Miller on front row in third – Marc Marquez sixth despite crash
Marc Marquez only needs to ensure he doesn’t let two points slip to Dovizioso at Motegi MotoGP, as well as not conceding 24 to Rossi, to claim the championship tomorrow, however Andrea Dovizioso is doing everything he can to deny Marc Marquez the crown, going fastest on Friday and following it up with pole position on Saturday – his third in the premier class at this track.
‘DesmoDovi’ won’t go down without a fight and the news gets even worse for Marquez on the rest of the front row, with Johann Zarco and Alma Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller taking second and third respectively – two men with no Championship pressure and everything to gain.
It was a quickfire end to Q2 qualifying at Motegi and ‘DesmoDovi’ avoided the drama to perfection. That wasn’t quite true of Zarco, who put in a spectacular last ditch all-or-nothing lap and only just missed pole, but it was even less for Miller as the Australian set a stunner and then ended the session in the gravel trap. No harm done and rider ok, his earlier exploits made sure he held on to his front row – and he’s optimistic ahead of race day.
The second row also has some big contenders for Marquez to pick his way past: fellow Honda rider Cal Crutchlow, who was on provisional pole until the last push, took fourth and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Andrea Iannone was a man who, like Zarco, left it late to pounce but then pushed Marquez back down to sixth.
The threats could also come from behind for the reigning Champion, however. Maverick Viñales is in seventh and edged out Alex Rins by less than a tenth, with the gap even smaller back to the second Movistar Yamaha of Valentino Rossi. Rossi, a former premier class winner at the venue, left it late to move through to Q2 in the morning and wasn’t able to challenge ahead of Row 3 in qualifying, with the Italian now looking for gains on Sunday.
Alvaro Bautista completes the top ten after he made it through Q1 – his final lap breaking Red Bull KTM Factory Racing hearts as he pushed out Bradley Smith – and three-time Motegi winner Dani Pedrosa had a more difficult session in P11. Home hero Takaaki Nakagami was the other graduate from Q1 and he lines up in tweflth after getting through to Q2 for the fourth time this season.
Smith was pushed down to P13, with his teammate Pol Espargaro and Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci locking out the fastest fifteen on Saturday.
So the stage is set and it’s Dovizioso in the driving seat so far at the Twin Ring Motegi. Will that be true on Sunday? A win can stop Marquez taking the title but anything less would likely see the Spaniard crowned.
Simply put, the number 93 is Champion if he scores points finishing ahead of Andrea Dovizioso, or he doesn’t concede more than two points to Dovizioso and 24 to Valentino Rossi. So if Dovizioso can pull off the win, not even second would be quite enough for Marquez and the fight would roll on to Phillip Island.
Andrea Dovizioso – P1 – 1’44.590
“My qualifying session went very well and I’m happy with the feeling I had during my pole run. We’ve got a good pace, but so has Marquez and not only him. I think we still have to improve something if we want to fight for the win tomorrow, so we’ll analyse the data to see what the tyre wear is like, because probably we’ll be able to adopt a different strategy than in the last two races, where we had to save the tyre for the final few laps. We went strongly both with the soft and the medium, and we haven’t decided yet which one to use. I want to thank my team for their great job, because with a few small modifications we were able to make a big improvement and in qualifying I did a really great lap. This morning my aim was to set a time of 1’44.6 and I ended up lapping in 1’44.5!”
Jack Miller – P3 – 1’44.727
“I am very happy for this qualifying. The team has done a great job and the feeling with the bike has been very good since the free practices. In the second lap of the time attack, I thought I could win the Pole Position and I pushed to the maximum, probably over the limit. It’s ok. I have great confidence for the race”.
Cal Crutchlow – P4 – 1’44.820
“We are happy about the pace for today, the Team have worked very hard over the weekend to improve our package and be competitive, and we are. But I’m disappointed about the qualifying position, I made a mistake in the last corner and I was unable to take advantage and go on the front row. It would have been very helpful for tomorrow’s race to be starting on the front row. I’ve had great pace all weekend and I feel comfortable and confident for tomorrow, I look forward to seeing what happens in the race.”
Andrea Iannone – P5 – 1’44.832
“Today has not been so bad, and I’m happy with my qualifying result. I pushed really hard during the last minutes of the session and I improved a bit, which meant I can start from 5th. For us it’s really good for tomorrow, and we also had strong pace in FP4, so we’re confident. The track conditions could be different tomorrow, and for sure everyone will be close together, but I’ll try my best to stay at the top.”
