Jorge Lorenzo believes it will be “almost impossible” for him to win tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix if his Honda rivals ride to their maximum, despite qualifying second. The world champion struggled to match the pace of the works Honda bikes through free practice and admits he surprised himself by getting so close to Casey Stoner's pole time.
“We tried something different this afternoon and our lap times were unbelievable, we almost got pole! The most important thing is the first row because there are riders like Casey who find it easy to escape so I want to be right there. We have improved today but Motegi is still a tough track for Yamaha riders. If the other riders do a perfect race it is almost impossible to win, but anything can happen. Now I can say I am ready for the battle and we will put on a good show for all the Japanese fans who have come to see us race!”
Thankfully, Yamaha teammate Ben Spies was able to ride on Saturday at something approaching full fitness and managed to qualify a solid fifth. The American thanked the doctors for treating his illness over the weekend after his participation was in doubt 24 hours ago.
“I've had a lot of support from the guys at Clinica to get me back towards 100% fitness. I'm just glad now to be on the bike, a couple of days ago I didn't think I was going to be able to ride. I'm really happy to have got into the middle of the second row today and I hope things get even better for tomorrow, we'll see how it goes. Yesterday I was pretty weak on the bike, this morning I felt a bit stronger and this afternoon I felt ok with energy levels, I was just fighting a lot of stomach cramps. I'm doing the best I can for my crew and the paddock and all the fans who are here to watch us.”
Team Director Massimo Meregalli is refusing to give up on challenging the factory Hondas tomorrow, feeling Lorenzo will go well in race trim. Meregalli is also optimistic that Spies will ride his heart out no matter what circumstances surround him.
“This afternoon we saw some excellent qualifying laps from Jorge, his race pace is also quite fast and consistent. For sure it is going to be a tough race but we are up there. Ben fortunately is feeling better and better, he was able to complete both sessions today. Starting from fifth on the grid is good under the circumstances; we know he did his best. Hopefully tomorrow he'll feel even better and will put up a good fight. 24 laps will be quite intensive so he needs to be as fit as possible for it.”