Pedrosa Fast on Friday in Japan

Henny Ray Abrams | September 29, 2011


 The Honda onslaught made the most of the home track advantage  with the RC212V sweeping the top four spots on the first day of MotoGP practice for the Japanese Grand Prix at Honda’sTwin Ring Motegi circuit north of Tokyo, with all four under the existing lap record from 2008.Fastest of the fast was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa. The Spaniard’s quickest lap of 1:46.790 mins. was comfortably under the 2010 pole time of 1:47.001 mins. set by Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso.Pedrosa was the first rider under 1:47 mins., but not the only one. Dovi followed him into the 1:47s, but Casey Stoner, the world championship leader and third member of the Repsol Honda team, was a bit faster. Stoner finished .054 sec. behind Pedrosa with his penultimate lap of 1:46.844 mins. Next came Dovi and then Marco Simoncelli, the bushy-haired Italian fresh off signing his new one year contract with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team. Simoncelli was the fastest of the riders in the 1:47s at 1:47.188 mins.The circuit record lap from 2008 was 1:47.288 mins. set by Valentino Rossi. The fastest single lap was the 1:45.543 mins. lap set by Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo in winning the pole for the 2008 race.Lorenzo was the first of the non-Hondas down in fifth place and more than half a second off Pedrosa’s pace. Lorenzo admitted his chances of keeping the number ‘1′ plate were fading fast and today’s performance only served to solidify that view. Lorenzo trails Stoner by 44 points, 284 to 240, with four races, including Sunday’s, remaining.Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden was sixth fastest and the first Ducati, and his best lap was only .071 sec. off Lorenzo’s time. Hayden’s performance was something of a surprise since he’d said a day earlier that the Ducati wasn’t a good fit for the stop-and-go Motegi circuit. Teammate Valentino Rossi was down in eighth and .6 sec. slower than Hayden on the updated GP11.1 with the aluminum headstock. Japanese rider Hiroshi Aoyama was between the two factory Ducatis in seventh place.Behind Rossi came Mapfre Aspar MotoGP’s Hector Barbera (Duc) and Colin Edwards on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1. Edwards’ fellow Texan Ben Spies was down in 14th and nearly two secs. off the pace. The Yamaha factory rider suffered from the flu before and during the long flight from Dallas and needed medical treatment when he arrived at the track on Wednesday. Spies only did five laps before pulling in and returning to the medical center for further treatment.”What a shocking start to the weekend,” Spies said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been as sick as I was on the journey over here; I was nearly not allowed on the plane. I’m slowly getting my strength back thanks to the great guys at Clinica but didn’t have enough to ride properly in the second session. I started to get tunnel vision on the straight and just felt it was too dangerous to be out there. I’m working with Clinica today and tomorrow and am sure things will be a bit better for qualifying and the race. I’m really sorry for my team and all the Japanese fans who came to watch today.”MotoGP Practice: 1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:46.790

2. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:45.844

3. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:46.952

4. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:47.188

5. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:47.310

6. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:47.381

7. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1:47.785

8. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:47.975

9. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:48.055

10. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:48.076

14. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:48.567


Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.