Marc Marquez – P6 – 1’44.889
“In FP4 I crashed on the bike that I was feeling very strong and constant with, while my second bike had quite a different setup that I didn’t like as much. We had no time to change it, so I started qualifying expecting to struggle a bit, although still with the aim of earning a start position on the front two rows. That said, we know that our race pace is good for tomorrow, and we’re happy with that. We’ll try to start well, and then we’ll see where we are at the end of the first lap; from then on we’ll try and manage the race well, with the target of getting on the podium and, if possible, of fighting for the victory.”
Motegi MotoGP 2018 – Qualifying Results – Top 10
Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Ducati 1’44.590
Johann ZARCO FRA Yamaha 1’44.658
Jack MILLER AUS DUCATI 1’44.727
Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR LCR Honda 1’44.820
Andrea IANNONE ITA SUZUKI 1’44.832
Marc MARQUEZ SPA Honda 1’44.889
Maverick VIÑALES SPA Yamaha 1’45.140
Alex RINS SPA SUZUKI 1’45.225
Valentino ROSSI ITA Yamaha 1’45.265
Alvaro BAUTISTA SPA 1’45.396
Moto2 qualifying at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan saw Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia take his sixth pole position of the season by 0.165 over second place Fabio Quartararo, with Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors) lining up on the front row for the first time in his Grand Prix career. Bagnaia’s form from pole has been dominant this season, with that a warning shot for the field.
Bagnaia didn’t top any of the Free Practice sessions ahead of qualifying at the Twin Ring Motegi but managed to string the fastest lap together when it counted most, ensuring he starts from the front row for the first time since Misano.
Quartararo had been fastest in FP3 on Saturday morning, meanwhile, but he couldn’t quite better the early benchmark of 1:50.759. Nonetheless, the Frenchman grabs his best qualifying result since he secured pole at the Catalan GP and Friday’s fastest Lecuona made it his best ever qualifying to start alongside Quartararo.
Just behind them, Marcel Schrötter will launch from the front of the second row in fourth in yet another strong showing for the German, with Lorenzo Baldassarri improving his time late in the session to earn himself a P5 starting position.
After his huge FP1 crash, Alex Marquez will aim to fight for the podium on a track he claimed victory at last season from P6 on the grid. The man second that day is the rider to start behind the Spaniard on the grid: future teammate Xavi Vierge.
P7 for the Spaniard means a best grid position since the German GP, at the head of Row 3. Home rider Tetsuta Nagashima took a brilliant P8 after being inside the top ten in every session in Motegi, edging out Championship challenger Miguel Oliveira, who has some work to do from ninth. His teammate Brad Binder completed the top ten fastest after a more difficult weekend so far for the South African.
With a sizeable margin of points in his pocket, Bagnaia could play it safe on Sunday but he says his plan is to push from the off.
Gabriel Rodrigo will start Sunday’s Motul Grand Prix of Japan from pole position after a stellar qualifying session, putting in a 1:56.894 to edge less than a tenth clear of those on the chase. The first of those was John McPhee, 0.075 in arrears, with title contender Marco Bezzecchi joining the duo on the front row in P3.
Rodrigo was topping the timesheets before the typical late flurry of times came in an enthralling final ten minutes of the session, with Enea Bastianini took the chequered flag first to shoot to P1 but the story of the session not yet concluded. Championship leader Jorge Martin managed to find himself some clean air to beat the Bastianini’s time, but lurking just behind him was Rodrigo.
A great lap from the Argentinean rider saw him dip below the 1:57 barrier, with key title contender Bezzecchi then crucially setting a faster lap than Martin to put himself P2. The Spaniard looked like he would be able to cling on to the front row before McPhee then shot up to P2, making it a front row lock out for Austrian manufacturer KTM.
The points leader therefore has to settle for a P4 starting slot, with Darryn Binder managing to put in a strong last lap to line up alongside the Spaniard on the second row. P5 is the South African’s best ever qualifying, beating his previous best of sixth last time out. In Japan, however, it’s Bastianini starting sixth, with the Italian pushed down from the top to the outside of the second row.
Compatriot Dennis Foggia heads Row 3 after missing out to Bastianini by just 0.008, with Kazuki Masaki taking eighth to complete a great Saturday for the RBA BOE Skull Rider team. He’s the highest-placed Japanese rider on home turf. Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team) and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) complete the top ten.
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