MOTEGI: Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso fanned his flickering MotoGP title hopes by clocking the fastest time in free practice Friday ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Italian set a quickest lap time of one minute, 45.358 seconds in the morning session at Motegi, edging out Cal Crutchlow (Honda), Johann Zarco (Yamaha) and Honda’s Marc Marquez, who can secure a third straight title this weekend.
Honda’s Dani Pedrosa topped the timesheets in a damp afternoon session with a 1:48.136 as riders and mechanics kept one eye on the darkening skies.
Meanwhile, three-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo pulled out of the race after deeming his fractured wrist had not healed sufficiently following a ginger out lap on his Ducati.
Marquez, who leads Dovizioso by 77 points with just a maximum 100 points available from the final four races this season, can join Australian legend Mick Doohan on five premier class world titles depending on where his Italian rival finishes.
The 25-year-old Spaniard would trail Italians Valentino Rossi, who won the last of his seven championships in 2009, and Giacomo Agostini, whose eighth came in 1975.
Dovizioso, who finished runner-up to Marquez last season, won in Japan last year but even a repeat may not be enough to dash the Spanish star’s hat-trick hopes.
Marquez’s younger brother Alex suffered a heavy fall after clipping a wet kerb in Moto2 practice, flipping over his handlebars in a sickening spill, but walked away unscathed.