The South African delivered a sensational effort to beat Jorge Lorenzo’s longstanding record, while the Championship leaders will face off in qualifying.
An absolute showstopper from Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) saw Jorge Lorenzo’s 2015 Motegi lap record fall by over three-tenths thanks to the South African’s 1:43.489 at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. It proved an electric session to end the opening day’s runs in Round 14, with the lead trio in the Championship chase all securing safe passage through to Q2.
Binder, who debuted a new carbon fibre chassis on the RC16, will lead the grid into super Saturday, but he has some elite company. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) spent the majority of the session outside the top 10, but the reigning World Champion delivered when it mattered most in the closing stages to jump up to P2 on the timesheets. Three different manufacturers are in the top three, as Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro put in the third quickest lap of the day having found some good pace in the afternoon.
It is very much game on at Motegi with Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi also comfortably claiming top 10 finishes on Friday. In the case of the former, the Prima Pramac rider was top of the timesheets in the morning, and was once again the pacesetter in the afternoon before riders threw on a soft tyre and sought a hot lap amid the late scramble for Q2 places. On the other hand, Bezzecchi hovered around the danger zone for much of the session, but the rider sitting third in the title race managed his best time of the day on his penultimate lap.
There was an impressive showing too from Gresini Racing’s Fabio Di Giannantonio. The #49 was the first rider to break into the 1:43s in Japan. Sitting sixth on the timesheets, the Italian secured just his second Q2 appearance of the campaign. Elsewhere, Pol Espargaro (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) will appear in Q2 for the first time this year, having put in the ninth fastest time of the day behind Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing).
Rounding out the top 10 for the day is Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who crashed at Turn 11. The Australian squeezed into Q2 courtesy of his last ditch effort, while some late yellow flags played their part too, due to Raul Fernandez’ (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) second crash of the day.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was among the late fallers at Motegi as well, with the eight-time World Champion going down at Turn 1 while in pursuit of a flying lap that would place him at the business end of proceedings. Instead, he is facing down the barrel of Q1, along with 2021 World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), who went down at Turn 6 earlier in the session. Despite showing his fighting spirit to get back to the box after a rough looking tumble, he will join Marquez in the Q1 fight.
There are only two places up for grabs in the morning to get into the battle for pole position, with some serious talent joining Marquez and Quartararo in Q1. It’s set to be another scintillating instalment of MotoGP™ action in Japan, and it all gets underway at 10:50 local time (GMT +9)!
Practice Top 10:
|1||BRAD BINDER (RED BULL KTM FACTORY RACING)||1:43.489|
|2||Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati lenovo Team)||+0.029|
|3||Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing)||+0.295|
|4||Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing)||+0.354|
|5||Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team)||+0.456|
|6||Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™)||+0.458|
|7||Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing)||+0.573|
|8||Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing)||+0.628|
|9||Pol Espargaro (GASGAS Factroy Racing Tech3)||+0.730|
|10||Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)||+0.772|