Esteve Rabat saved his best for last in Moto2 qualifying at Motegi, snatching pole away from Thomas Luthi with his 22nd and last lap of the session. The championship leader endured a frustrating afternoon for the most part with Luthi continuously pipping him in the final sector but the Spaniard’s relentless consistency eventually paid off.
Luthi and Rabat have been the class of the intermediate field throughout free practice and the pair were comfortably quicker than the competition in qualifying too. Luthi took over top spot seventeen minutes into the session and Rabat faced quite the challenge getting back on terms with the Swiss.
Esteve trailed by a quarter of a second as he ventured out for his second run and closed to within a tenth on his third timed lap, clocking a 1:50.979. A quarter of an hour still remained and the Marc VDS rider continued to pound round Motegi, regularly pulling out a tenth of a second over Luthi only to surrender his advantage in the final sector.
Try as he might, Rabat couldn’t eradicate that flaw from his riding with Luthi remaining the quickest man through the closing sequence of bends but on Esteve’s final lap, he opened enough of a lead in sectors 1, 2 and 3 to cling on to pole at the finish line, setting a 1:50.854. Luthi, whose mark had gone unbeaten for over half the session, was relegated to second.
Former Motegi 125cc winner Johann Zarco will round out the front row with Maverick Vinales heading row two ahead of championship challenger Mika Kallio and home favourite Takaaki Nakagami. Italtrans teammates Julian Simon and Franco Morbidelli start side-by-side on row three in seventh and eighth with the top ten completed by Axel Pons and Marcel Schrotter.