Double front row for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP at Motegi
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 record number of pole positions held by both Marquez and Rossi’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
Valentino Rossi – P1 – 1m43.954
“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 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.
Marc Marquez – P2 – 1m44.134
“Getting pole would’ve been the best thing for a Saturday, but I’m happy with second place because this circuit is one at which I had expected to struggle a bit more. As it turns out, we’re doing pretty well and have ridden at a good pace throughout the weekend. This afternoon the first run went well enough, but when I took my second bike out I made a small mistake at turn 11 during the first flying lap. I had a last possibility to try to improve but I saw the yellow flag where Crutchlow had just crashed and I slowed down.”
A battered and bruised Lorenzo, following his highside in FP3, 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 after breaking his collarbone on the Thursday. Reigning Champion Lorenzo lines up on the front row in P3.
Jorge Lorenzo – P3 – 1m44.221
“I feel much better than a few hours ago. The painkillers and the adrenaline of riding my bike have improved my feelings. I was scared to get injured, especially for the left leg where I had the biggest impact. It was a big crash, but I was able to make it back for qualifying and we did great, especially on the first lap time in my second stint, I didn‘t do so much on the second try. Rossi‘s lap time was incredible and also Marquez‘s time. It wasn‘t possible to make it a pole position, but it was much better than we expected when I arrived back at the track.”
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.
Andrea Dovizioso – P4 – 1m44.294
“I’m very happy with the lap time I set in qualifying: I did a really great lap and I’m also pleased with the job me and my team have been doing at this circuit. Fourth place is OK for me, because on this circuit it’s not much of a disadvantage to start from row 2. In FP4 we always kept up a good pace, but we are all pretty close and we will only see in the race who has worked the best. Our speed over the lap is in line with the quickest guys and the only question mark regards the possibility of keeping up the same pace for 24 laps.”
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.
Cal Crutchlow – P5 – 1m44.402
“Again I think it was a bit of a missed opportunity to get onto the front row, I made a small mistake under braking trying to push to make up for the lack of acceleration and the speed of our bike this weekend. We are doing a good job as a team though, I’m very happy with how we are working and how I’m riding at the moment. I’m looking forward to a good race on Sunday, not only do we need to do a good job for the LCR team but also for Honda and try and help them out in the constructor’s championship if we can. I have to step up a little with Dani Pedrosa being absent. As I said yesterday, we hope that Dani comes back soon, it’s a shame that he’s not here to race this weekend.”
Espargaró’s positive day started in the morning with a solid FP3 in the top positions and a consistent and fast pace in FP4. The improvements done on his GSX-RR proved to be effective as the Spaniard could find a confident feeling with the machine, especially with the rear-end. This helped also in qualifying when Espargaró posted a 1’44.494 lap-time that gave him the second row.
Aleix Espargaró – P6 – 1m44.494
“I’m happy for the whole weekend in general, to be honest I was expecting a little better for the chrono, I hoped to fight for the first row, but I made a little mistake in sector one and this affected my fast-lap attempt. The pace in FP4 was very good, even a couple of tenths better than what we expected, so I’m happy. We have already decided the rear tyre, while we still have some doubts about the front one, we will have to check some other solutions tomorrow and then take our decision. Also the brake management will be crucial for the race; this circuit has some very hard braking, this means that the brakes get hot very quickly and for me this is an issue. I’m a heavy rider, so this problem is more evident to me than to other riders, meaning that I will need to manage the brake temperature trying to have a clear line in front of me so to allow much air to intake and cool down the braking system.”
Viñales’ second day in Motegi was a little more complicated. The morning session saw him make some progress, as well as the consistency test done in FP4, but he couldn’t be as effective as he wanted in qualifying, ending the session below his expectations. His race is expected to be an aggressive one, trying to be very fast at the start.
Maverick Viñales – P7 – 1m44.539
“This qualifying didn’t end how I was expecting and being seventh is a lot below our potential. We made some good improvements in the morning session, and also the pace is very good, but then in qualifying we decided to apply a set-up that proved not to be as improved as we wanted. This didn’t allow me to find a perfect feeling and resulted in a not-so positive position. Seventh place is not that bad, but makes the race a little harder. I feel very confident on this track and I’m sure we can find improvements before tomorrow, the strategy will be pretty easy; get a perfect jump at the start and try to recover as soon as possible, because the pace is consistent and fast.”
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.
“Today was a positive day and I felt much better than yesterday on the Desmosedici GP. I only need to put in a lot more mileage on the bike to get used to its characteristics. In FP4 we only worked with used tyres and I started to get to know the bike better: we made a big step forward, but in Q2 I was unable to put together a perfect lap. In any case I’m eighth on the grid and I start from the third row, but it’s a position from where you can do a good race. For tomorrow I think we can still improve the setup a bit and I’m sure I can also improve my feeling with the bike.”
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Pol Espargaro will begin his quest to finish as the top independent rider in tomorrow’s Japanese GP by bolting from the third row of the grid.
Pol Espargaro – P9 – 1m45.232
“Overall, I have to be satisfied about qualifying on the third row today, as this session is the one that I have been struggling with the most in the last few races. For example, in Aragon, we were fast for the entire weekend but I ended up on the fourth row by the end of QP2. Therefore, ninth is nothing to be too excited about, but at least it gives us the chance to stay with the top guys at the beginning of the race. The main aim in the opening stage of the GP will be to stay in front of as many Ducatis as possible, because I’m convinced that it will be very tricky to pass them later on, due to their advantage with acceleration. In terms of tyre choices, we have a clear idea about what to use, and fortunately for us, our rhythm over race distance should be better than a single lap performance. We tried a completely different setup in FP4, however, I felt that it wasn’t as beneficial as we expected, so we opted for another direction for qualifying and it took me a few laps to adapt to this new setting. Nevertheless, during the second run, I felt a lot better and I believe we will continue to work with this option in tomorrow’s warm up so that we can put ourselves in the best possible position for the 24 lap battle.”
Octo Pramac Yakhnich confirmed the positive trend in qualifying, with Danilo Petrucci managing to qualify directly, while Scott Redding was able to gain second place in Q1, reaching his team mate in the qualifying for the pole position.
Danilo Petrucci – P10 – 1m45.782
“I do not know whether to be happy or not, today. This morning I crashed ruining a little our work but in the end I did it to get into Q2 and this allowed me to concentrate on race pace in FP4. In qualifying, however, I was a donkey: I started well and in the second run I tried to wait for a fast driver to follow, I found Lorenzo but I made soon a mistake turning wide. We will see tomorrow what will happen but all things considered I am satisfied with what we have done so far during the weekend.”
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.
Scott Redding recorded remarkable progress after the difficulties encountered in the Friday’s free practice. After missing the direct qualification to Q2 by only 10 milliseconds, he stayed focused and managed to win one of the two available places in Q1. In the second run of Q2, Scott set his fastest which gives him the eleventh position on the grid.
Scott Redding – P11 – 1m45.827
“I was a little disappointed not to have gone directly into Q2 having finished the Q1 just 10 thousandths of a second behind Danilo. But in the end I am satisfied because the gap was really large yesterday, while today we were able to stay very close to the Top 10. I think the factory bikes have made considerable progress over the last few races, so it is very difficult to stay in front or even also close the Top 8. However, we are on the right path and I am confident for tomorrow.”
Q2 proved to be unlucky for Alvaro Bautista, who immediately had a less than optimum feeling with the front tyre, crashing on turn 9 during his first flying lap. This means that the Spaniard will start from the fourth row with the twelfth best time, just ahead of his teammate.
Alvaro Bautista – P12 – 1m45.614
“The day was certainly positive overall, but it’s a pity about what happened in Q2. Unfortunately, in the first flying lap we decided to change the front tyre and straight away it did not give me the feeling that had been very good during FP4. I crashed without any warning when we could have improved our position on the grid by a few spots. In any case, the changes made today brought results. I was able to maintain a pace of around 1’45.5 even with used tyres in the race distance simulation. The sensations are good. As always we will set our sights on a top ten finish and I am confident that I can do it”.
Only a crash by Bradl in Q1, in the last part of his lap and while he was ahead of the rest, kept Aprilia from the one-two lead in the first qualifying session, with Stefan Bradl lining up in P13 on the grid as a result.
Stefan Bradl – P13 – 1m45.823
“Contrasting sensations today. In Q1 I was on a very good lap, but unfortunately I made a small mistake on the last sector of the track. We had the potential to go through to Q2 as well. We have a consistent package but we paid a high price for a very small mistake. I was obviously very angry at the end of qualifying, but I need to be realistic and look toward tomorrow’s race, for which we have prepared very well. We have a chance to bring home a good result. That is the most important thing after all the excellent work we have done so far”.
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller will start the Japanese Grand Prix from 14th on the grid after a confidence boosting performance in qualifying. Miller bounced back from two crashes in the morning free practice session to post his fastest time of the weekend so far with a best lap of 1’46. 347.
The performance reflected an improvement in set-up for front-end feel, which is crucial for the heavy braking forces at the stop-go 4.8km Twin Ring Motegi. Tomorrow’s 24-lap Japanese GP will be just the second race for Miller since he splashed his way to victory in the rain-hit Dutch TT at Assen in June.
In the 16 weeks since that superb maiden MotoGP win the 21-year-old Australian has missed four races, competing only in the German and British Grands Prix. While recovering from back and hand fractures Miller has missed crucial track time aboard his Honda RC213V and his strong qualifying session shows he is getting back to his best.
Jack Miller – P14 – 1m46.347
“It was nice to find some confidence in the front-end set-up for qualifying, the FP3 session was a bit of a disaster with a couple of crashes when I wasn’t even pushing for a time. It meant that the FP4 session and qualifying were both crucial for me and we found some extra speed in both sessions and hopefully we can carry this forward into the race. I’m still not totally happy but after missing a few races it is relief to know that physically I’m OK and that we have some margin in the front-end and can push for a good race result.”
Recovering Bradley Smith, who is handicapped by an injury to his right knee, bravely qualified on the 5th row of the grid for the round 15 battle. On qualifying one, the 25-year-old produced a heroic display as he rode at an impressive pace, despite the limitation with his knee, and he posted his personal best on his last lap out of 4.
Bradley Smith – P15 – 1m46.593
“We have to be more than pleased with today’s qualifying position because 15th is far beyond what we could expect when considering my injury. The team did an excellent job and together, we made some subtle changes to the bike which meant that step by step, my knee felt more comfortable in each session. Of course, qualifying is only a short distance and tomorrow will be much harder with the race being 24 laps, but today’s result is fantastic and now I just need to try and rest up as much as possible. For me, the tyre choice is quite clear for both ends of the bike and we have focused a lot on the rear grip, which is very important here because of the big acceleration. We will see what tomorrow brings but I’ve given myself a good opportunity by qualifying in 15th and the main objective is to get through the 24 laps.”
Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing Team wildcard rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga also had a good day at the track. He continued to make progress and positioned his YZR-M1 in 16th place on the grid for raceday.
For the Pull&Bear Aspar Team the aim over the 24-lap race will be to recover positions, with Yonny Hernández starting from seventeenth after a crash at the end of the final free practice of the day which limited his chances during qualifying. Hernández had to take out his second bike for the grid shootout and was not as comfortable with the set-up, so could not push to improve his best times.
Yonny Hernández – P17 – 1m46.705
“The crash in final free practice was a shame because it was with my number one bike, which I had a better feeling with. I lost the front on the brakes into turn ten. It was blocking a little before that but I didn’t feel like I was going to crash. It meant we had to qualify on the other bike and I didn’t feel totally comfortable with it. It didn’t turn so well and I didn’t have the same feeling with the engine mapping so I couldn’t get close to the lap times I was doing on the other bike. Hopefully we can do well tomorrow, my feeling with the number one bike and my pace is good so we want to be fighting for a good result.”
Spaniard Rabat is on a confidence-building mission of his own in the Far East after a tough recent run in his rookie MotoGP season. A sequence of front-end spills have dented Rabat’s confidence of late, but he is as determined and focused as ever to make a good impression at the Honda-owned Twin Ring Motegi where he has finished on the podium in 2012 and 2014 while competing in the Moto2 category.
Tito Rabat – P18 – 1m46.753
“I am happy with both free practice and qualifying because we are positives steps forward with the feel and set-up of the bike. I did two laps in the 1’46s in qualifying and this makes me confident that I can do a strong race.”
Eugene Laverty took medical advice and missed FP3, taking some extra rest following his heavy crash yesterday before returning to action in FP4. The Irishman was only able to complete five laps due to a problem with his bike but went out in qualifying and clocked a time of 1’47.070, enough for a seventh row start tomorrow.
Eugene Laverty – P19 – 1m47.070
“It has been a long 24 hours but I feel better right now than I did this time yesterday, that’s for sure! We decided to miss FP3 this morning and give myself a few more hours just to rest and get ready for the afternoon. We did okay, we made some laps, the important thing was just to get the feeling with the bike again and get ready for the race tomorrow. I would have liked to have done more laps but we had a problem with the bike in FP4 so I had to enter boxes and it took a little time to fix it for qualifying. Anyway, I stayed on the bike today and I got the feeling back so now we have another night’s sleep and we can be ready for the race tomorrow.”
Loris Baz improved from yesterday, but the lack of confidence is taking its toll on the Avintia Racing French rider, as he did not enough feeling with the front end of his bike. He’ll start the race from 20th place on the penultimate row of the grid, but he aims to recover some feeling over the 24 laps of the race.
Loris Baz – P20 – 1m47.501
“Everything is getting more difficult this weekend. I need more confidence, which is hard to recover in a test and even more so during a race weekend. On the brighter side, we have improved our lap times during qualifying by almost a second, but this is the maximum we were able to do. It is really difficult to give your best when you are so far behind. Tomorrow I’ll try to finish the race. We don’t have the pace, but we have to give our best. I hope to find some confidence during the warm-up, and a bit more during the race, but it will be crucial to finish and get a boost of confidence ahead of Phillip Island, where I think everything will be easier.”
“Mad Mike” Jones will start just behind Baz. The Australian rider has made the best of his MotoGP debut on Barbera’s bike so far.
He has improved more than three seconds from yesterday and his target is to finish the race tomorrow, to learn more, but most importantly, enjoy the experience.
Mike Jones – P21 – 1m47.631
“The second day was fantastic, we made a lot of improvements, both with my riding and also with the bike. All of the people involved in Avintia Racing are helping me to adapt to the MotoGP bike, so I made a lot of improvement with my riding to make the bike work, and also they made changes to the bike to suit my riding as well. We made up a lot of time and improved the lap times quite significantly, so I’m very happy. It’s all about being steady, moving step by step, and just taking it as it comes and enjoying the experience. But even the lap times are getting a lot better, I don’t want to get too carried away and think of a good result or anything like this. I just want to race and enjoy. It will be what it will be, but of course the better the position, the happier we will be. My lap times are better and I should be in a similar position with the other guys that are just in front of me, and I should be able to learn a lot through the race and gain even more experience.”
Hiroshi Aoyama will line up on the grid tomorrow for his home race in place of Dani Pedrosa, who broke his collarbone in a practice crash yesterday.
Hiroshi Aoyama – P22 – 1m47.788
“The crash in the morning wasn’t the best thing to happen when I was trying to find a good feeling. I tried to go faster and in FP3 I didn’t start badly at all, but in FP4 I had a small crash. I lost a bit of confidence and wasn’t able to give my maximum in the qualifying session. Tomorrow I hope to have more confidence and a better feeling, especially with the front end. The goal is to finish the race and try to get into the points.”
Zarco smashes pole record at the Twin Ring Motegi
First ever 1:49 of Japanese venue sees Frenchman wrestle back control from Luthi
Great conditions remained over the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan as the intermediate class followed MotoGP™ out on track – and it was reigning Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) who topped the timesheets in qualifying with a new record and the first 1:49 around the circuit.
The Frenchman then took a tumble at Turn 3 to end his session soon after. The man one point behind the reigning Champion, Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) suffered through a tough day after a crash on Friday and will line up P22.
Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) will line up P2 after holding onto provisional pole for much of the session, with the Swiss veteran having led the charge on Saturday morning and race pace looking ominous.
Luthi took a stunning win in 2014 – before Zarco managed the same last season. The first pacesetter of the qualifying session, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli, continued his great form with another front row in P3.
Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) heads the second row after finding a good chunk of time in qualifying, with the Brit hoping to make title gains as he sits 40 points back from Zarco. Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) impressed to take P5, ahead of Axel Pons (AGR Team) in sixth to complete the second row.
Home hero Takaaki Nakagami (Ajo Motorsport) starts the Japanese GP from P7 after proving fastest on Friday morning, ahead of Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) to complete row three. Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) completed the top ten.
Moto2 head out for the race at 12:20 local time (GMT+9), with one point separating Zarco and Rins – and the Spaniard facing a painful fightback from P22.
Migno scores first career pole at Motegi
Ono fastest in QP but three place penalty demotes Japanese rider to P4
Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) will begin the Japanese GP from pole position at the Twin Ring Motegi for the first time in his career, as the Italian set the second fastest lap in the QP session behind home hero Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia). Ono has a 3-place penalty from FP1 for riding too slowly in sectors of the track, and will therefore begin his home GP from P4.
Freshly crowned Moto3™ World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was third fastest in the session and will line-up P2, as the South African topped FP3 on Saturday morning after two crashes on Friday and completed his comeback in qualifying.
Completing the front row after setting the fourth fastest lap will be Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3), who gains an early advantage over rival Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) in the fight over P2 in the Championship, as Navarro qualified in eleventh.
Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) will start fifth behind penalized Ono, ahead of new teammate Lorenzo Dalla Porta – who recovered from some tough sessions to line up on the second row.
An incident in the final seconds saw Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing) and Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) crash out, with Antonelli having set the seventh quickest laptime, and the Italian will begin the race just in front of Frenchman Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing).
Drive M7 SIC Racing Team’s Adam Norrodin put in a stunning session to finish P9 and get a top ten start, with Schedl GP Racing’s Philipp Oettl completing that top ten.
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