Andrea Dovizioso was pleasantly surprised by his pace in the wet at Motegi as the Ducati rider narrowly edged out Marc Marquez on day one.

Dovizioso was fifth fastest in FP1 as Marquez led the way on the Repsol Honda, but the Italian upped his pace in the afternoon to grab the top spot by only 0.043 seconds on the Desmosedici GP17 following a lap in 1m 54.877s.

“It was really good, also because we didn’t expect so much to be competitive in the wet because the last two tracks that we rode in the wet, I didn’t feel so good,” said Dovizioso.

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“Today from the first exit I felt really good: the grip is really good on the rear and that is very important for us, so we had a good feeling from the beginning. We did a small step from the afternoon and my lap time was quite fast, but I am happier about the way I did the lap time, not about the fastest lap, because we did the lap time at the beginning of the practice when normally you don’t have a lot of pace.

“So I’m happy about that but now we have to work on the details in the wet because the consumption of the rear tyre is quite high for everybody – 24 laps is very long. The speed is there, so we have a chance to work in a different area to try to save the tyre.”

Dovizioso struggled at Misano in the wet but he is much happier with the Ducati at Motegi, where he has more confidence with the grip from the rear.

“This morning we had a lot of water and there was a lot of aquaplaning a lot of the time in many places but the grip is really good, especially in the rear. This is because it is not too cold, so the tyre works quite well – the grip is for sure much better than Misano.”

After finishing in seventh place in the previous round at Aragon, Dovizioso lost vital ground in the title race and is now 16 points behind Marquez ahead of Sunday’s race at the Twin Ring circuit.