Japanese GP, Motegi: Qualifying roundup – MotGP, Moto2, Moto3
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) will start from pole at the Twin Ring Motegi for the Japanese GP, as the Italian legend fought off Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in a close Q2 to take his 64th pole – and equal the number of pole positions held by both Marquez and Rossi’s teammate, reigning Champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Day 2 at the Twin Ring Motegi was characterised by more somewhat uncharacteristic sunshine, with the venue providing near-perfect conditions as Q2 got underway. Marquez was the early leader in the session after also going fastest in FP3 and FP4, with the Championship leader then finding himself trailing Rossi on a hot lap and running wide – as the Italian then took over at the top. Marquez lost his final attempt after an incident in front of him on track for LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, rolling off and ruing the lost chance.
A battered and bruised Lorenzo, following a highside in FP3 that saw the 5-time World Champion heading to hospital for a CT scan, came back in stunning ‘Spartan’ style in qualifying to grit his teeth through the pain barrier – something the Mallorcan has previous form in after, most memorably, coming home in the top five at Assen in 2013 following a collarbone break and surgery on the Friday. The reigning Champion lines up on the front row in P3 as he looks to take a record fourth premier class win at the venue.
2014 polesitter Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was fourth quickest as the lead bike from the Borgo Panigale factory, with former teammate Crutchlow crashing in the final minutes of the session. The Brno winner kept P5 on the timesheets to line up on the second row, however, with that row completed by Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro. Espargaro outpaced teammate Maverick Viñales at the Hamamatsu factory’s home race, with the younger Spaniard lining up in P7.
Hector Barbera (Ducati Team) had a solid session as he replaces injured Andrea Iannone to qualify eighth, with Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) and Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) completing the top ten.
Q1 graduates Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) reversed positions in Q2 as the Brit qualified P11, after Bautista suffered a fall early in the session. Bautista’s teammate Stefan Bradl will line up in P13 after crashing out on a hot lap near the end of the Q1 session and losing a chance to move through.
Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) was P14 as he gets back on track, whilst Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) sat out much of the Q1 session as he returns from injuring his knee at the Oschersleben 8H – but secured an impressive P15 on his comeback.
Local hero and Suzuka 8H winner Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing) lines up in sixteenth, with Yonny Hernandez (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) P17 and Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) P18. Eugene Laverty (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) will start nineteenth, after a big crash on Friday saw the Irishman sit out FP3 and then get declared fit to race.
Mikes Jones (Avintia Racing) impressed on his MotoGP™ debut riding in place of Hector Barbera, qualifying comfortably and set to line up in P21 – just behind recuperating, temporary teammate Loris Baz. Dani Pedrosa’s replacement at Repsol Honda, Hiroshi Aoyama, will line up in P22.
Lights go out for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan at 14:00 local time (GMT +9), as Marquez readies himself for the possibility of taking the title – and Rossi and Lorenzo square up to stop him.
Great conditions remained over the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan as the intermediate class followed MotoGP™ out on track – and it was reigning Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) who topped the timesheets in qualifying with a new record and the first 1:49 around the circuit. The Frenchman then took a tumble at Turn 3 to end his session soon after. The man one point behind the reigning Champion in the title fight, Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40), suffered through a tough day after a crash on Friday and will line up P22.
Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) just lost out in the final seconds after holding onto provisional pole for much of the session, with the Swiss veteran having led the charge on Saturday morning and race pace looking ominous. Luthi took a stunning win in 2014 – before Zarco managed the same last season. The first pacesetter of the qualifying session, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli, continued his great form with another front row in P3.
Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) heads the second row after finding a good chunk of time in qualifying, with the Brit hoping to make title gains as he sits 40 points back from Zarco. Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) impressed to take P5, ahead of Axel Pons (AGR Team) in sixth to complete the second row.
Home hero Takaaki Nakagami (Ajo Motorsport) starts the Japanese GP from P7 after proving fastest on Friday morning, ahead of Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) to complete row three. Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) completed the top ten.
Moto2™ head out for the race at 12:20 local time (GMT+9), with one point separating Zarco and Rins – and the Spaniard facing a painful fight back from P22.
Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) will begin the Japanese GP from pole position at the Twin Ring Motegi for the first time in his career, as the Italian set the second fastest lap in the QP session behind home hero Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia). Ono has a 3-place penalty from FP1 for riding too slowly in sectors of the track, and will therefore begin his home GP from P4.
Freshly crowned Moto3™ World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was third fastest in the session and will line-up P2, after the South African topped FP3 on Saturday morning following two crashes on Friday – cementing his comeback in qualifying. Completing the front row after setting the fourth fastest lap will be Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3), who gains an early advantage over rival Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) in the fight over P2 in the Championship, as Navarro qualified down in eleventh.
Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) will start fifth behind penalized Ono, ahead of new teammate Lorenzo Dalla Porta – who recovered from some tough sessions to line up on the second row as he gets to grips with full-time world level competition.
An incident in the final seconds saw Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing) and Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) crash out, with Antonelli having set the seventh quickest laptime, and the Italian will begin the race just in front of Frenchman Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing).
Drive M7 SIC Racing Team’s Adam Norrodin put in a stunning session to finish P9 and get a top ten start, with Schedl GP Racing’s Philipp Oettl completing that top ten.
Moto3™ are the first to attack the Twin Ring Motegi at 11:00 local time (GMT +9), with Ono looking for home glory – and Navarro and Bastianini focused on the fight for second in the Championship as the three flyaways get underway.