Japan welcomed the Moto2 riders with a mixed forecast of showers and sun and the Moto2 riders repaid the favour with a mixed bag of results so who shone in the land of rising sun and who will be looking forward to the sun setting on this weekend?
Iker Lecuona: It would be an understatement to say that Lecuona has had a ‘good’ weekend so far when, in fact, it’s been pretty spectacular. Not only will the Spaniard start from third on Sunday, his first front row start in the Moto2 class but he also topped the timings in FP2 with a 1’52.159 lap, nudging perfect Pecco off the top spot. Lecuona, who didn’t set a time in FP1 due to weather conditions, has sat within the top 10 for the remaining two free practice sessions before delivering a beautiful 1’50.990, only 0.231 off poleman Pecco. Lecuona will be hoping to continue with this stellar performance for the remainder of the season and show everyone what he is truly capable of.
Lorenzo Baldassarri: He’s known to be a bit of a fighter, his determination to come back ASAP after that horrendous crash at Assen in 2017 is a testimony to that, and he certainly didn’t leave his fighting spirit in the garage this weekend. A damp FP1 session saw the Italian rider put in a shocking performance and only manage 28th in the timings with a pitiful 2’11.665. His FP2 session was barely any better, ending Friday’s events in 25th on the timings, Baldassarri must have known he would need to put in a corker to be in with a fighting chance and he definitely did that. Balda moved up 20 positions during FP3 to fifth, the same position he then went on to qualify in. Whatever pep talk he received from his team, family or even himself, it did the job and he will line up on the second row flanked by Marcel Schrotter in fourth and Alex Marquez in sixth.
Tetsuta Nagashima: A home crowd can do wonders for a rider or so it seems for Nagashima. The Japanese rider has sat comfortably within the top 10 timings throughout all three free practice sessions even coming third in a damp FP1 with a 1’57.182 lap time. Nagashima rode the wave of home support to qualify in an impressive eighth position. He will be hoping he can keep a firm grip on that position this weekend and make his home crowd proud.
Miguel Oliveira: Oliveira’s weekend has been a bit all over the place if I’m honest. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider could only manage 16th in both FP1 and 2 but then significantly improved to fourth in FP3. Unfortunately, like so many times before, Oliveira was let down by his qualifying performance, having to settle for ninth position whilst his championship rival Pecco Bagnaia took his sixth pole position of the season. Oliveira needs to up his game on Sunday if he is to keep his title hopes alive.
Mattia Pasini: The Italian rider is so far without a ride next year and if his weekend so far is anything to go by, he’s also without any luck or pace as well. Pasini, like several others, opted out of FP1 due to the weather condition, taking the ‘better safe than sorry’ route that Pecco was also on but unlike his countryman, Pasini’s FP2 session was less than electric and he ended Friday 16th. Saturday morning did not fare much better for the 32-year-old as he crashed during FP3 but thankfully the only injury was to his ego as he had to settle for a mire 28th position. In qualifying, Pasini was only able to manage 21st, his worst qualifying performance since Silverstone in 2016. As Pasini is still looking for a ride next year, every race is an all or nothing gamble for him.
Sam Lowes: This year has been a long tale of woe for Sam Lowes and this weekend has been no different. FP1 started off with so much promise as the Brit took ninth in the timings but it wasn’t meant to be as he took an early tumble at turn three in FP2 and was unable to get his KTM powered machine any higher than 28th in the timings. FP3 seemed far rosier for Lowes as he put in a 1’52.266 lap time, slotting him into 10th but, once again, luck deserted him and a horrendous qualifying left him in 19th position with quite the fight on his hands for Sunday.
Full results here.
As the championship rivals start three rows apart and some unexpected faces sit in between them. Will Pecco run off with the championship or will Oliveira fight back to keep his hand in?