Pedrosa leads Honda charge in practice at Motegi

Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent

Pedrosa leads Honda charge in practice at Motegi

Honda fills top four places on timing sheets on first day of GP of Japan

Repsol Honda made a clean sweep of the top three places after day one practice for round 15 of the 2011 MotoGP Championship at the Grand Prix of Japan that takes place at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.

Dani Pedrosa ended day one on at the top of the timing sheets ahead of his teammate and current championship leader Casey Stoner who was in close contention throughout the two sessions and keeping a watching brief behind was the third Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso.

Tomorrow we have to focus on the set up of the bike.

Dani Pedrosa

San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli finished his first day in fourth position on his RC212V with a best lap of 1m 47.188s ahead of reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) who was outside the 1m 46s bracket with a time of 1m 47.310s.

Pedrosa eventually set a best time of 1m 46.790s to leave him in top position at the Honda-owned track. The Spaniard was happy with his first day and with the surface of the Japanese circuit that was re-laid recently because of the earthquake earlier this year.

"We did a good job today; in the morning we took a good direction and this allowed us to improve a lot in the afternoon, by a second, and this is very important,” the Spaniard said while continuing, “Tomorrow we have to focus on the set up of the bike; maybe the weather will change a little bit, so we have to be aware of the conditions and try to be fast anytime. In case it does rain tomorrow and we cannot practice anymore in dry conditions, we already have a good set up for the dry.

“Everybody here at the Motegi circuit has done a very good job with the new surface, the grip is much better than before and this is one of the reasons why the lap times have improved quite a lot already from last year,” Pedrosa added.

Stoner was content with his best lap of 1m 46.844s and there is a lot more to come from his RC212V as he explained in his post session interview. “The bike felt pretty good this morning and then this afternoon we started the session on pretty much the same setting that we ended on this morning, it felt ok but we felt we could improve. Unfortunately we went in slightly the wrong direction and couldn't get the bike to turn or hook up on the last two exits and then we didn't really have enough time to come in and make a change.

“We know what direction we want to go in now and hopefully tomorrow we can make the small improvements. The new surface here feels very good, very smooth and the grip level is impressive. It's really great to be racing here on a Honda in front of the home fans and I hope we can get a good qualifying tomorrow to prepare best for the race on Sunday,” Stoner said.

Dovizioso was happy with his first two outings on the Motegi circuit setting a best of 1m 46.952s but he wasn’t impressed with the new surface. “I am very happy with today's sessions. All the Honda riders are constantly fast and we are all very close. The new tarmac is ok, but totally different feeling from last season, it's still bumpy, even more then before, but anyway we are faster then in 2010. The feeling with the tyres is totally different due to the new tarmac and the biggest problem is to find rear grip entering corners, this is the area where we will concentrate our efforts for tomorrow,” he said.

Nicky Hayden, Ducati Team
Nicky Hayden, Ducati Team

Photo by: Crescent Suzuki

The top Ducati was that of Marlboro Ducati rider Nicky Hayden who worked hard on his GP11.1 to register a best lap of 1m 47.381s to give him sixth position and the American rider was third fastest in the first session giving some hope of improvement for his Italian team.

Sitting in seventh place is the man hoping to put on a show for his home fans and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) is determined to do well at his home GP and with a 1m 47.785s lap he is moving in the right direction for a good result in Sunday’s race.

Finishing just behind Aoyama was seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi who is using the part aluminum – part carbon fibre chassis for the second race weekend. Rossi managed to set a best lap of 1m 47.975s on his GP11.1 and is hoping of a better result in Japan after being on the podium last year.

Mapfre Aspar rider Hector Barbera was the first rider out of the 1m 47s bracket on his Ducati GP11 with a time of 1m 48.055s to secure ninth just ahead of Colin Edwards on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 with the Texan rider setting a best lap of 1m 48.076s.

The next rider on the timing sheets was Alvaro Bautista who is in intent on making another top performance here at his Rizla Suzuki team’s home race after a great performance in Aragon, Spain where he grabbed sixth position. Bautista’s time of 1m 48.097s was enough to keep him ahead of Frenchman Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) who sits 12th in the timings on a 1m 48.374s lap. British Rookie Cal Crutchlow had a tough first day and eventually registered a best time of 1m 48.379s leaving plenty to do ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying session. Crutchlow sits in 13th and one place ahead of American Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) who was hit hard with a bout of food poisoning and only managed a best of 1m 48.567s and just five laps in the second session before going to Clinica Mobile for treatment. Sitting in 15th is Toni Elias with his LCR Honda that he managed to set a time of 1m 48.743s ahead of 16th placed Karel Abraham for the Cardion AB Motoracing team with a best of 1m 49.305s.

