Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) will start from pole at the Twin Ring Motegi for the Japanese GP, as the Italian legend fought off Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in a close Q2 to take his 64th pole – and equal the number of pole positions held by both Marquez and Rossi’s teammate, reigning Champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Day 2 at the Twin Ring Motegi was characterised by more somewhat uncharacteristic sunshine, with the venue providing near-perfect conditions as Q2 got underway. Marquez was the early leader in the session after also going fastest in FP3 and FP4, with the Championship leader then finding himself trailing Rossi on a hot lap and running wide – as the Italian then took over at the top. Marquez lost his final attempt after an incident in front of him on track for LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, rolling off and ruing the lost chance.
A battered and bruised Lorenzo, following a highside in FP3 that saw the 5-time World Champion heading to hospital for a CT scan, came back in stunning ‘Spartan’ style in qualifying to grit his teeth through the pain barrier – something the Mallorcan has previous form in after, most memorably, coming home in the top five at Assen in 2013 following a collarbone break and surgery on the Friday. The reigning Champion lines up on the front row in P3 as he looks to take a record fourth premier class win at the venue.
2014 polesitter Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was fourth quickest as the lead bike from the Borgo Panigale factory, with former teammate Crutchlow crashing in the final minutes of the session. The Brno winner kept P5 on the timesheets to line up on the second row, however, with that row completed by Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro. Espargaro outpaced teammate Maverick Viñales at the Hamamatsu factory’s home race, with the younger Spaniard lining up in P7.
Hector Barbera (Ducati Team) had a solid session as he replaces injured Andrea Iannone to qualify eighth, with Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) and Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) completing the top ten.
Q1 graduates Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) reversed positions in Q2 as the Brit qualified P11, after Bautista suffered a fall early in the session. Bautista’s teammate Stefan Bradl will line up in P13 after crashing out on a hot lap near the end of the Q1 session and losing a chance to move through.
Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) was P14 as he gets back on track, whilst Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) sat out much of the Q1 session as he returns from injuring his knee at the Oschersleben 8H – but secured an impressive P15 on his comeback.
Local hero and Suzuka 8H winner Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing) lines up in sixteenth, with Yonny Hernandez (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) P17 and Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) P18. Eugene Laverty (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) will start nineteenth, after a big crash on Friday saw the Irishman sit out FP3 and then get declared fit to race.
Mikes Jones (Avintia Racing) impressed on his MotoGP™ debut riding in place of Hector Barbera, qualifying comfortably and set to line up in P21 – just behind recuperating, temporary teammate Loris Baz. Dani Pedrosa’s replacement at Repsol Honda, Hiroshi Aoyama, will line up in P22.
Lights go out for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan at 14:00 local time (GMT +9), as Marquez readies himself for the possibility of taking the title – and Rossi and Lorenzo square up to stop him.
MotoGP™ Qualifying Results
1 – Valentino Rossi (ITA) YAMAHA 1’43.954
2 – Marc Marquez (SPA) HONDA +0.180
3 – Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) YAMAHA +0.267
1st Independent Team Rider
Pos 5 – Cal Crutchlow (GBR) HONDA + 0.448