Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Álex Márquez and Franco Morbidelli brilliantly conquered wet and cool conditions at Japan’s Twin Ring Motegi today.
With air temperatures only peaking at a chilly 14 degrees this morning and rain falling throughout FP1, Márquez turned up the heat on his rivals with a dominant performance to top the timesheets by a commanding margin.
Showing no ill effects from the injuries that forced him to retire from the last race in Motorland Aragon, Márquez set a blistering pace of 2’05.460 to finish almost half-a-second clear of closest challenger Tom Lüthi.
Only four riders lapped within a second of the Spaniard and his stunning form continued in another rain dominated second 45-minute session this afternoon, with roles reversed with World Championship contender Lüthi.
The Swiss rider topped the combined standings with a lap of 2’05.282, but hot on his heels was Márquez, who was less than 0.2s adrift to close out a very positive start to the busiest period of the campaign, with three races in just three weeks in Japan, Australia and Malaysia.
World Championship leader Morbidelli was a persistent threat for the top three in both sessions and a solid start to proceedings in Japan was completed when he ended the day fifth overall and in upbeat mood.
The Italian set a fast and consistent rhythm while giving himself plenty of margin for error in conditions that were easy to make a mistake in and he is confident he can narrow the advantage at the top of the timesheets in what is anticipated to be another day of wet track action tomorrow.
Álex Márquez: 2nd - 2’05.460
“The wet conditions have made my job a little bit easier today because I am stressing my body much less. But I am still very satisfied with the job we did today because in the rain the risk to make a mistake and crash is always higher. Right from the first lap this morning I felt confident and comfortable on the bike and that was positive. We need to keep improving because those behind us will find some pace, but we just have to concentrate on our own job and build on this good start.”
Franco Morbidelli: 5th - 2’06.220
“Today’s conditions weren’t the easiest to contend with but it is what it is and it is the same for everybody. It was important not to crash and make a mistake and I managed to do that. The main goal obviously today was to improve the setting of the bike in the wet and I think we did a decent job. We improved throughout the day and I am sure we can improve again tomorrow and be closer in terms of the lap time.”
Pete Benson: Franco Morbidelli Chief Engineer
“Today’s conditions posed a challenge for us because wet conditions are not traditionally a strong point of Franco’s. When we get it right with the set-up he can be fast but our record this year in these conditions hasn’t been great. Another issue is that Lüthi has always been good in the wet and he showed that again today. The important thing for us is to be as fast as we can and if we get a wet race on Sunday then we have to preferably beat him or certainly be close to him and not lose too many points in the Championship. Hopefully the tough lesson Franco got when he crashed while leading in the wet in Misano means that won’t happen again. But at this stage of the season it is important to be smart to win the World Championship and that’s what we have to do at the moment. We definitely improved the bike in the last part of FP2 and we’ve found a good direction that should help us close the gap more if the rain continues."
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