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Perhaps that weight off Johann Zarco's shoulders improved his bike setup.
The season's six-time race winner set FP2's fastest practice time shortly after being told he was the 2015 Moto2 champion as a result of Tito Rabat withdrawing from the race. Rabat's withdrawal after a handful of practice laps -- he didn't have sufficent strength in the left arm he broke in a training accident -- meant the Spaniard's distant mathematical chance of defending his 2014 championship evaporated.
And it meant Zarco was the rare rider to become champion during a practice session.
Alex Rins finished second-fastest less than a tenth behind Zarco. Thomas Luthi, fifth in the championship, managed third, nearly two-tenths behind the new champion.
Jorge Lorenzo used the Friday's second free practice at the Motegi circuit in the same the way he used the first: To determine if anyone -- particularly title rival Valentino Rossi -- had the consistent speed to stay with him in Sunday's race. So far, no one has answered.
Late in the session, Dani Pedrosa became the second rider to dip into the 1'44s with a 1'44.858 that put him only a tenth of a second slower than fellow Spaniard Lorenzo. It's a good sign for Pedrosa who has shown terrific form of late. But as close as he got to Lorenzo, he didn't run the same consistently quick laps. Andrea Iannone, on the mend from injuries, climbed into third with a 1'45.043. His Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso -- the pole setter last year with a 1'44.502 -- was right on his heels with a 1'45.059. He, too, was closely followed by Bradley Smith.
And where was points leader Rossi who saw his championship lead shrink to 14 points following Lorenzo's win at the prior Aragon round? He managed to climb into eighth late in the session but remained nearly a second behind his teamate and title rival. It remains to be seen if Rossi can find something extra for Saturday's practice and qualifying. But perhaps Rossi's help won't come from the team or the bike setup; Maybe it will come from the sky.
Niccolo Antonelli ended FP2 in the same the way he ended FP1: By setting the fastest Moto3 time of the day at the Motegi circuit in Japan. The rider’s 1’57.500 put him one-tenth of a second clear of second place in the final Friday practice.
Miguel Oliveira – winner at the prior round in Aragon -- earned the number two time. Enea Bastianini ended his session in third another two-tenths back. In the first practice, Bastianini crashed at Turn 9. He is second in the championship behind Danny Kent who finished the day in 13th.
Thomas Luthi just pipped championship leader Johann Zarco to set the fastest time in FP1 Friday at the Motegi curcuit in Japan. With just a handful of minutes to go, Luthi at 1'51.556 clipped Zarco's class-leading time by 12-hundredths of a second. Sandro Cortese grabbed third in the session.
Zarco, who needs onyl three points to clinch the 2015 championship, finished well ahead of his only remaining mathematical rival Tito Rabat, who ended his session early because of injury. After the session, his team decided he will not race at Motegi.
Jorge Lorenzo made it clear he going to help decide the 2015 championship by setting the fastest time in the first free practice at Japan's Motegi circuit. Lorenzo, only 14 points behind championship leader Valentino Rossi, ended the clear-weather session fourth-tenths of a second ahead of the field. Andrea Iannone, fighting an injury, took the second-quickest time, closely followed by countryman Rossi.
Bradley Smith got fast late to take fourth with Dani Pedrosa slipping down the order to fifth after holding second for much of the session. Andrea Dovizioso finished sixth, just in front of 2014 champion Marc Marquez, who is hamped by a hand injury.
Niccolo Antonelli started off his weekend in Japan with a bang by setting the fastest time in FP1 Friday at the Motegi circuit. Antonelli’s 1’57.500 put him one-tenth of a second clear of Miguel Oliviera who claimed second-fastest at the Twin Ring. Brad Binder seized the third-fastest time another half a second back from the leader.
Valentino Rossi led the championship by twenty three points going into this race, but the rain his fans were hoping for wouldn't come.
The Moto2 race was a shortened fourteen lap race after the first start was red flagged after Dominique Aegerter required medical attention trackside. Aegerter was ok, but could not get cleared for the restart.
Any track with a long straight and a sweeping corner to the line is going to make for close Moto3 racing.
Marquez was fastest throughout, pulling an extra gap on his final lap. There was a minor incident in pit lane, when Valentino Rossi pulled across Jorge Lorenzo's exit and accidentally blocked his path while they practice wet bike swaps. Lorenzo came in and practiced that swap a second time in the session.
Pole position for Moto2 was decided fairly quickly, with the fight for the other places providing the excitement for the remainder of the session.
Qualifying for the MotoGP at Aragon would, as usual be two sessions, with the top two of the slower group being promoted to the quicker group and having another go. Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci were the two favourites to qualify for promotion.
Jorge Lorenzo calmly dominated the session until Dani Pedrosa sneaked a lap in sixteen thousandths under his best time. Marc Marquez on the other Honda wasn't too far behind, fending off the Ducati pairing of Andreas Iannone and Dovizioso. Valentino Rossi in sixth was testing out the wings on his Yamaha's fairing.