The final three positions went to two wildcard Honda entries and one substitute rider. Kousuke Akiyoshi, who rides this weekend for the LCR Honda team sits in 17th with his best of 1m 49.464s while veteran racer Shinichi Ito finished the first day in 18th for the Honda Racing Team on his best of 1m 49.673s. Both the Japanese riders finished ahead of Australian rider Damian Cudlin who is stepping in for injured Pramac Racing rider Loris Capirossi and Cudlin set a best time of 1m 51.349s.

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda Team
Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Repsol Media

Grand Prix of Japan press-conference

Previous article

Grand Prix of Japan press-conference

Next article

Bridgestone Japan Friday report

Bridgestone Japan Friday report
Load comments
Why Quartararo has evolved more than Yamaha in MotoGP Prime

Why Quartararo has evolved more than Yamaha in MotoGP

Fabio Quartararo has his first match point in the 2021 MotoGP title race this weekend at Misano. While the 2021 Yamaha is a much-improved bike to its inconsistent predecessor, its the rider himself who has shown the biggest evolution this season. Oriol Puigdemont delves into Quartararo's growth.

Oct 19, 2021
Why Marc Marquez has to reinvent himself as a MotoGP rider Prime

Why Marc Marquez has to reinvent himself as a MotoGP rider

Marc Marquez's romp to victory at the Grand Prix of the Americas led many to believe the 'old' pre-injury Honda rider was close to coming back to his full powers. However, the 'old' Marquez will probably never exist again and instead he'll have to adapt to his new reality to return to title-winning ways in 2022.

Oct 6, 2021
Why self-preservation was key to Marquez's COTA "dream" result Prime

Why self-preservation was key to Marquez's COTA "dream" result

Marc Marquez scorched to his seventh Circuit of the Americas victory in MotoGP last Sunday with a display reminiscent of his pre-injury form. However, his path to the win across the weekend was in keeping with the current reality of his physical limitations, with self-preservation on Saturday key to his Sunday success

Oct 4, 2021
How Ducati has developed MotoGP's most versatile bike Prime

How Ducati has developed MotoGP's most versatile bike

His third place at Misano made Enea Bastianini the fifth different Ducati-mounted rider to score a podium in 2021. Amid a season that has seen one rider amass the bulk of Yamaha and Honda's success, the Ducati's versatility makes for a potent weapon, but the contribution of a former leading light shouldn't be forgotten

Sep 23, 2021
The next steps in the rebuilding of a stalled MotoGP career Prime

The next steps in the rebuilding of a stalled MotoGP career

Maverick Vinales’ early debut with Aprilia has been one of the most interesting plots of the recent MotoGP rounds. The results may not look standout on paper, but a closer inspection reveals just how much progress Vinales has truly made in understanding a bike that has taken him well out of his “comfort zone”.

Sep 22, 2021
Why Misano was a pivotal race for MotoGP's present and future Prime

Why Misano was a pivotal race for MotoGP's present and future

On a day each of the podium trio could claim to be the star of the show, the San Marino GP will be remembered as a pivotal race in both MotoGP's present and future. While Fabio Quartararo demonstrated his world title credentials just behind Francesco Bagnaia's flawless victory charge, a new threat emerged from the shadows

Sep 20, 2021
How Ducati's Aragon MotoGP win harks to its past and its future Prime

How Ducati's Aragon MotoGP win harks to its past and its future

Duelling against Marc Marquez at the Aragon Grand Prix, Francesco Bagnaia came out on top to secure a long overdue MotoGP victory. As Marquez likened Bagnaia to a Ducati title contender of old, it appears the Italian rider could finally start to fight for wins on a more regular basis

Sep 13, 2021
Why Dovizioso is more of a temporary fix than a Yamaha gamble Prime

Why Dovizioso is more of a temporary fix than a Yamaha gamble

OPINION: The return of Andrea Dovizioso to the grid at Misano will be an interesting subplot to the remainder of the 2021 MotoGP season. But the circumstances that have led to the former Ducati rider ending his sabbatical point to his signing being one more of convenience than a long-term commitment

Sep 8, 2021