MotoGP Japanese GP: Martin fastest, then crashes in FP1
Martin, who arrives in Japan only 13 points behind fellow Ducati man Francesco Bagnaia, topped the timesheets with a best effort of 1m45.192s, which was enough to top the session by 0.138s from Augusto Fernandez.
That came at the end of a run of three successive improvements for the Pramac rider, who knocked Bagnaia off the head of the standings with a 1m45.509s before finding just over three tenths over his next two laps.
But Martin’s run came to an abrupt end when he appeared to misjudge his braking for the Turn 3 left-hander, running into the gravel and suffering a relatively low-speed tumble with nine minutes to go.
He was able to return to action for the final minutes of the session, but didn’t improve his time further.
Behind surprise package Fernandez on the Tech3 GasGas, Marco Bezzecchi made a late improvement on his VR46 Ducati to jump up to third, 0.318s off the pace established by Martin.
Factory Ducati rider Bagnaia was fourth-fastest with his early benchmark of 1m45.631s, going no quicker later on.
Joan Mir was an encouraging fifth fastest on the Honda, within half a second of Martin, having revealed his intentions on Thursday to try the 2024-spec chassis that was not available to him last weekend in India.
That was despite Mir suffering a crash at Turn 5 around halfway through the 45-minute session.
Next up was lead KTM man Brad Binder, Aprilia rider Maverick Vinales and last year’s Japanese GP winner Jack Miller on the second of the KTMs.
Yamaha’s lead representative was Fabio Quartararo in ninth place, 0.760s off the pace, while Marc Marquez was 13th on the second of the works Honda, more than eight tenths adrift.
Wildcard rider Cal Crutchlow was 18th-fastest on his Yamaha as he gears up for his first MotoGP race weekend since last year’s Valencia GP.
LCR Honda’s home hero Takaaki Nakagami was a low-key 19th, while Alex Rins, making his return from a long injury layoff this weekend, was 21st and last, 2.3 seconds off the pace and nearly half a second down on the next-slowest rider, Ducati replacement rider Michele Pirro.