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Multiple riders came to Motegi nursing various levels of injury, unsure of how their performance would suffer. Most had no need for concern.
Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone and Marc Marquez all came to the Motul Grand Prix of Japan with quite publicised training injuries: Lorenzo carrying a sprained shoulder, Iannone a dislocated shoulder and Marquez a broken left hand. Of the trio, Lorenzo’s injury had attracted perhaps the most attention as the Movistar Yamaha rider flew to Japan and spent much of the time before the GP with his arm in a sling.
When putting on his leathers ahead of the sessions, Lorenzo would grimace and wince, adjusting himself once in them to remove as much pressure as possible from the sore shoulder. Many wondered if he had been downplayng the injury, trying to mask a potentially title destroying accident. All of this disappeared once he stepped onto his Yamaha M1, the Spaniard putting in a dominating performance as he topped both sessions.
His pace was greater than a single lap too, in FP1 he strung together four consecutive 1’45 laps, something even the fully fit riders couldn’t manage. FP2 saw Lorenzo repeat his run of multiple 1’45s, improving his best time to a 1’44.731. This surprised even Lorenzo: “It was a surprising day, because I didn‘t expect to be so competitive, especially in the morning. I expected to improve little by little, but starting from the first run I was the fastest rider and I improved even more on the last outing, so I finished first in the morning and the afternoon. Obviously my shoulder isn‘t perfect, but even with my shoulder in this condition I‘m still able to ride and be quite consistent.”
Usually injured riders will be able to produce one or two fast laps before the pain of an injury takes over, but Lorenzo lives up to the Spartan motif that graces his helmet and pushes the pain aside. In 2008, his rookie season in the MotoGP™ World Championship, he finished fourth in the Chinese GP with two broken ankles. Of course there was also Lorenzo’s famous ‘man of steel’ comeback at Assen in 2013 when he shocked everyone by racing to fifth just hours after having his broken collarbone plated. It’ll take more than a sprained shoulder to stop the Spartan cutting into Rossi’s lead.
Much like Lorenzo, Ducati’s Andrea Iannone is a rider able to defy all the odds and despite a recently dislocated shoulder finished the opening day of practice for the Japanese GP in third overall, just 0.312s shy of Lorenzo. Perhaps Iannone’s best ride of 2015 came immediately after he suffered the first dislocation of the shoulder. Mugello saw Iannone have his best weekend in the premier class to date, securing a fantastic home pole before gritting his teeth to take second. Aragon, just after dislocating the same shoulder again, saw Iannone end the race in fourth, his best result in three races.
Meanwhile, Marc Marquez’s injury has presented him with more of a problem. The Spaniard ended Friday practice in seventh overall, a respectable result given the circumstances. He was able to put together runs of the same length as Lorenzo and his teammate Pedrosa, but the times aren’t there currently. His runs may be as long, but Marquez is unable to reach the same level of consistency as Lorenzo, times altering by over half a second lap to lap. “The first practice was useful for us to see how my finger felt, and to correctly adapt my riding position and it went pretty well. At least I was able to ride correctly and brake late, which is the important thing. Obviously it hurts, but it is bearable,” said Marquez after the day.
While all three injured warriors do their best to head into Sunday’s battle with a fighting chance, Lorenzo has the edge. Not only the edge over the injured, but also all the fully fit riders and in particular Valentino Rossi. The Italian may once again be looking towards the heavens on Sunday to save him from the Spartan’s assault, even an injured warrior is a dangerous one.
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