Jorge Lorenzo takes Motegi MotoGP Pole
Jorge Lorenzo came out on top in an epic duel with his teammate and title rival Valentino Rossi to take his 4th pole of the season.
Movistar Yamaha’s Lorenzo enjoyed an incredible duel with Rossi during the 15-minute Q2 session, eventually coming out on top by just 0.081s. The Spaniard, who has topped every session so far at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, ended up setting the fastest ever lap by a MotoGP bike around the 4.8km Twin Ring Motegi despite the cloudy and cool conditions (Track temp. 25˚C).
Lorenzo set a 1’43.790 on his final flying lap, knocking over seven-tenths off Andrea Dovizioso’s 2014 Pole Record (1’44.502). The man who trails Rossi by just 14 points in the standings utilised a two-stop strategy after experiencing some front-end issues on his first run.
Jorge Lorenzo – P1 – “I did the maximum and I am very happy with my pole position. The humidity that came in the last hour also didn’t help me to enter the corners with confidence like I could in the morning. I struggled a little bit, trying not to crash, but I gave my all and it’s a good lap time.”
Rossi knew he had to put in a good qualifying performance to not let Lorenzo get away at the front during Sunday’s race, after Lorenzo has led from flag to flag during his 6 wins this season. The Italian managed to take over a second off his best time in practice to start from second on the grid in only his fourth front row start of the season and best Qualifying performance since Assen.
Valentino Rossi – P2 – “We hoped to get the pole, but it didn’t happen. It’s a shame, because getting a pole position doesn’t happen very often, especially not to me. On the other side, I’m very satisfied about today’s progress. Already this morning we made good improvement with the team, but the important step came this afternoon when I was consistently fast in the fourth free practice session. I was confident for qualifying and we used a good strategy and I was in the right place. Unfortunately I made a small mistake, but it was OK and I hope I can be competitive enough tomorrow to fight with Jorge.”
It was also the first time the Movistar Yamaha team have managed a 1-2 in Qualifying this season and the two teammates were the only ones to break the 1’44 barrier.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez (+0.426s) impressed despite riding with a broken bone in his left hand to finish third fastest. It is the 13th time this season the reigning MotoGP champion has been on the front row.
Marc Marquez – P3 – “Today has been another difficult day, but it is important for tomorrow that my hand has not got worse and has remained quite stable. I’m happy, because on a single lap, with new tyres, we were able to achieve a good time and improve on the target we had set ourselves, which was to start from the second row. However, we must be realistic and if it does not rain tomorrow, both Jorge and Valentino are one step ahead and we will be fighting for third place. We are working on the setup of the bike, but it seems that we’re finding it hard to find a good compromise. We are getting closer and I am very happy with all the work the team are doing.”
The Ducati Team duo of Andrea Dovizioso (+0.532s) and Andrea Iannone (+0.646s) were next up in fourth and fifth respectively as they made use of an extra set of aerodynamic winglets on their GP15’s and the extra soft tyre. It was Dovizioso’s best qualifying performance since the Catalan GP, while Iannone showed no ill effects of his re-dislocated shoulder to start from the second row for the sixth time this season.
Andrea Dovizioso – P4 – “I’m a bit disappointed about my fourth place in qualifying, but I think that at the most we could have got a third place and nothing more. So for me that’s OK, because I also feel we’ve worked well throughout the weekend and we have a good race pace. We’re still missing a bit of pace to stay with Lorenzo, who is quite far away, but we are back to being quick and amongst the frontrunners once again. Now we’ll only get a better idea of how competitive we are in tomorrow’s race.”
Andrea Iannone – P5 – “I’m really sorry about the way qualifying went because for sure we could have done better, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to be particularly efficient today in my two runs. For the rest I am quite happy with the way the weekend has gone: we have worked well and we managed to improve in each session and this is positive in view of tomorrow. My race pace is not bad at all and I hope that we can still do a bit of fine-tuning in the warm-up to make my GP15 better for the race.”
Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa (+0.792s) will start from the back of the second row after improving his time best time from practice by over 1.3 seconds in Q2. It is the third consecutive time that the Spaniard has lined up on the second row of the grid this year.
Dani Pedrosa – P6 – “Today has not been a great day, because we had some problems with the setup of the bike and I wasn’t riding very comfortably. In the qualifying session I managed to finish in a reasonable position and tomorrow we will try to do our best, be motivated and try to improve. It may be that the weather changes, so we will have to be very focused to try to make the most of our chances.”
Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro was seventh as he also benefitted from the extra soft tyre, ahead of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) on the leading Satellite bike in eighth.
Aleix Espargaro – P7 – “The reality is that I’m happy with seventh place but I’m not so satisfied about the day overall. Today the track was a lot colder than yesterday and in these conditions the soft tyre couldn’t perform as well as I expected. However, P7 is a good start, we are very close to the second row and this means we are in good shape. On the other hand I feel very comfortable with the hard tyre, I have been fast since yesterday with that configuration and I feel comfortable about the pace for tomorrow. For sure we have to make some more checks and see how we can further improve, and at the same time we’ll have to see the weather conditions since some rain is expected. In that case it will be an unpredictable race, we have had two wet races so far and they were completely the opposite: We will see what happens and how we can react.”
Cal Crutchlow – P8 – “It was a difficult day today, but it’s not so bad to be starting from the third row of the grid. My lap time improved considerably over the course of the day, and then I made a couple of small mistakes on my fast lap. I hoped that I could get it right second time round, but I had the feeling that the rear tyre wasn’t working properly on the last run. Still, we need to be positive about Sunday’s race because I think we can get a good result.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith will start from 9th, despite crashing twice during the session. The Brit went down at turn 5 and the turn 12 after also crashing in FP3, but still managed to complete 5 laps in the session.
Bradley Smith – P9 – “First of all I want to start by apologising to the team for the extra work that I created today with my three crashes, which were all on laps where I was really pushing. A big thanks as well to Pol’s guys who helped out to make sure both of my bikes were ready for FP4. Aside from that I have to say that we had a very strong day and I am feeling confident for the race tomorrow as we know what we can achieve. Of course it is a bit disappointing to crash twice in Q2, but I know why it happened and the fact is that I pushed a bit too hard as I knew that if everything went perfectly then I would have probably been able to get onto the front row and so for myself, it was worth a try. The first fall was a pity as I locked the front going into turn five and the fork bottomed out. I could have picked up the bike but the electronics didn’t shut down fully so I had to jump on my second Yamaha. However, the front tyre on that M1 had already done 17 laps when I left the garage, so running at only 0.3 off the top time just before I fell was a bit too much! Both crashes were quick and I know that they happened because I was really at the limit. Nevertheless, I have a firm battle plan for tomorrow and I am feeling optimistic for the race after what happened in FP4. There, Jorge was behind me and didn’t make too many inroads into me and I set low 1’45 lap times as I have been for the entire weekend. I still believe a top five is a definite possibility and it is what I will be aiming for as my main ambition is to not lose many points on Dani and I have to try and stay in front of the Ducati’s. So, I intend to have a consistent race with a good start to conclude the first of the three back to back flyaway races solidly.”
Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) completed the top ten after making it through from Q1 along side EG 0,0 Marc VDS’s Scott Redding, who will start from 12th.
Maverick Viñales – P10 – “Finally I could improve a lot from yesterday and I’m very happy with this. We’ve lost almost the whole of Friday with a configuration that didn’t make me feel totally comfortable, but it was good to gain experience; in fact today I have a much better feeling with the bike and I improved a lot. My lap times today are faster: 1.4s on the single fast lap and around 1.0s on consistent pace overall. This means we are getting closer to my team-mate who is of course my first point of reference. Tomorrow it’s hard to predict, we are expecting rain and this could mix-up things because we have very little experience of these conditions, but at the same time it could represent a chance of a higher-place finish that we could exploit. My GSX-RR has a good balance on wet set-up, therefore I hope that in any case we will be able to react properly and find a good technical set up.”
