Takaaki Nakagami delighted the Japanese fans by claiming pole position for his home Grand Prix at Motegi. The home favourite edged out Alex Marquez in a frantic finish to qualifying on a drying track while both championship contenders ensured miserable afternoons and must stay way down the grid on Sunday.
With conditions rapidly improving as the session unfolded, pole position changed hands no fewer than 35 times as the riders found more confidence and grip. The weather had been so poor that this session was the first of the entire weekend in all classes to see dry tyres used, with the exception of an ill-advised gamble from two riders in MotoGP qualifying.
In the closing stages, it looked as though pole would be disputed by Aragon pole-man Miguel Oliveira and Malaysian Hafizh Syahrin with the two circulating together, often swapping positions within a split-second of crossing the line. Neither would improve on their final lap though when conditions were at their best which ultimately opened the door for others to relegate them down the order.
With the chequered flag flying, Marquez snatched top spot for the first time all afternoon on a 1:53.904 but Nakagami would have the last word, setting a 1:53.776 to send him home supporters home happy on another day of miserable weather at Motegi. Tech 3’s Xavi Vierge followed Nakagami around and was rewarded with third spot, his maiden front row start, while Mattia Pasini pushed Oliveira and Syahrin down to fifth and sixth.
Dynavolt pair Sandro Cortese and Marcel Schrotter will start seventh and eighth respectively ahead of MotoGP-bound Xavier Simeon while Augusto Fernandez produced one of the session’s biggest shocks, taking tenth for Speed Up, three places ahead of Thomas Luthi and five clear of series leader Franco Morbidelli after both struggled badly in the conditions.
Moto2 Motul Grand Prix of Japan – Qualifying
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