The first day back at the office after three long weeks of waiting turned out to be a challenging affair, rain soaking the Japanese circuit throughout the morning session. Nonetheless, the lightweight class behaved in the tricky conditions and only a touch of repair work was required.
Nicolo Bulega enjoyed some rare time in the limelight as early leader of the session, the Italian trading not only track position but also top spot with teammate Andrea Migno and leaving the field over a second down in the process. The KTM was looking fine in wet conditions, the SKY duo putting in almost race distance on the rain tyres and still posting red sector times in the final few minutes. The friendly duel was decided at the flag after both riders broke into the 2:09s on their final lap, Bulega little over a tenth of a second ahead of Migno.
While the leading duo was doing 2:10s early in the session, the pursuers waited until the final five minutes to make it into the 2:11s. Romano Fenati was the first rival to worry his compatriots’ times and the only one to eventually join them in the 2:09s. Close but not close enough, Fenati finished the session third, three tenths down on the leader. Another tenth adrift was Aron Canet in fourth position, the Spaniard being the final rider within a second of the leader.
Manuel Pagliani made a late jump into fifth spot but nearly seven tenths slower than Canet and with compatriot Fabio Di Giannantonio a further three tenths down.
Adam Norrodin, Niccolo Antonelli and Tatsuki Suzuki also made the best of the rainy morning, the trio over a second and a half adrift of Bulega. Adding to the KTM parade was Bo Bendsneyder in tenth place, the Dutchman looking like challenging the SKY domination early into the session.
The only (and arguably most important) title contender missing from the top ten configuration was Joan Mir, the championship leader taking it easy into fourteenth place, over two seconds down on the leaders. Jorge Martin also left his rivals to test the waters – almost literally – before joining them about ten minutes into the session. The Spaniard only posted eleven timed laps to finish twenty-second.
|6||21||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Honda||2'11.055||1.478||0.296|
|16||48||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA||Mahindra||2'12.305||2.728||0.087|