It looked like business as usual for Jorge Lorenzo on Friday at the Japanese MotoGP, but the Spaniard insists he could have gone even quicker without his recent shoulder injury.
The rider to beat in dry conditions ever since the summer break, and now just 14 points from team-mate Valentino Rossi, Lorenzo led both practice sessions at Motegi.
It was a surprise for the Movistar Yamaha rider, who underwent medical checks after hurting his left shoulder in a training accident last Saturday. X-rays ruled out any fractures, but it was impossible to predict how his shoulder would cope until today's sessions.
"It was surprising how fast I was today, because the shoulder really is not the same as normal," Lorenzo said. "But it seems like the bike is working very well and this is a track where in normal conditions I could probably make the biggest advantage over my rivals.
"But even with this injury I am very fast and very consistent. I believe that with normal physical conditions I could have been even faster, but there's no point in thinking about what could have happened.
"I tried to save a little energy today and didn't do too may laps to try to save the shoulder a bit for tomorrow. From one side every day is better, from the other side each day you are doing exercise which probably doesn't help the shoulder recover.
"Overall I think the shoulder will be the same or a little bit better tomorrow."
Team manager Massimo Meregalli added: "We were unsure about Jorge's condition until the start of FP1, but he quickly reassured us with his strong pace. Despite his shoulder injury, he experienced no difficulties setting those very fast times and he clearly displayed that he has good pace and speed."
Lorenzo's best lap was within a few tenths of the pole record and, although he finished the day just 0.128s ahead of Honda's Dani Pedrosa, the #99 was a decisive 0.823s clear of Rossi.
“I didn't expect to be so competitive, especially in the morning,” Lorenzo said. “I expected to improve little by little, but starting from the first run I was the fastest rider and I improved even more on the last outing, so I finished first in the morning and the afternoon. The bike is going better than last year and we have a great setup.
“For tomorrow we still have a margin to improve the bike to suit my riding. I hope it won't be raining on Sunday, so let's hope the weather forecasts improve.”
Lorenzo, who set five FP2 laps under Rossi's best time, is seeking his third Japanese MotoGP win in a row.