Pol Espargaro – P11 – “Overall, I tried my best but it was a challenging day and we have some work to do ahead of the race tomorrow in order to be able to perform how we want to. A positive about today was that we managed to solve the grip issue that was affecting us yesterday. However, I’m still struggling with the turning of my M1 because when I enter the corners it is really tough to hold the right line as the bike keeps running wide. Therefore I found myself in the wrong positions when exiting the turns and it goes without saying that I can’t be fast like this. Moreover, it is physically challenging and makes it nearly impossible to change direction quickly. As a result we will have a long night and need to take a deep look into the data to improve this situation for tomorrow morning’s warm up which will hopefully be dry. However, I know that if we can recover a decent feeling with the turning, we will have a good chance in the race, but I guarantee that I will do my best tomorrow to give the Japanese fans a good show.”
Scott Redding – P12 – “To be honest I was surprised to get through to Q2 because even yesterday I said that it would be difficult in Q1 because of the softer tyre this weekend. We pushed as hard as we could and made it through but we had no tyres left for Q2. In the final session I had to use tyres from the previous session so, in the end, to match my lap time was quite good. The front tyre had done four attacking runs and it was starting to lose performance but I’m happy with the job that we’ve done because we went faster and then stayed at that pace. I think that will help tomorrow for our normal lap times in the race, where I think I’ll be able to go a bit faster and be a bit more consistent. I know that we’ve got a bit more potential for the race and the top ten or top eight tomorrow is our target. It could be interesting if it rains but we’ll prepare for everything and we’ll see what the weather brings tomorrow.”
Stefan Bradl – P13 – “Making it into Q2 today would have been a fantastic result. We came close and we can be pleased with the job we did. Not only because of the excellent lap in Q1, but also because in the last free practice session we achieved an excellent race pace. This morning we worked a lot with used tyres in an effort to solve the problems that have slowed us down lately in the race finale because of a lack of grip. In the afternoon we managed to find some good solutions, even working on the suspension, so I hope that tomorrow we’ll have good weather to be able to ride a good race and earn some points.”
Wildcard Katsuyuki Nagasuka (Yamaha Factory Racing Team) will start from 15th, with Hector Barbera on the Avintia Racing Ducati the leading open class rider in 18th.
Katsuyuki Nakasuga – P15 – “Yesterday’s fall really boosted my motivation. Then in today’s third free practice session I beat my personal best with a time of 1’46.280, and then I got a 1’45.476 in Q1. That time even surprised me, and it was a time that my team wasn’t expecting either. By getting a time in the 1’45 range, I feel that I have gotten a little closer to a point where I can get a better understanding of how Rossi and Lorenzo are riding. Of course, they are riding at a different level from me, but I feel that I have now gotten a better idea of things, that I haven’t experienced before like how they are sliding their front and rear tires. In tomorrow’s race, my primary goal will be to be in the top 15. And from there, I will try to move up as high as I can. There are a lot of fast riders in this year’s MotoGP, so it is no easy job to finish in the top 15, but I am going to give everything I have to that challenge.”
Alvaro Bautista – P16 – “Lapping in 45 six is really not bad at all, even if I didn’t feel comfortable straight away with the first tyre that slid around on me. The second went much better so I tried to push to the limit but we still need to do some work to improve braking since I am still not able to stop the bike the way I would like to. Now we need to focus on race pace where we need to be more consistent even when the tyre starts to wear. We have the data from today to analyse in order to know which solution to choose. Then, naturally, everyone is waiting to see what the weather will do since the chance of rain seems fairly certain.”
Takumi Takahashi – P19 – “Today was a positive day and we made another step forward. I was happy with qualifying lap as my target time was 1’45 and I succeeded but the grid position was not as good as I had hoped. For tomorrow I will set myself a high target to take points and maybe even finish in the top ten.”
