Jorge Lorenzo will start tomorrow’s crucial Japanese Grand Prix from pole position after a sensational performance in wet conditions at Motegi. The reigning champion outpaced title rival Marc Marquez by six tenths of a second with Nicky Hayden giving Ducati something to smile about with third place.
Torrential rain throughout the morning caused the cancellation of the third free practice sessions with qualifying the first running of the entire weekend for the premier class riders, extended to 75 minutes. As in Moto3, it was a local rider that got up to speed the quickest with wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga setting a rapid pace early on.
With the rain having virtually stopped by now, conditions were constantly improving and after a brief spell at the top for Pramac’s Yonny Hernandez, Marc Marquez established himself as the man to beat on a 1:56.411. Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa took up the challenge, breaking into the 1:55s but with half an hour remaining, the expected frontrunners were stunned by Nicky Hayden who usurped them on his Ducati.
Half an hour from the end, Hayden led the way by almost half a second but Pedrosa regained the edge over his former teammate with a 1:54.741. Next time around, the Spaniard went quicker again to set a 1:54.542 but that was the last of Pedrosa’s fast flyers and improvements elsewhere saw him relegated to the second row.
The biggest step forward of them all came from Lorenzo who dropped below the 1:54s barrier, not once but twice, and with a minute to go the Yamaha rider was a full second ahead of the rest. Marquez cut the gap in half to secure second on the grid while Hayden came back for another effort in the dying seconds, pipping Pedrosa for third by three thousandths of a second.
Valentino Rossi will start fifth with Andrea Dovizioso completing one of Ducati’s better days in 2013 by qualifying sixth. Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl start side-by-side on the third row with Aleix Espargaro for company while Yonny Hernandez completes the top ten ahead of a trio of Yamahas. Cal Crutchlow is the first of them with eleventh the best he could manage while Bradley Smith starts thirteenth behind the extra YZR-M1 ridden by Nakasuga.