Australian Jack Miller set the fastest time in the first free practice session of the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday, ahead of his Ducati teammate Francesco Bagnaia and the championship leader, Frenchman Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), 3rd.
On a dry track which in no way foreshadows the weather conditions of the weekend, with expected rain, the Spaniard Aleix Espargaro set the fourth fastest time on the handlebars of his Aprilia.
Last winner on the Motegi circuit, the six-time MotoGP world champion, the Spaniard Marc Marquez, set the sixth fastest time, behind the Italian Luca Marini (Ducati-VR46), 5th.
If he still dominates the championship five races from the end of the season, Quartararo knows that in Japan he will have a hard time facing the competition, which is determined to dislodge him.
The Niçois, reigning world champion, has a lead of only ten points over the Italian Bagnaia (201 points), victorious in four of the last five GPs, a gap which rises to 17 points with Espargaro.
The usual program of the premier category of motorcycle sport was also turned upside down this weekend for logistical reasons, in order to receive on time the equipment sent directly from Spain, where the GP of Aragon was disputed on Sunday. last.
On Friday, only one free practice session counting for qualifying - 30 minutes longer than usual - was contested.
The second session will take place on Saturday at 01:50 GMT, before a third and final session at 05:25.
The drivers who set the ten best times in the first two free practice sessions take part directly in the second qualifying session (Q2), which determines the first 12 places on the starting grid.
The others will have to participate in a preliminary qualifying session (Q1) scheduled for 06:05 GMT, of which the two fastest are drafted for Q2.
The second Frenchman on the grid, Johann Zarco, 11th on Friday after a fall at the end of the session, will have to improve his time if he wants to qualify directly for Q2.
Same observation for the winner of the last GP, the Italian Enea Bastianini (Ducati-Gresini), only 14th, also victim of a fall in the last moments of the tests.
Classification of the first MotoGP free practice session on the Motegi circuit (4.8 km) on Friday:
1. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati) in 1'44.509
2. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati) at 0.028
3. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha) 0.049
4. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 0.068
5. Luca Marini (ITA/Ducati-VR46) at 0.136
6. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 0.147
7. Pol Espargaro (ESP/Honda) at 0.169
8. Brad Binder (AFS/KTM) 0.226
9. Miguel Oliveira (POR/KTM) 0.234
10. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Aprilia) 0.288
11. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Pramac) 0.289
14. Enea Bastianini (ITA/Ducati-Gresini) 0.469