Andrea Dovizioso has taken pole position at Twin Ring Motegi, finishing ahead of Johann Zarco and Jack Miller in qualifying. Championship leader Marc Marquez has his first opportunity to seal his 5th MotoGP title this weekend and will start the race from 6th tomorrow.
At the start of Q2 it was Cal Crutchlow setting the pace as the first rider to break the 1:44 barrier, with Marquez unable to match the pace of the LCR Honda rider. Marquez was briefly fastest in the second half of the session but in the long run didn’t have the pace of Crutchlow, who will start from 4th tomorrow as the top Honda rider.
The shock of the session was Miller, who seemingly came out of nowhere to go fastest in the closing stages of qualifying, eventually finishing 3rd fastest. He was clearly pushing hard and crashed shortly after setting his lap time. Dovizioso then came through fastest and Zarco left it until the very last moment to put himself on the front row.
Whilst Zarco’s pace was impressive, the factory Yamahas seem to be struggling again. They will start from 7th and 9th on the grid; although considering Marquez is starting 6th, they are not the only ones starting further down the order than they would’ve hoped. The Ducati was expected to be the best bike here so Dovizioso’s pole is unsurprising, but to not have a factory Honda or Yamaha on the front row at their home race is definitely not what the Japanese manufacturers would have been aiming for.
Ducati will certainly be looking for the win tomorrow and things look good for them so far, but their chances are diminished by Jorge Lorenzo again having to sit out the race weekend. The wrist fracture he obtained in Thailand is more severe than first thought and it is unlikely we will see him racing at the next race in Australia.
In Q1, it was home hero Takaaki Nakagami that stole the spotlight, making his way through to Q2 second fastest. Alvaro Bautista was the other rider to progress after topping the session. Bradley Smith showed very good pace on the KTM and just missed out on Q2 by less than a tenth, whilst Danilo Petrucci also had the potential for Q2; however, the Ducati rider made a mistake on his last lap and will start the race from 15th on the grid. Franco Morbidelli had a fast crash at turn 12 whilst on a fast lap but was unharmed. He will start the race from 17th.
MotoGP Motul Grand Prix of Japan – Qualifying Results:
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