Dovizioso snatches pole in frantic Motegi qualifying

by Alice Cipolat
Andrea Dovizioso, Motegi Circuit Japan 2018 FP

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:

PosRiderConstructorTeamBest Time
14. Andrea DoviziosoDucatiDucati Team1.44.590
25. Johann ZarcoYamahaMonster Yamaha Tech 31.44.658
343. Jack MillerDucatiAlma Pramac Racing1.44.727
435. Cal CrutchlowHondaLCR Honda Castrol1.44.820
529. Andrea IannoneSuzukiTeam Suzuki ECSTAR1.44.832
693. Marc MarquezHondaRepsol Honda Team1.44.889
725. Maverick VinalesYamahaMovistar Yamaha MotoGP1.45.140
842. Alex RinsSuzukiTeam Suzuki ECSTAR1.45.225
946. Valentino RossiYamahaMovistar Yamaha MotoGP1.45.265
1019. Alvaro BautistaDucatiAngel Nieto Team1.45.396
1126. Dani PedrosaHondaRepsol Honda Team1.45.519
1230. Takaaki NakagamiHondaLCR Honda IDEMITSU1:46.168
1338. Bradley SmithKTMRed Bull KTM Factory Racing1:45.722
1444. Pol EspargaroKTMRed Bull KTM Factory Racing1:45.742
159. Danilo PetrucciDucatiAlma Pramac Racing1:45.759
1655. Hafizh SyahrinYamahaMonster Yamaha Tech 31:45.765
1721. Franco MorbidelliHondaEG 0,0 Marc VDS1:45.969
1817. Karel AbrahamDucatiAngel Nieto Team1:46.072
1941. Aleix EspargaroApriliaAprilia Racing Team Gresini1:46.183
2089. Katsuyuki NakasugaYamahaYamalube Yamaha Factory Racing1:46.441
2145. Scott ReddingApriliaAprilia Racing Team Gresini1:46.571
2210. Xavier SimeonDucatiReale Avintia Racing1:46.573
2312. Thomas LuthiHondaEG 0,0 Marc VDS1:46.817
2450. Sylvain GuintoliSuzukiTeam Suzuki ECSTAR1.47.106
2581. Jordi TorresDucatiReale Avintia Racing1:47.147

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