Skip to content

Front row start for Dovi, Zarco and Miller | MOTOGP | SPORT

A mere two tenths of a second covered the front row for tomorrow’s Japanese GP. And title hopeful Marc Marquez was not on of it.

Pole went to the only rider with a realistic chance of stopping the Repsol Honda rider from securing his fifth MotoGP title in six years at Honda’s home track tomorrow – race favourite Andrea Dovizioso.

With a lead of 77 points and 75 on the table after this race, Marquez can (with more race wins) can afford to lose two points to Dovizioso to claim the crown. Essentially, if they are in the top four, he needs to be ahead of Dovizioso; if below that the Honda star can afford to be one place behind.

The factory Ducati rider had another Desmosedici on the front row with him – the independent-team bike of Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Ducati), who had briefly been fastest at the start of the final flurry, but then fell unhurt trying to go faster still next time round.

Miller, Japanese MotoGP 2018

In between, last year’s pole qualifier Johann Zarco was top Yamaha, on the Monster-backed independent bike.

Dovi was confident, saying: “I’m happy about pole, happy about the feeling, and also the way we worked this afternoon. We were good from the beginning … but Marc’s [race] pace is strong.”

Zarco was thinking of the chance of a first MotoGP win at the track where he took his first 125 win in 2011. “If Marc is thinking more about the championship, then perhaps I will have a chance,” he said.

And Miller was delighted with his third front row of the year. “We didn’t find the right solution until just before qualifying. When I put a new tyre on, my first flying lap was the best – which is unusual, but on the next lap I was quite a bit faster but I got too excited and went down at Turn 5.”

Miller, Japanese MotoGP 2018

Late charges consigned earlier leader Marquez to sixth, albeit less than three tenths down on pole. The champion-elect had only one bike for the 15-minute session, after a crash late in the preceding FP4.

LCR Castrol rider Cal Crutchlow was top Honda, heading the second row from Ecstar Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone and Marquez.

The factory Movistar Yamahas spanned the third row, with Maverick better than a tenth quicker than Rossi, half-a-second off pole, and still confident of a revival in fortunes for the marque. Second Suzuki rider Alex Rins was between the pair.

Row four was led by Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Ducati), from Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Idemitsu Honda). Bautista and Nakagami had come through from Q1, where the latter knocked Bradley Smith’s Red Bull KTM out of the coveted top two by less than a tenth.

Nakagami, Japanese MotoGP 2018

Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Ducati) was mired in Q1 after a crash this morning, starting from the back of row five, alongside Smith and his KTM team-mate Pol Espargaro.


Title leader Pecco Bagnaia claimed a sixth pole of the season at Motegi, where he is aiming for an eighth win to continue to extend his points lead over Red Bull KTM rider Miguel Oliveira, who qualified only ninth.

The Italian SKY VR46 Kalex rider’s earlier time was good enough to hold off a challenge from Fabio Quartararo (Speed Up), and yesterday’s fastest man Iker Lecuona (SII KTM), on the front row for the first time.

Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Kalex) heads row two from Lorenzo Baldassarri (HP40 Kalex) and Alex Marquez (EG-VDS Kalex), who emerged unhurt from a heavy crash yesterday.

Oliveira, currently 28 points adrift of the rampant Bagnaia, is behind second Dynavolt rider Xavi Vierge and home rider Tetsuta Nagashima (Idemitsu Kalex); with his factory KTM team-mate Brad Binder tenth, leading row four.

Remy Gardner (Tech 3) qualified 13th, one place ahead of top rookie Joan Mir (EG VDS Kalex). American Joe Roberts (NTS) placed 18th.


Argentine rider Gabriel Rodrigo denied perennial pole man Jorge Martin in the last seconds of an exciting Moto3 qualifying session, claiming a first pole of the year, the third in his career.

The RBA team rider headed an all-KTM front row, with CIP-Green Power rider John McPhee grabbing second, also at the end of the session; with erstwhile title challenger Marco Bezzecchi third.

This dropped earlier leader and championship front man Martin (Del Conca Gresini Honda) to lead the second row, less than three tenths down.

Alongside, Darren Binder (Red Bull KTM) was a career-best fifth, as he finds form late in the season. Enea Bastianini (Leopard Honda) completed row two; Thai podium finisher Dennis Foggi (SKY VR46 KTM) leads row three.

Thai winner Fabio Di Giannantonio’s hopes of outranking Bezzecchi in the championship took a blow, with the Del Conca Honda rider qualified 15th, at the far end of the fifth row.

By Michael Scott

Photos GnG