Danny Kent backed up his free practice form by claiming a superb Moto3 pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix. The Husqvarna rider will lead Niccolo Antonelli on the grid tomorrow with John McPhee ensuring two Britons will line up on the front row after qualifying a career-best third.
The championship contenders were the centre of attention during a dramatic session with Alex Rins losing the front end of his Estrella Galicia Honda at turn ten. Aside from a broken gear lever, the no.42 machine was largely undamaged but the same couldn’t be said for Jack Miller’s KTM by the time the Australian had finished with it. The Red Bull Ajo rider highsided his no.8 machine as he exited turn four and was seriously fortunate to avoid being collected by the errant KTM.
Free from any championship pressures, Miguel Oliveira set about his chase of pole position and with a quarter of an hour to go, the Portuguese rider overhauled Niccolo Antonelli to go quickest, completing an impressive four lap run with a 1:57.049.
Jack Miller was soon back in contention on his repaired KTM and climbed back onto the front row with five minutes remaining but his Ajo teammate Kent changed matters with a 1:56.770, snatching provisional pole. Kent, who claimed victory from pole position here two years ago, has been in supreme form all weekend and his next lap moved pole out of his rivals’ reach with a 1:56.555 taking him half a second clear.
The big surprise came from John McPhee who momentarily boosted hopes of a British 1-2 by clocking a 1:56.907 two minutes from time. The RTG youngster was pipped to second after a last gasp flyer from Niccolo Antonelli but third still stands as the best grid position of his career.
Oliveira and Miller were punted off the front row, dropping to fourth and fifth ahead of Isaac Vinales, while championship leader Alex Marquez shares the third row with his teammate Alex Rins, seventh and ninth respectively either side of the Mahindra of Brad Binder.