Aspar MotoGP Team’s Eugene Laverty and Nicky Hayden will start from 20th and 21st respectively as just 0.092s separated the teammates.
Eugene Laverty – P20 – “We managed to salvage the day because it started off really bad. I made a mistake and crashed after only a few laps this morning so the day started difficult but we regrouped and to do that lap time, a 1’45.7, I was on the ragged edge. I was surprised by the lap time because I was really struggling, the bike set up is not quite right so we have some work to do to improve for the race. It could be wet tomorrow so that changes everything, but if it’s dry then we need a dry warm-up because that lap in qualifying was really on the limit. We made some changes today and we understand the direction but it’s a question of whether we have enough time tomorrow to fix it. All I want is the same conditions in the warmup that we get in the race so that we can complete some work because we also need to find some rear grip in the wet.”
Nicky Hayden – P21 – “This morning didn’t start out so good, we were having some problems with the brakes and the first couple of runs we couldn’t get going. But then from there we sorted that out, improved the bike quite a lot and also the lap time. In FP4 we actually improved the rear of the bike but we created some chatter in the front, we don’t know where it came from. In qualifying I never got a good lap together. At one point Bradl ran wide and came back, so that slowed me down, and then on the last run I had good clean track, no excuses, I was on a fast lap but in turn seven I had a bunch of front chatter, ran wide and ruined the split. I could have gone faster but “coulda-woulda-shoulda”, everybody’s got one of those! Regardless the bike feels pretty good so hopefully I can have a good race tomorrow. I feel my thumb is much better than it was at Aragon – I still feel a little pain but I have all my strength so I can ride properly. Finally I want to wish Alex de Angelis well. That’s not a good place to crash so all of our thoughts are with him.”
Australian Jack Miller will start Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix from 22nd place on the grid after a difficult day of qualifying. The LCR Honda rider has undoubtedly found going tough at the manufacturer’s home race, and felt unable to improve the bike after an excellent first day in which he placed 15th.
Having only been able to take another 0.4 seconds out of his best Friday time during the qualifying session, Miller will now line up on the eighth row of the grid hoping for a big turnaround in terms of feeling during the warm-up session.
Jack Miller – P22 – “I’m not very happy with the job today, we could have done a bit better I reckon. Normally you should improve a lot between the second free practice and qualifying, but we seemed to have hit the limit and it felt like it was as fast as we could make the bike go. Myself and the team are working so hard to come up with some ideas to improve the bike, and we are doing our best. We just hope that on Sunday we can find something in the warm-up but at the moment I just can’t see it happening.”
Loris Baz – P23 – “It was not an easy day. I struggled a lot in FP3 and in qualifying I could not find the right feeling. I like the track, but at the same time it is difficult to learn, so I will have to attack during the race. We start behind our opponents, but we can regain some positions. It will also be a difficult race because of the uncertain weather.”
Toni Elias – P25 – “I improved during all rounds of free practice and qualifying and I was able to lap in 1.46. I am satisfied overall: I have a better feeling than at Aragon and I have made a positive step forward. We are not far from the other open and I finally found a good setup to start with. We can do well tomorrow, but much will depend on the weather.”
E-Motion IodaRacing Team’s Alex De Angelis had earlier brought out the red flag in FP4 as he crashed heavily between turns 9 & 10 and was airlifted to Dokkyo Hospital for treatment.
MotoGP Qualifying Results
1 – J. Lorenzo (SPA) YAMAHA 1’43.790
2 – V. Rossi (ITA) YAMAHA + 0.081
3 – M. Marquez (SPA) HONDA + 0.426
Zarco celebrates Moto2 title with pole
Ajo Motorsport’s Zarco set the fastest ever lap by a Moto2 bike around the Twin Ring Motegi, a 1’50.339, shaving over half a second off Tito Rabat’s 2014 Pole Record (1’50.854). The Frenchman managed to set this time despite cooler conditions on Saturday afternoon (Track temp. 23˚C) to finish 0.171s ahead of Derendinger Racing Interwetten Thomas Luthi. It was Luthi’s first front row start since Argentina.
