Valentino Rossi was impressed by Monster Tech 3 Yamaha stand-in Kohta Nozane after the Japanese rider finished 13th fastest in the wet during free practice at Motegi on Friday.

Nozane is riding the satellite M1 as a replacement for Jonas Folger, who misses out through illness. The MotoGP rookie has been struggling with fatigue since the Misano-Aragon races and doctors now suspect he has suffered a recurrence of the Epstein Barr virus, placing his participation in the next two flyaway rounds at Phillip Island and Sepang in doubt.

Nozane’s time of 1m 56.453s placed him behind the factory Movistar Yamaha of Rossi by only 0.018s and 1.5 seconds behind Andrea Dovizioso on the factory Ducati, who topped the times overall.

Rossi said: “It’s very good, very fast. At the beginning I follow him and he was fast. He has some experience with the M1, but I think that he hasn’t ridden the M1 from March and I think he is very young. I think he can be a very good Japanese rider for MotoGP.”

Nozane is full of confidence and utilised his knowledge of the Twin Ring circuit in the challenging conditions on a positive opening day, although he isn’t getting too carried away just yet.

“Day one went quite well and it was enjoyable as well as exciting to compete against the fast MotoGP riders and this is good,” he said.

“I am confident in myself and although it is only the first day and it’s too early to say which position I will finish in, I feel positive.

“Motegi is my local racetrack as my home is not so far from here. Tomorrow, it will be cloudy and the conditions could be dry, so the other riders will be faster. However, I am really enjoying this moment and I will try my best for the race on Sunday.”



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