Valentino Rossi admitted he got a ‘big surprise’ after he topped the timesheets in first practice for this weekend’s Japanese MotoGP race.
The Italian had feared a gruelling weekend with the hard braking points at the Twin Ring Motegi putting extra stress on the damaged right shoulder that has troubled him since April.
But the 31-year-old looked in little difficulty this afternoon after he powered his factory Yamaha YZR-M1 machine to the top of the timesheets.
A best lap of 1.48.174 in the dying seconds moved him ahead of compatriot Andrea Dovizioso by 0.213s and Rossi said: “Today is a big surprise for me. I didn’t expect to be so fast in this track. I expect to suffer a lot more with the shoulder.
"Here we have hard braking but you stop the bike in a straight line. I don’t suffer too much when I stop the bike like this. I suffer too much when I have to brake on the edge.
"The shoulder is quite good and I can stay in front. It is a little but like Formula One now in MotoGP. Sometimes your bike can use properly the tyres and you’re so fast like today.
"But sometimes like in Aragon you can’t use properly the tyres and you’re in big trouble. Sometimes you are good and sometimes bad, but it depends on the track.”
Rossi was also pleasantly surprised by the performance of Yamaha’s upgraded factory YZR-M1 motor.
He’d first tried it at the Brno test in August and he hadn’t expected top end performance to have been so significant.
Rossi said: “I’m happy because Yamaha worked well and the engine is faster, especially in fourth, fifth and sixth gear. The difference is bigger here than when we checked in Brno.
"Brno is a wide track and very fast so it looked like there was not so much difference. But it looks not so bad. More than acceleration it is better in fourth, fifth and sixth, it pushes better at the top.”