This morning’s FP1 session was the first time the Australian had ridden his Honda RC213V machine since he appeared in Q1 during the recent Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli encounter in San Marino.
Despite his recent injury enforced absence, Miller was able to set the 16th fastest time this morning and more importantly he passed a stern examination of his physical condition with flying colours.
A 15-lap stint in FP1 gave Miller the perfect chance to gauge the recovery of his recent right hand injury and he was happy with the strength in the brutally hard braking zones around the stop-and-go Twin Ring Motegi track.
Miller was able to improve by half-a-second in this afternoon’s session and he was determined to improve on a best lap of 1’47.244 when he was uninjured in a late fall at turn three.
Rear grip under acceleration out of the Twin Ring Motegi’s low gear hairpins proved particularly problematic for Miller on his return today. And it was a similar story for teammate Tito Rabat, who finished the day one place behind Miller on the combined timesheets.
The Spaniard was also able to knock half-a-second off his lap time in the second 45-minute session and his focus for tomorrow’s final practice and qualifying action will be on gaining better rear grip from Michelin’s two rear tyre options available for round 15 of the MotoGP World Championship.
Jack Miller: 18th – 1’47.244
“It hasn’t been the easiest return to the bike today and I was struggling with the set-up. Hopefully we can find something to improve the bike and make me ride a little better tomorrow but today was difficult. I’ll try and clear my head for tomorrow and see what I can do. It will be a long night poring over data to see where we can improve and it won’t be easy, but hopefully we can find something to make me more confident. I’m struggling with a bit too much spinning from the rear tyre and I need to get better handling from the front-end too.”
Tito Rabat: 19th – 1’47.972
“I like this track a lot and it is an important race for Honda in Japan. I was happy with how the weekend started this morning and I’m pleased I’ve been able to improve my times and do all my laps on my own. I think I could have gone quicker at the end of the second session but Laverty had a very big crash in front of me at turn 6 and I couldn’t complete the lap. I have to admit though it is hard to see how big the gap is to the fastest time. I have to stay calm and focused and hope we can find improvements with the bike tomorrow.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“It hasn’t been the start we had hoped for to an important weekend here in Japan and for both Jack and Tito we have not been able to find the optimum set-up that permits them to be faster and more competitive. It is never easy in a situation like Jack’s when you have been off the bike for a period of time and we need to find a clearer direction to help him improve. I hope also with Tito’s comments today that he can improve. We have some ideas to make the bike work better and I am looking forward to FP3 to see if the changes we plan have a positive impact.