Monster Yamaha Tech3 team rider Pol Espargaro kicked off the all-important Japanese GP weekend by finishing the opening day in 10th. The Spaniard jumped into gear in the morning as he began adjusting his Yamaha YZR-M1 for Sunday’s race, which will be the 18th Grand Prix to take place at the legendary Twin Ring Motegi circuit. After completing 16 laps, his best time left him in 11th. Then, in FP2, Espargaro carried on his efforts, but he unfortunately fell at turn nine, although he luckily escaped without any injuries. However, the 25-year-old effectively only had 15 minutes of track action due to the fall as he sat out the remainder of the session after the impact and as a result, he completed only nine laps. Yet, he impressively set his personal best on his fifth lap whilst using a hard rear compound, which saw him conclude the session in 10th and just over a second from the leading time. Tomorrow, the 2013 Moto2 World Champion who seized the title at Motegi, will look to make a solid start in FP3 and then qualify strongly at Yamaha’s home race.
On the other side of the Tech3 team pit box, Bradley Smith courageously eased back into riding his Yamaha YZR-M1 as he made his first MotoGP appearance since sustaining a knee injury in August, which forced him to sit out the previous three Grand Prix’s. The main target was to complete as much distance as possible and become accustomed to his MotoGP bike again whilst also building up to race fitness as he rode 13 laps in FP1. In the afternoon, he bravely continued his work and after covering an additional 15 laps, he cut 2.518 seconds from his best time in FP1. The Briton will now rest overnight before returning to the track tomorrow morning for FP3.
Position : 10th - Time: 1'46.245 - Laps: 25
"Overall, today was a solid start to the weekend. This morning’s result wasn’t incredible but I believe that we still had a good session. In FP2, I went out with the hard rear compound and felt comfortable straight away and so I was posting strong lap times which put me inside the top six. Yet, not long into the session I unfortunately made a slight mistake and lost the front in the ninth corner. This was a pity because we only have one M1 with the chassis that I like a lot so when I went out on my second bike, the feeling was completely different. Therefore, we decided that it was better to wait for tomorrow’s morning session to continue our setup work. Nevertheless, it is positive to end the day inside the top 10. Now we will try to analyse today’s data and maybe we can learn something from Valentino and Jorge, plus with a good rest, I am sure that I’ll be back stronger tomorrow."
Position : 21st - Time: 1'48.897 - Laps: 28
"First and foremost, I have to say that it was quite emotional to ride my bike again this morning because these last seven weeks haven’t been easy but I finally reached my goal of returning to the track. Many friends, family and physiotherapists have spent a lot of time and effort to help me get fit enough to race again and the only ambition in these past fifty days was to compete in the last four Grand Prix’s with Tech3, so it is great to finally get back to where I need to be. Of course, today has been challenging because my knee is obviously not perfect, however, we made a good step forward from this morning to this afternoon, which has given me a confidence boost. I hope that with a bit of rest, we can achieve more tomorrow. I must give big thanks to the Tech3 team, because the guys have been very patient, plus they modified the bike to suit my needs. Most importantly, the team worked in a fantastic way to keep me calm so I can enjoy my experience back in Japan."