Zarco Takes Surprise Pole at Rain-Hit Motegi

Johann Zarco - Photo Credit: Tech 3

Johann Zarco claimed his second pole position of 2017 after a tyre gamble from Marc Marquez backfired in qualifying at Motegi. On a damp track, Marquez was a little hasty in switching to slick tyres, opening the door for Zarco to snatch pole ahead of Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci with Marquez relegated to third.

All three practice sessions had taken place in wet conditions which weren’t expected to favour the Movistar Yamahas, in particular Maverick Vinales who was unable to secure an automatic spot in Q2. With the weather barely improving for Q1, Vinales’ fortunes didn’t either and the Spaniard was forced to settle for fourth in the session, leaving him fourteenth on the grid.

Marquez had looked like the rider to beat in free practice and the reigning champion made a blistering start to Q2, clocking a 1:53.903 to open up a 1.8 second advantage over his nearest challenger. With such a comfortable cushion, Marc opted to gamble with a set of dry tyres for his second run but as Valentino Rossi had already proven, the track was still nowhere near ready for slicks.

With Marquez failing to improve on his opening effort, the door was left wide open for Zarco to claim pole with a 1:53.469 on his penultimate lap, owing to a sensational final sector. Danilo Petrucci climbed to second with his final flyer with Marquez hanging onto third ahead of Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro who ensured four different manufacturers will make up the top four spots on the grid.

Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, both former Motegi winners, will start fifth and sixth with the KTMs of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro securing the team’s best-ever combined qualifying result after both riders had advanced from Q1. Championship challenger Andrea Dovizioso has work to do from ninth with the two Suzukis of Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone pushing Rossi back to twelfth.


2017 Motul Grand Prix of Japan – Qualifying

PosRiderConstructorTeamBest Time 
15. Johann ZarcoYamahaMonster Yamaha Tech 31:53.469Q2
29. Danilo PetrucciDucatiOCTO Pramac Racing1:53.787Q2
393. Marc MarquezHondaRepsol Honda Team1:53.903Q2
441. Aleix EspargaroApriliaAprilia Racing Team Gresini1:53.947Q2
599. Jorge LorenzoDucatiDucati Team1:54.235Q2
626. Dani PedrosaHondaRepsol Honda Team1:54.342Q2
738. Bradley SmithKTMRed Bull KTM Factory Racing1:54.872Q2
844. Pol EspargaroKTMRed Bull KTM Factory Racing1:54.906Q2
94. Andrea DoviziosoDucatiDucati Team1:55.064Q2
1042. Alex RinsSuzukiTeam Suzuki ECSTAR1:55.483Q2
1129. Andrea IannoneSuzukiTeam Suzuki ECSTAR1:55.617Q2
1246. Valentino RossiYamahaMovistar Yamaha MotoGP1:57.786Q2
1376. Loris BazDucatiReale Avintia Racing1:55.862Q1
1425. Maverick VinalesYamahaMovistar Yamaha MotoGP1:55.916Q1
1535. Cal CrutchlowHondaLCR Honda1:55.952Q1
1619. Alvaro BautistaDucatiPull&Bear Aspar Team1:56.292Q1
178. Hector BarberaDucatiReale Avintia Racing1:56.668Q1
1822. Sam LowesApriliaAprilia Racing Team Gresini1:56.771Q1
1953. Tito RabatHondaEG 0,0 Marc VDS1:56.903Q1
2017. Karel AbrahamDucatiPull&Bear Aspar Team1:57.144Q1
217. Hiroshi AoyamaHondaEG 0,0 Marc VDS1:57.157Q1
2245. Scott ReddingDucatiOCTO Pramac Racing1:57.787Q1
2321. Katsuyuki NakasugaYamahaYamalube Yamaha Factory Racing1:57.861Q1
2431. Kohta NozaneYamahaMonster Yamaha Tech 32:01.730Q1