Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Motegi:
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class at Motegi:
Wet, gloomy and just about seeing riders through the mist was the setup for FP3 – once things got underway after a short delay to clear naughty puddles at the final turn. The precarious conditions that caused some turmoil in the intermediate class were kinder on the premier class, at least in terms of the crash list cast, if not the actual state of the surface. It was no surprise to see Marc Marquez thrive in tricky conditions and the world champion immediately claimed top spot, the gap nearing two seconds on occasion but mostly hanging around the one second mark.
FP3 was not quite the washout predicted 24 hours ago but the weather got as close as it could get to being challenging while still just about rideable. If Moto3 had a mostly sensible session, Moto2 took a turn at being the eventful one, scattered with replays of rapid tumbles towards various gravel traps or, if you’re a Marquez, some more quality content for the family album. With qualifying due to be just as wet, Friday decided the line-up for the two sessions while FP3 became a battle for survival the closer it got to the end.
The rain arrived as scheduled in Motegi but the grey sky, on and off downpour and omnipresent fog did not stop play for the lightweight class. Rain tyres were prepared and the track saw a reasonable amount of action from riders eager to prepare for a likely wet qualifying session but the line-up for Q2 was sealed on Friday, as predicted.
Two decisions plague the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi. One, a historical choice made back in 2010, when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted, throwing so much ash and dust into the air that it severely disrupted air travel around Europe, forcing Dorna to postpone the race from the original date in April to October. The other, a more recent change made before the 2018 season, where tire allocation for all of the races throughout the year is already fixed before the season even begins.
The change of dates forced on the Japanese Grand Prix as a result of Eyjafjallajökull has stuck, meaning the race is now always in October, as part of the three flyaway races in Japan, Australia, and Malaysia. That has the unfortunate effect of putting the race right at the tail end of typhoon season, which stretches from July to October. Over the years, heavy rains, high winds, and low-hanging clouds have caused the action to be canceled or postponed before. In 2013, Friday practice was canceled completely due to rain and fog, while the 2015 race start was delayed while we waited for the low-hanging cloud to clear, so that the medical helicopter could fly.
Menacing clouds were lurking in the background of FP2 and with teams very aware of weather warnings, there was a lot of soft rubber coming out of blankets for a precautionary time attack at the start of the session. The newly crowned world champion was on the offensive straight away, after some initial tyre confusion in the Honda garage, and he snatched the top of the timesheets early on. Danilo Petrucci then found some enthusiasm in the final half of the session but rain stayed away and invited to another little tango for the top ten.
The second outing for the intermediate class had a familiar script, with FP1 leader Brad Binder showing the way for most of FP2 as well. The ending was only somewhat less customary, Alex Marquez wobbling his way to top spot for the final handful of minutes and sending his rivals an early warning. Binder ended the day close enough in second position, less than two tenths of a second slower than Marquez and just about holding off rookie teammate Jorge Martin, who is making steady progress.
After championship leader Lorenzo Dalla Porta stole the show in FP1, it was Aron Canet’s turn to shine at the top of the timing screens for most of FP2 and the Spaniard was sat safely until time attacks started a bit earlier than usual, with 15 minutes left of the session. John McPhee was first to dip into the 1:56s and started the shootout in charge of proceedings but he went unbothered until the very final minute of FP2. Migno then stole the Scotsman’s thunder to become the fastest man on the day, with only Marcos Ramirez managing to join them in the 1:56 club.
FP1 appeared to be one of the few fully dry sessions forecasted for Motegi and it showed on the timing screens, with everyone eager to find some pace and then attack the timesheets on fresh rubber. There were a few brave exceptions to that rule but all the fastest men going into Friday afternoon rode Yamahas. Maverick Vinales was consistently amongst the top riders throughout the session and overhauled colleague Fabio Quartararo to top spot. Franco Morbidelli kept up with his teammate to complete a Yamaha top three.