis development.

For the first free practice session, the air temperature was 22 degrees C. and the humidity 42%, while the track surface temperature was 34 degrees. All of this meant that conditions were rather good as he rode the YZR-M1, but perhaps because of his being a bit over-cautious and a bit nervous, Nakasuga’s best time was a 1’47.184, putting him in 18th position.

In the second session he was a bit faster than in the first with a time of 1’47.096, but with just a few minutes left in the session, he slipped and went down on the 90 Degree Corner. Nakasuga’s best time ever at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit is 1’46.7. In tomorrow’s qualifying he will be trying to better this personal best.

Katsuyuki Nakasuga

23rd / 1’47.096 / 32 laps

“In the second free practice session, I took a fall, and I owe it to the fact that the harder tire we had chosen didn’t fit my riding style. I just slipped and went down, so I wasn’t personally injured, but at that moment I was full of regret for what I had done to the team’s efforts. This year I have been working from images of how Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo ride and trying to change my riding to get closer to theirs in my role as development rider for the YZR-M1. As a result, I think I have evolved and progressed to some degree as a development rider, but this time I want to improve a bit more in terms of my lap times. The reason is that the pace of the machine development itself is moving faster than last year and the chassis-related development has reached quite a good level. My best lap time [at Motegi] until now is 1’46.7, so I at least want to better that. Although I took that fall today, it has relieved some of the tension for me, and now I feel that if I don’t a little closer to the actual race speeds, I won’t really be able to understand exactly what Rossi and Lorenzo are saying. So, tomorrow I am going to come back with renewed determination to get faster lap times.”

Team Manager Ogata Hiroaki

“It is the same each time with the Japan GP but, like last year, we are again having Nakasuga concentrate first of all on his duties as the YZR-M1 development rider. With this bike he is riding, it is not simply enough to try to improve its lap times. We have to also try to imagine a variety of [race] situations. For example, we have to have [Nakasuga] grasp what is happening in Rossi’s and Lorenzo’s running data so he can interpret what things will feel like for Rossi and what we can try based on Lorenzo’s style. Said in another way, we want to have Nakasuga ride at times as if he were Rossi and at other times as if he were Lorenzo, and then we ask him for his opinions [on the effects]. Of course, this isn’t something that just anyone can do. It is a job that only a man with Nakasuga’s abilities can perform. Still, the Japan GP is a race, and since Nakasuga will be entering the race on this machine with special Yamaha Motor 60th Anniversary coloring, from tomorrow we will be setting up the machine so that he can compete in the race in a way that will please Nakasuga’s fans, all the Yamaha fans and all road race fans.”

2015 MotoGP Japan

Twin Ring Motegi 09/10/2015

1 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha ESP 1’44.731
2 Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 1’44.859
3 Andrea Iannone Ducati ITA 1’45.043
4 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati ITA 1’45.059
5 Bradley Smith Yamaha GBR 1’45.250
6 Aleix Espargaro Suzuki ESP 1’45.348
7 Marc Marquez Honda ESP 1’45.492
8 Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 1’45.554
9 Pol Espargaro Yamaha ESP 1’45.597
10 Hector Barbera Ducati ESP 1’45.645
11 Cal Crutchlow Honda GBR 1’45.846
12 Scott Redding Honda GBR 1’46.074
13 Stefan Bradl Aprilia DE 1’46.371
14 Maverick Viñales Suzuki ESP 1’46.464
15 Jack Miller Honda AUS 1’46.477
23 Katsuyuki Nakasuga Yamaha JPN 1’47.096
24 Loris Baz Yamaha FRA 1’47.219
25 Toni Elias Yamaha ESP 1’47.626

Circuit Length:
4801

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

Fastest Lap Ever:
1’44.502
(Andrea Dovizioso, 12-10-2014)

Last Years Winner:
Jorge Lorenzo