Tyre issues mean Marc Marquez may be forced to 'manage' his pace in Sunday's Valencia MotoGP finale - as was needed in the now controversial Phillip Island race.
The Repsol Honda star is suffering from the same front tyre overheating problems and, unless a set-up solution is found, will again not be able to push flat-out throughout the race.
LCR's Cal Crutchlow has identical issues, the Englishman even hoping to convince Bridgestone to roll out the medium compound front tyre. At present only the Extra Soft, Asymmetric and Soft compounds are available.
“This afternoon we just did runs of 3-4 laps and looks like here after 4-5 laps, not only the rear tyre, but also the front tyre is overheating,” Marquez explained. “Because I think nobody expected this temperature here at Valencia and looks like the front tyres are on the soft side. But we are working on the set-up of the bike to try to stress less the front tyre.”
At Phillip Island, Marquez adapted to the problem by backing off and allowing the rubber to recover before pushing again. The outcome was a thrilling victory, passing Lorenzo just a few corners from the finish.
But Marquez's fluctuating race pace caught the eye of world championship leader Valentino Rossi, who accused Marquez of 'playing' with the other riders to try and help Lorenzo - flatly denied by Marquez - setting the scene for their Malaysian showdown.
When it was pointed out that the same front tyre problems caused the Phillip Island conspiracy theories, Marquez replied:
“Yeah, of course. But you know in the end it looks like here I need to try to manage again the tyres. In Phillip Island it was the 31 [Extra Soft] tyre like here and the 32 [Soft] is the same as we raced at Le Mans, where I also struggled a lot with the front.
“So looks like when we are on the soft compound fronts we are struggling more than the Yamaha riders. And we must manage. We cannot push all the laps because then we overheat the tyre. At the moment we are like this but I hope tomorrow we improve - geometry, set-up, balance - and can try to push all the race.”
Asked if he would support Crutchlow's request for the medium front tyre to be called-up, Marquez said:
“Can be an option because already this morning when we push less, when the tyre temperature is low, the 31 [Extra Soft] was too soft. So there is no meaning to try the 31 again. Then the asymmetric is not so bad, but is just the asymmetric that we use at Phillip Island last year and it is a little bit strange on straight braking. You can feel some strange movement. And yeah I will ask also like Cal if they have some stock of the 33 [Medium].”
Quizzed about the front tyre selection and Friday issues raised by some Honda riders, a Bridgestone spokesman told Crash.net
: "The medium compound front has never been used at Valencia so it could be a dangerous proposition at places like turn four.
"From today's data we can see there is no safety issue with the present tyre selection doing the race distance or suffering any graining. Some riders may need to manage their tyres, in terms of pace during the race, but we would expect them to make further improvements to their set-up by Sunday.
"The asymmetric front tyre is the same as at Phillip Island last year, but also the same as we used here last season when it was well received."
Marquez set his best lap of the day during the morning session. Only Lorenzo went faster in the afternoon, when Marquez was fifth (+0.370s).
“It was a positive day for us," Marquez confirmed. "This morning I go out, I feel good. For this afternoon we changed some things and the rhythm was good. We tried the hard tyre and then we came back to the [medium rear], but the other people put a new [medium] at the end and I kept the tyre from the morning with a race distance and still the lap time was '31.4. So I'm happy because the pace was good. I don't know how is my level with the new tyres, but at the moment looks like again Lorenzo is the strongest one on Friday."
Ironically, given the uproar following the Malaysian clash, Rossi's title chances will be significantly boosted if the likes of Marquez and team-mate Dani Pedrosa can beat Lorenzo on Sunday.
“Similar. Very similar," Marquez said of his race pace relative to practice leader Lorenzo. "The thing is that I don't know how my pace is with the new tyre, but I think will be not faster than Jorge. But with the used tyre looks like I feel good, like more-or-less in Malaysia. We are using the same style of bike to try to use more the second part of the race and looks like with the used tyre the pace is good."
And have there been any special instructions for Honda regarding the Yamaha title battle?
“No. Honda and Nakamoto-san only ask that we try to win the race, that me and Dani try to finish first and second.”