Third Row Start for Movistar Yamaha at Twin Ring Motegi
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi came out fighting in today's Q2, featuring at the top of the rankings at the start of the session. However, the teammates were unable to keep their challenge going during their second run. They secured seventh and ninth place respectively for tomorrow's race at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.
Viñales was quick to start the 15-minute shoot-out and left the pits making sure there was enough space between him and the rest of the field, before starting his first flyer. He immediately put his Yamaha in second place, just behind his teammate. The Spaniard was one of the many riders flashing red sectors on their second try and improved his time. Nevertheless, he found himself in seventh place as he entered pit lane with a little under seven minutes on the clock.
The youngster was soon back out on the track, eager to put the hammer down once more. Unable to further improve on the next attempt, he gritted his teeth and pushed even harder on his seventh and final lap. He dropped a 1'45.140s, 0.550s from pole, which briefly moved him up to sixth, but some last-gasp track activity after the chequered flag had come out pushed him back to seventh place again, on the third row of the grid.
Rossi was quick to start the qualifying session and left the pits shortly before his teammate, hoping to find some clear track. He immediately made his mark with his first flying lap securing provisional pole and bettered his time on his second effort. As the pace intensified he dropped to fifth position whilst making his way back to the box with slightly more than seven minutes to go.
A quick stop later, the nine-time World Champion was back in action. With just enough time for two more hot laps, he put his head down, yet he was unable to produce a faster lap than the 1'45.265s he set on lap 3, which was 0.675s from the session's fastest time. He will start tomorrow's race from ninth position.
Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing Team wild card rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga had a tough second day at the Motegi track, suffering a crash in FP4. Thankfully unharmed, he was able to still put in a solid performance in Q1, taking 20th place, on the seventh row of the grid. His fastest lap, a 1'46.441s, was 1.012s from pole.
Position: 7th - Time: 1'45.10 - Laps: 7
"Taking seventh on the grid is not disappointing to me, because we are actually trying to learn some things for next year, but for sure it also wasn't the result I wanted. After yesterday's FP1 I thought I could be close to the top and that a front-row start was possible, but we got worse on the braking areas, so that's what we need to work on tomorrow. Tonight we will have a look to see where we are losing in terms of braking power compared to yesterday, and we'll see if we can improve it. I don't know what to expect for tomorrow's race. I hope to be at the front, which I should be able to fight for if we improve the braking. We have to keep focused tomorrow and try to make another step. I'm actually happy about the traction, I didn't expect to have such good traction here, so that's very positive."
Position: 9th - Time: 1'45.265 - Laps: 7
"Today was not fantastic, but it was also not so bad - it was a bit average. My pace improved compared to yesterday. It's nothing great, but we're with about five riders who have a similar pace, so the race will be very much open. Unfortunately, I could have done better in qualifying, but we made a mistake in the box with the rear tyre and I didn't have any grip, so I didn't try my fullest on the second run. If that hadn't happened, I think I could have started from the second row. To me, that's my potential. We'll see tomorrow. We have to improve in some areas, because I'm not very happy about the setting. We have to try to do better."
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP - Team Director
"It was fundamental that the FP3 and FP4 sessions were dry, so we were able to proceed with the work on the dry set-up, especially after losing dry track time in yesterday's damp FP2. We had some solutions to try today, but in the morning practice session we found that not all of them worked, so we had to continue our work in FP4. Though we made progress in terms of getting more power on the ground, and both Maverick and Vale had a good start to Q2, we had expected to be more competitive. Unfortunately, Vale's qualifying result was compromised. He actually felt good with the bike earlier, so it's a pity it cost him a row. It will be a hard race for both riders, starting from the third row. We are preparing a different setting tweak for tomorrow's warm-up with the aim to make a further step. We still have some small doubts about the decision on the race tyre, so we'll see in the morning."
Stunning Qualifying performance by Zarco and Syahrin in Motegi
Monster Yamaha Tech3 star Johann Zarco missed out on the pole position for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan today by just 0.068 seconds in an incredible tight Q2. However, the Frenchman will start the 16th round of the MotoGP World Championship tomorrow from the second position on the grid, being confident of a consistent and strong race at 14.00 local time (7.00 CET) on Sunday, after he lowered his Friday's best again by 0.346 seconds to defend his third spot in the Free Practice classification this morning.
Meanwhile, Hafizh Syahrin gained momentum in FP3 and improved his fastest lap time from Friday by impressive 1.147 seconds. In Qualifying 1 the Malaysian rookie came extremely close to his first Q2 entry as he did an amazing lap time of 1'45.767 minutes to miss out on P2 by just 0.019 seconds. Full of confidence, Monster Yamaha Tech3's Syahrin aims to bring home as many points as possible in tomorrow's 24 laps race, launching from the front of the sixth row.
Position: 2nd – Time: 1’44.590 – Laps: 7
"This has for sure been a great lap! I think I missed the pole position just in the last chicane as I struggled to shift down from third to second gear and I guess that's where I probably lost a few thousands of a second. Anyway, I'm so happy with this Qualifying! I was fast here from FP1 onwards and proved my good feeling once again. I could show clearly, how much I like this track and that I can push. Overall, it's working well. Tomorrow we need a good start, maybe try to lead the race and it will be very important to ride the Yamaha well from the first lap on."
Position: 16th – Time: 1'45.765 – Laps: 7
"We did a good job in FP4 and also in Q1, it was just so close. We missed Q2 by just 0.1, but anyway, we are back in the rhythm and I feel really good together with the team. I was just a bit nervous during Qualifying. Anyway, we have a strong pace and believe that tomorrow will be a good day for us. We need to make a clever choice on the tyre. From P7 to P15 everything is really close, so I think if we can do a good start tomorrow and stay within that group, we can score points. Thanks a lot to my team, because the guys found a very good package for me. I just need to improve on my confidence, but we keep working hard and are highly motivated."