AGR Team’s Jonas Folger (+0.577s) was a further 0.406s back from Luthi as he completed the front row in his best Qualifying performance since the Catalan GP. Speed Up Racing’s Sam Lowes (+0.614s) heads up the second row in fourth. The British rider managed to set the exact same time as Paginas Amarillas HP40’s Alex Rins (5th), but starts ahead of the Spaniard due to his next best lap. Rins missed out on the front row for the first time in six races.
Petronas Raceline Malaysia Hafizh Syahrin equalled his best Qualifying performance of the season and will start from the back of the second row in sixth, but was 0.947s off the pace of Zarco.
Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Takaaki Nakagami will start from seventh at his home grand prix ahead of Axel Pons (AGR Team), Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing) who completed the top ten. Reigning Moto2 World Champion Tito Rabat is sitting out the rest of the weekend after being declared unfit at the end of FP1 with his broken left radius, hence why Zarco was crowned champion on Friday.
Josh Hook ended the qualifying session 23rd quickest as he adapts to the Moto2 machine and tyres.
Moto2 Qualifying Results
1 – J. Zarco (FRA) KALEX 1’50.339
2 – T. Lüthi (SWI) KALEX + 0.171
3 – J. Folger (GER) KALEX + 0.577
Fenati takes maiden Moto3 pole
Sky Racing Team VR46’s Fenati set a 1’56.484 in the much cooler conditions (27˚C) of Saturday afternoon at an overcast Twin Ring Motegi. The Italian broke Danny Kent’s 2014 Pole Record (1’56.555) in the process despite crashing late on in the session at turn 5.
The grid was revised after Qualifying as a number of penalties were handing out by Race Direction for riding slowly on the racing line in FP3 and Qualifying. This means that Ongetta-Rivacold’s Niccolo Antonelli (+0.403s) will line up in second despite qualifying 4th on the timesheets and even though he crashed out of the session at turn 5 in the dying moments. It is Antonelli’s fourth front row start of the season, but first since his pole at Brno.
Gresini Racing Team Moto3’s Enea Bastianini (+0.443s) completes the front row in third ahead of the man leading the standings, Danny Kent (+0.514s) on the Leopard Racing Honda in fourth. Both men launched successful appeals after also originally receiving a 3-place grid penalty for riding slowly on the racing line in FP3 and therefore escaped any punishment.
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Miguel Oliveira (+0.173s) will start from fifth after receiving a 3-place penalty during Qualifying after originally setting a time good enough for second. Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Jorge Navarro (+0.236s) was also hit with such a penalty, relegating him from third to sixth.
Isaac Viñales (RBA Racing Team), Livio Loi (RW Racing GP), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Francesco Bagnaia (Mapfre Team Mahindra) completed the top ten.
Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC) will start from 11th after qualifying in 8th, but receiving a three-place grid penalty for riding slowly on the racing line in FP3, along with Alexis Masbou who will start from 22nd.
Scotsman John McPhee (SAXOPRINT RTG) could only qualify in 24th position, while Fabio Quartararo (Estrella Galicia 0,0) on his return from injury will start in 29th.
Remy Gardner – P30 – “Is a little bit frustrating but this can happen. An electrical problem prevented me to be in the Top 20 at qualifying but my morning best lap time shows that we’ve done a good job despite this problem and are ready for tomorrow’s race. The only complication is that I’ll start the race from the rear of the grid and first laps will be very difficult in terms of recover the maximum possible positions”.
Moto3 Qualifying Results
1 – R. Fenati (ITA) KTM 1’56.484
2 – M. Oliveira (POR) KTM + 0.173
3 – J. Navarro (SPA) HONDA + 0.236