Jorge Lorenzo delivered on his practice potential to claim pole position for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix, but not before being pushed to the limit by teammate Valentino Rossi. Lorenzo had been quickest in every session prior to qualifying with Rossi playing catch-up but the two were almost impossible to separate in a thrilling fifteen minutes.
The qualifying drama was slightly overshadowed by a heavy accident involving Alex de Angelis during FP4. The Ioda rider crashed between turns 9 and 10, causing a lengthy stoppage, and after trackside treatment he was transferred to a nearby hospital where he was said to be “conscious and breathing”.
Despite the subdued atmosphere, qualifying went ahead as normal and Rossi positioned himself perfectly, shadowing Lorenzo before outpacing him on his opening lap. Andrea Iannone stunned both Yamaha riders to set the early pace but Rossi went faster still to regain top spot second time around, showing pace that hadn’t been evident so far this weekend.
Lorenzo was languishing down in sixth as he returned to action but the Spaniard soon rectified the situation with the first sub-1:44 lap of Motegi. His improvement sparked Rossi back into life and the championship leader showed he didn’t need a slipstream to challenge his teammate, regaining pole as the chequered flag came out.
The final word would go to Lorenzo though and with the very last lap of the afternoon, Jorge snatched pole position back with a 1:43.790, less than a tenth quicker than his title rival. Marc Marquez is ready to pounce having qualified third while the Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone will pose a threat from fourth and fifth respectively.
Dani Pedrosa starts sixth on the second Repsol Honda ahead of Aleix Espargaro and Cal Crutchlow but Bradley Smith lines up ninth after a disastrous session which saw him crash on both Yamaha YZR-M1s available to him.