Petronas Yamaha SRT rookie Fabio Quartararo was the fast man in Friday practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Frenchman was fastest in all sectors and slotted into pole favouritism at the Twin Ring Motegi with a 1:44.764s best.
Quartararo set the fastest time in FP2 to lead factory Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales by a whopping 0.3s, with world champion Marc Marquez third aboard his Repsol Honda.
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Rain is set to affect running on Saturday, but Friday’s action proved the Yamaha package is well and truly in the fight, despite concerns the Honda and Ducati riders would have a more enjoyable weekend.
All four Yamaha riders were in the top six by day’s end, with Valentino Rossi P5 ahead of Franco Morbidelli.
Yamaha is searching for just its second win of 2019 in the premier class following Vinales’ Dutch TT victory in June.
However, with wet weather on the radar for qualifying day, it’s anyone’s guess what the grid will look like for Sunday’s 16th race of the season.
Andrea Dovizioso was the leading Ducati in fourth, but was still over six tenths down on Quartararo.
Pramac’s Jack Miller was seventh ahead of factory Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci. Miller’s day ended in a crash at Turn 9, but the pace was promising.
However, the momentum is with Quartararo, who is searching for a fifth pole in his maiden MotoGP season — but he may have to bolt his wets on if he wants to grab a P1 start ahead of a bid for a maiden MotoGP win.
“The plan tomorrow is, if it’s wet, for us to do our best,” he said.
“We know that we don’t have that much experience but, first of all, we’re in Q2 and then we’ll try our best and hope for the front three rows.”