While he was not involved in a fight for the front row of the grid, Aleix Espargaro was nonetheless pleased with his showing in qualifying, which has suggested a season best result could be on the cards in Sunday's MotoGP race at Motegi.
A small mistake in the first sector on his fastest lap left Espargaro sixth at the end of qualifying, but it was his pace in FP4, at the end of which he placed second, that impressed.
“I'm happy for the whole weekend in general,” started the elder of the two Espargaro brothers.
“To be honest I was expecting a little better for the chrono, I hoped to fight for the first row, but I made a little mistake in sector one and this affected my fast-lap attempt.
“But, while the pole was slower than last year, from my side I improved my last year's time by nearly half a second and this makes me very happy. The pace in FP4 was very good, even a couple of tenths better than what we expected, so I'm happy.
“We have already decided the rear tyre, while we still have some doubts about the front one, we will have to check some other solutions tomorrow and then take our decision.”
As one of the taller riders on the MotoGP grid, Espargaro has run into braking issues at the Motegi track in the past. The layout of the Japanese circuit places an almost unique stress on the front brake discs, a feature that isn't aided by the Catalan's size.
Espargaro is well aware of this issue and believes managing the temperature of the front brake will be key to his race.
“Also the brake management will be crucial for the race; this circuit has some very hard braking, this means that the brakes get hot very quickly and for me this is an issue.
“I'm a heavy rider, so this problem is more evident to me than to other riders, meaning that I will need to manage the brake temperature trying to have a clear line in front of me so to allow much air to intake and cool down the braking system.”
One place behind in seventh, Suzuki team-mate Maverick Viñales was disappointed by his placing in qualifying for his factory's home race.
Fifth in the championship, Viñales believes his qualifying showing was “a lot below our potential” and feels he can show off a “consistent and fast” pace throughout the 24-lap race.
“This qualifying didn't end how I was expecting and being seventh is a lot below our potential,” said Viñales. “We made some good improvements in the morning session, and also the pace is very good, but then in qualifying we decided to apply a set-up that proved not to be as improved as we wanted.
“This didn't allow me to find a perfect feeling and resulted in a not-so positive position. Seventh place is not that bad, but makes the race a little harder.
“I feel very confident on this track and I'm sure we can find improvements before tomorrow, the strategy will be pretty easy; get a perfect jump at the start and try to recover as soon as possible, because the pace is consistent and fast.”