Championship leader Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was the man to beat on Day 1 at Motegi, topping the combined timesheets by nearly two tenths ahead of key rival Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo). Binder’s teammate, Jorge Martin, completed the top three as the rookie continued his impressive form from Thailand.
Friday was a dry one despite rain seemingly on the horizon for Saturday, and the stakes were high throughout the classes as the grids rushed to try and take provisional spots in Q2. Marquez did that, and the Spaniard’s 0.181 in his pocket is a good early omen for him taking his fourth win at the track on Sunday. Binder, however, continues his charge towards the front as top scorer over the last eight races and the South African was fastest in FP1, second in FP2. He’s 44 points adrift in the Championship but off to a top start, as was teammate Martin as the two also spent some time running together on track.
Fourth place, meanwhile, went to runaway Thai GP winner Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) and he was only 0.020 off the top three, with Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) for even closer company in fifth as the Brit was just 0.008 in arrears by the end of the day. The tiny gaps continued throughout the entirety of the top twenty, with only Marquez over a tenth clear of his closest rival.
Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) impressed in P6 ahead of another impressive Italian as Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Temporary Forward) took seventh, giving MV their best position on the timesheets. Manzi also suffered quite a wobble as he ran wide and later crashed, but wasn’t deposed from the top ten. Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) was eighth quickest at a venue that’s he’s reigned in the past, and the Swiss rider was another to suffer a bit of a moment.
Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) did the home fans proud on Friday and was second in FP1 and ninth overall despite not improving his laptime, ahead of Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) and Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP).
Looking for a familiar name in the top ten or so? The man second in the standings, Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40), had a more muted Friday at Motegi and took 12th, although he is amongst the provisional Q2 graduates should Saturday welcome rain. Iker Lecuona (monday.com American Racing) was P13 despite a moment, ahead of Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team).
Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) missed out despite some pace in FP1 as the Australian crashed twice on Friday, and both Beta Tools Speed Up teammate Jorge Navarro and Fabio Di Giannantonio also surprisingly stand to miss out on Q2 graduation, with ‘Diggia’ in P15 and Navarro in P19.
Will Marquez keep his reign if it rains? Will Binder reel him in? Or will Saturday see another change at the top? Moto2™ FP3 begins at 9:55 local time (GMT+9), before qualifying from the earlier time of 13:30.
1 – Alex Marquez (SPA – Kalex) 1’50.647
2 – Brad Binder (RSA – KTM) +0.181
3 – Jorge Martin (SPA – KTM) +0.254
4 – Luca Marini (ITA – Kalex) +0.274
5 – Sam Lowes (GBR – Kalex) +0.282
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