Valentino Rossi was the man who set the pace at the start of the weekend, as the MotoGP Paddock moves to Motegi, in Japan. And this was a surprise result for the Italian, as he had expected the circuit to cause him trouble with his shoulder. Utilising a new engine upgrade, Rossi was quick from the start, before a stunning final lap put him in front of Repsol Honda‘s Andrea Dovizioso.

“I’m really happy about today, it is honestly a big surprise for me to be first!” said Rossi “I was expecting to suffer a lot here with my shoulder because there are so many hard braking areas but in fact they are all quite straight so I was happy to find I was okay. In fact I felt very good on the bike right from the start and we have done a great job here with the setting. I used the new engine and Yamaha have done an excellent job on it, it is especially better in fourth and fifth gears and everything is working very well. I know it’s only Friday but it’s a long time since I have been in front like this so I have to enjoy this sweet feeling! I know there’s a chance of rain for the rest of the weekend, which is a pity, and if it is wet we will do our best.”

Championship leader, and winner of last years race, Jorge Lorenzo came a respectable third in practice. Finishing only 0.3s behind Rossi, Lorenzo has not yet taken the engine upgrade, as he has one less engine than Rossi left. However, with Lorenzo’s main rival, Dani Pedrosa, out of action this weekend, he can be confident that even a below par performance will not have a dramatic effect on his championship lead.

Speaking after the session, Lorenzo said, “We are much better here than in Aragon, which is a relief! I don’t have the new engine yet like Valentino, I hope we can use it soon, but anyway here we lose much less in the straight here compared to at the last race and we have better acceleration. We can improve the traction a bit in some parts of the track but in general this was a good day and we are not so far off Valentino. I hope the rain stays away so we can continue to improve tomorrow. I don’t want to think for now how Dani’s situation will affect me, but I am sorry for him, it’s very bad luck to be injured at this stage of the season.”