Rossi fast with new engine - MotoGP Friday Motegi

Rossi benefits from new engine to take top time on Friday in Motegi.

Valentino Rossi Friday Motegi

MOTEGI, JAPAN, OCT 1 – Valentino Rossi expected the worst and got the best.

One day after believig that the hard braking, stop-and-go Twin Ring Motegi circuit would torture his damaged left shoulder, the Fiat Yamaha rider set the fastest time in Friday’s warm and sun-filled free practice session.

Rossi’s fast time of 1:48.174 mins. came on the last of his 22 flying laps on the the 2.98-mile, 14-turn circuit a few hours north of Tokyo. Part of the credit goes to a new, more powerful engine that Yamaha produced in response to being consistently the slowest in the field. Yamaha unveiled the engine at the Brno test the day after the Czech Grand Prix, but this was its race debut and it was impressive. Two weeks ago in Aragon, four of the five slowest times in qualifying were set on Yamahas. Today Rossi, bum shoulder and all, was fastest on top speed over Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro) and Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda).

“Today is a big surprise for me. I didn’t expect to be so fast in this track,” Rossi enthused on Friday afternoon in the Yamaha hospitality cabin. “I expect to suffer a lot more with the shoulder. Here we have hard braking but you stop the bike in a straight line. I don’t suffer too much when I stop the bike like this. I suffer too much when I have to brake on the edge.

“The shoulder is quite good and I can stay in front. It is a little but like Formula One now in MotoGP. Sometimes your bike can use properly the tires and you’re so fast like today. But sometimes like in Aragon you can’t use properly the tires and you’re in big trouble. Sometimes you are good and sometimes bad, but it depends on the track.”

As to the lone power-up engine he was given, Rossi said, “I’m happy because Yamaha worked well and the engine is faster, especially in fourth, fifth and sixth gear. The difference is bigger here than when we checked in Brno. Brno is a wide track and very fast, so it looked like there was not so much difference. But it looks not so bad. More than acceleration is fourth, fifth and sixth, it pushes better at the top.”

The engine is Rossi’s fifth out of his allocation of six for the year. The team didn’t bother using another engine for the replacement rider while Rossi missed four races with a broken leg in June and July, and he may get a second one next week in Malaysia. Teammate Lorenzo isn’t as well off. The Spaniard is on his fifth motor, having lost one in a flame-filled expiration on the front straight of the Sachsenring in July. The sixth engine will be his last, which is why it’s being saved for Saturday qualifying. For the five races remaining, Lorenzo will only use it in Sunday morning warm-ups and the races.

"Now I have one like Jorge, but I have the chance to have another one and I hope that for Malaysia the second one arrives but I’m not sure,” Rossi said. “Yamaha say maybe.

“I think the motor will be important at Phillip Island and also Sepang to have this engine, it will be a help. Not a big help, but I hope that Yamaha can make ready another engine for Sepang.”

The YZR-M1’s sudden burst of speed may impact Rossi’s decision to have an operation on his shoulder. If he has the operation soon, he would miss several races, as well as the end of season Valencia test, where he may make his Ducati debut, if Yamaha allows it.

“My target is to finish the season but we have to check day-by-day because sometimes bad and it is good like today,” Rossi said. “Sometimes we expect good and it is bad like in Aragon. I don’t know. For sure I make the next three races and I hope to finish the championship.

“If I make surgery I can’t try the Ducati if Yamaha allow me, but for me sincerely it is not a big difference. To make two half days in Valencia in November with 15 degrees doesn’t change our life. The important thing is to be ready in February.”