Morbidelli mounts top three challenge in Motegi practice

Morbidelli mounts top three challenge in Motegi practice

In-form Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli put up his now customary top three challenge on a positive opening day of Moto2 action at the Twin Ring Motegi track in Japan.

The Italian was instantly into a fast rhythm in this morning’s opening practice session, which took place in pleasantly warm conditions in East Asia, and a lap of 1’52.164 placed Morbidelli comfortably inside the top six.

Warm ambient temperatures and a big increase in grip levels saw lap times tumble in this afternoon’s second session, with Morbidelli impressively improving his pace by 1.2s.

A late lap of 1’50.984 secured Morbidelli a deserved third place on the combined timesheets and home hero Takaaki Nakagami only bumped him out of second place by just 0.084s.

The 21-year-old though already looks in good shape to contend for a fifth podium finish in the last eight races.

Fresh from his stunning first Moto2 podium finish in Motorland Aragon last month, Álex Márquez was again a leading protagonist in both 45-minute sessions.

Ninth fastest this morning, the Spaniard was able to improve his speed by nearly a second and a quickest lap of 1’51.267 moved him one place up the leaderboard at the conclusion to FP2.

The 20-year-old’s pace certainly looks competitive enough to fight for the rostrum again, with Márquez less than 0.1s away from Motorland Aragon winner Sam Lowes in fourth position.

Franco Morbidelli: 3rd – 1’50.984
“I have to be happy with how today went because I was fast and competitive in both sessions and last year I didn’t race here because of my leg injury. So today was all about gaining the confidence again with this track and I have to say it came quite quickly. I am happy about that because it is one less thing I have to worry about and now we can exclusively concentrate on improving the set-up of the bike. It will also be important to work on tyre endurance for the race, so overall today was a positive way to begin these flyaway races.”

Álex Márquez: 8th – 1’51.267
“I am happy with today because throughout we were able to make a lot of improvements and in FP2 I was close to the top for the whole session. I am struggling a little bit again with the new tyres and it takes me longer to make the fast pace than some of the other guys. I need to adjust better to getting more performance out of fresh rubber and understand more when I can push. Today was positive though and already I am confident I can have a strong race on Sunday.”