Andrea Dovizioso sprung a surprise in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, claiming just the second pole position of his MotoGP career and Ducati’s first for nearly four years. The Italian made full use of the open-class extra-soft tyre but the result was further confirmation of the Bologna squad’s rapid progress in 2014.
Dovizioso had been the pacesetter on Friday but Yamaha made the strongest start to Q2 with Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi circulating together on track. On consecutive laps, Jorge took provisional pole only to be usurped immediately by his teammate and when the riders returned to the garage to regroup, ‘The Doctor’ remained on provisional pole.
Surprisingly, Marc Marquez was looking ragged in his pursuit of pole position with the reigning champion languishing in eighth after his first run. The Spaniard appeared to have resumed normal service at the start of his second run with a 1:44.775 lifting him above the Yamahas but Marc was now being challenged by his own teammate, Dani Pedrosa wrestling pole away from him.
With seconds remaining, Dovizioso delivered on his practice promise with a 1:44.502 while his compatriot Rossi slotted into second, just five hundredths adrift. The Honda threat hadn’t diminished just yet though with Marquez and Pedrosa both on live laps but a poor middle sector kept Marc back in fourth while Dani slid off at the victory corner and remained behind Rossi in third.
Jorge Lorenzo improved on his final run but couldn’t move forward from fifth, missing out on the front row by 0.029s, while Andrea Iannone kept up the fell-good factor at Ducati by rounding out the second row in sixth. Pol Espargaro will head the third row for Tech 3 ahead of Cal Crutchlow and Stefan Bradl while Bradley Smith starts tenth after failing to break into the 1:44s.