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|10-09-2015, 01:00 PM||#1|
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MotoGP Motegi Friday Practice: Lorenzo Fires First Shot
Jorge Lorenzo answers the question about his shoulder and tops the field on day one at Motegi. Photo Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha
After cutting the gap to his teammate and championship leader Valentino Rossi to 14 points with a dominant win in Aragon, Spain, Jorge Lorenzo hit the ground running in Motegi, Japan, posting the provisional best time with a 1:44.731. The Spaniard, who was four tenths of a second faster than his closest rivals in the morning session, was challenged in the afternoon by Dani Pedrosa and the two factory Ducati riders Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso, but fended off the offensive with a blistering lap that is only a couple of tenths of a second slower than the all-time record of 1:44.502. Also, he consistently lapped in the mid 1:45 mark on used tires – a pace that proved to be unmatchable so far – laying a solid base for his favorite race tactic, that is, to escape early on with a clear track in front.
“I'm honestly surprised about my performance, I didn't think I could go so fast,” admitted Lorenzo. “My shoulder (which suffered a mild dislocation while training last week) is not really bothering me, except from a couple of changes in direction where I'm not as agile as I'd like. At least, I'm able to be consistent.”
Valentino Rossi got off to a slow start in eighth. Photo Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha.
With the title chase down to just Lorenzo and Rossi, the tension is likely to go through the roof in the Yamaha pits in the remaining four races. “We speak a little less with one another, but our relationship is still good,” observed Lorenzo. “It's normal to feel some pressure. We're both very competitive and we're racing for the title. I'm sure that, once the championship is over, our interactions will go back to normal.”
Lorenzo's outward confidence arguably stems from the fact that his advantage in terms of rhythm is bigger than what the time sheets show. While most of his “colleagues” only managed to do one fast lap, he showed his trademark consistency once again. Also, his usual rivals Marquez and Rossi only managed to post the seventh and eighth best time respectively.
“The hand (which he fractured while training on a bicycle) bothers me a bit, but I'm mostly worried about the chassis and electronics,” said Marquez, who was 0.761 seconds slower than Lorenzo. “The bigger grip that Honda brought for me here helps, as I can't clench my fist completely. I only have some pain under braking. Anyway, Lorenzo is the only one with an advantage right now.”
“Our position isn't fantastic,” added Rossi. “But I couldn't take the usual advantage from the softer rear-tire compound. I'm still looking for the perfect balance, as I currently stress the rear too much. What Lorenzo did despite his injury is incredible. Go figure if he were fully fit... (laughs)”
Dani Pedrosa took the runner-up spot on day one at Motegi, trailing Lorenzo by .128 of a second. Photo Courtesy of Repsol Honda
It is worth remembering that Motegi also hosted the last heated battle between Rossi and Lorenzo. It dates back to 2010, toward the end of Rossi's first stint at Yamaha before his unfortunate move to Ducati. With the Spaniard on his way to seal the title, the “Doctor” postponed his celebrations after trading paints in at least two instances. The couple has been fighting at distance so far this season, as they have rarely been at the same level on a given track despite the impressive competitiveness of the M1. As the title fight approaches its final stages, Marquez gave some insight about the duel.
“It's a match based on consistency and speed,” said the defending champion. “Jorge is faster, but Valentino had an incredible season so far and has been the most consistent rider out there. I'm his fan.”Despite the high praise, consistency may not be enough. Lorenzo seems to have the upper hand in Motegi, but weather may disrupt action once again and, if the forecast for a rainy race on Sunday holds true, experience and cold blood will matter as much as reliability and raw speed.
2015 MotoGP Motegi Day One Combined Times
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:44.731
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:44.859
3. Andrea Iannone (Ducati) 1:45.043
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 1:45.059
5. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 1:45.250
6. Aleix Espargaro (Suzuki) 1:45.348
7. Marc Marquez (Honda) 1:45.492
8. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:45.554
9. Pol Espargaro (Yamaha) 1:45.597
10. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:45.645