After finishing behind his fellow Yamaha rider in FP1, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) ousted Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in FP2 to lead the way on Friday at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan with a 1:44.764. 2019 World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) completed the top three on the opening day of action.
Three Yamahas topped the billing in FP1 at the Twin Ring Motegi as both Friday sessions were seemingly vital, both in terms of gaining a top 10 position for automatic Q2 entry and setting up for Sunday’s race with wet weather on the way on Saturday. Viñales’ overall time was untouched for large parts of the second session, with Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Marquez the only big improvers inside the top 10 with half of FP2 gone.
With 10 minutes to go though, the soft rear tyres were starting to be put in. Fast lap times were needed with FP3 predicted to be very wet, so the final few minutes of FP2 became a mini qualifying session for the MotoGP™ riders. Riders such as Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) were threatening P1 but Viñales came out and moved the goalposts even further, over half a second was the Spaniard’s advantage before Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Dovizioso and Marquez all cut that gap back down to 0.4.
However, another Yamaha was on the prowl. Yep, you guessed it, rookie sensation Quartararo hadn’t taken long to get accustomed to the Twin Ring Motegi on board his YZR-M1 as the Frenchman fired in a stunning time to go over three tenths clear, before running into the gravel at Turn 1 to prematurely end his session. That was pretty much all she wrote though, apart from a late personal best time from Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) launching ‘The Doctor’ into P5. The nine-time World Champion sat outside the top 10 after FP1, so it was a solid afternoon for Rossi as his time meant all four Yamahas sit inside the top six heading into qualifying day at the Japanese GP, with third fastest Marquez and fourth placed Dovizioso splitting the quartet.
Dovizioso was eighth in FP1 as he now boasts top Ducati honours so far in Japan, the Italian jumping ahead of Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) who sits P7 overall, exactly where he finished on Friday morning. The Australian suffered a crash at Turn 9 in the latter stages of FP2, but the Ducati man nevertheless is safely inside the top 10 ahead of a wet Saturday.
Having finished P13 in FP1, Petrucci jumped up the timing screens in FP2 to claim P8 ahead of rookie Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). The Spaniard finished inside the top 10 in both sessions on Friday and sits ahead of his 11th fastest teammate Alex Rins. Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro completes the combined top 10, climbing one place from his P11 in FP1 as everyone bar Espargaro’s teammate Andrea Iannone and Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) improved on their FP1 times in the afternoon.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) had a fast off at Turn 12 in FP2, thankfully the Portuguese rider was able to walk away to continue the rest of the session, but he did venture to the medical centre for a checkup after his day had finished.
Quartararo’s one-lap pace continues to shine in 2019 as he beats fellow Yamaha rider Viñales to top spot on Friday in Japan. Rain is on the way for qualifying day though, so make sure you don’t miss any of the action in what is set to be a dramatic Saturday at Motegi. FP3 goes green at 10:50 local time (GMT+9)!
1. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) – 1:44.764
2. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.321
3. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.336
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 0.650
5. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.702
6. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.798
7. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 0.813
8. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) + 0.855
9. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.877
10. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.957