Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi scored a sensational pole after posting a blistering lap the Twin Ring Motegi for the Japanese GP, as the Italian legend fought off Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez 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.
Rossi said: “It’s my third pole position of the year. I’m very happy because this year in qualifying I’m strong. We were struggling during this weekend to find the right balance and I’m also not a 100% fit, I’m suffering physically, I’m not feeling fantastic. In FP4 we improved the balance of the bike a lot and I did a very good lap and great braking in turn 11 and that was good. Starting from pole is always important and now we wait for tomorrow.”
Day two 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 regrouped and was looking good in his final attempt but an incident in front of him on track for LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow forced him to roll off, thus thwarting is bid for pole.
Lorenzo, battered and bruised following a highside in FP3 that saw the five-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, qualifying in third as he looks to take a record fourth premier class win at the venue.
2014 polesitter Andrea Dovizioso, piloted his Ducati to fourth on the grid as the lead bike from the Borgo Panigale factory, with former teammate Crutchlow crashing in the final minutes of the session. However, the Brit, who won at Brno, was still quick enough to secure fifth, and he will be lining up alongside Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro. Surprisingly Espargaro outpaced teammate Maverick Viñales at the Hamamatsu factory’s home race, and the younger Spaniard lines up in seventh.
Hector Barbera had a solid session as he replaces injured Andrea Iannone on the Factory Ducati to qualify eighth, with Pramac’s Danilo Petrucci and Satellite Yamaha pilot Pol Espargaro completing the top ten.