Motegi MotoGP: Dani Pedrosa off to flying start in Japan

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Dani Pedrosa won a personal practice duel with MotoGP world title rival Jorge Lorenzo after the Spanish duo dominated the opening day of action ahead of Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix at the Twin Ring Motegi.

Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa took the spoils late in this afternoon’s dry and sunny session with a best lap of 1.46.088 to deny Lorenzo by just 0.102s.

Pedrosa, who trails Lorenzo by 33-points heading into Sunday’s race, knocked over 0.6s off his best pace set in the morning session.

Lorenzo had topped the timesheets in the first practice with a best of 1.46.558 and while he improved to a 1.46.190 he couldn’t quite match Pedrosa’s speed on Honda’s home track.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Andrea Dovizioso was third fastest with a best time of 1.46.282 that secured a top three position by just 0.146s from German rookie Stefan Bradl.

The reigning Moto2 world champion finished ahead of Italian Valentino Rossi. The factory Ducati rider was as high as third in the final five minutes when his best lap of 1.46.687 rocketed him up from ninth to third.

Rossi was over a second faster in the afternoon session and having finished fifth he will be optimistic he will be in the podium hunt on Sunday.

Texan Ben Spies was sixth, while the afternoon session didn’t go according to plan for returning reigning world champion Casey Stoner.

Riding for the first time in six weeks after recuperating from the serious right ankle injury he picked up in Indianapolis, Stoner was an impressive fourth this morning and just 0.397s outside of the top three.

He improved his pace to a 1.46.978 in the second session but dropped back to seventh on the combined leaderboard.

Cal Crutchlow’s pre-weekend prediction that the hard braking nature of the Twin Ring Motegi track would present him with a tough challenge proved right.

The British rider was in a lowly ninth on the timesheets with a best time of 1.46.984 that left him 0.896s off Pedrosa’s best speed. The Coventry rider though was less than 0.1s away from Spies in sixth.

Nicky Hayden completed the top 10 but it was a tough first day for the American. Hayden discovered a small break in his right wrist after his horror crash at the Motorland Aragon last month and he was the only rider not to improve his pace this afternoon.

Hayden was seventh this morning with a best time of 1.47.551 but he was marginally slower in FP2 with a 1.47.592 and slipped three places down the order.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt