Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso claimed pole for MotoGP’s Japanese GP at Motegi from Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco and Pramac Racing Ducati’s Jack Miller.
It was a closely-fought first part of qualifying with several lead changes but eventually it went to Angel Nieto Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista (1m45.429s) who topped the session to get a place into Q2 along with LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami (1m45.656s).
Interestingly, Bautista wasn’t among the riders to set the pace provisionally which changed hands between Pramac Racing Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, KTM’s Bradley Smith and Nakagami before Bautista’s charge.
Behind the Top 2, the two KTM riders did well with Smith (1m45.722s) in 13th leading Pol Espargaro (1m45.742s) as Petrucci (1m45.759s) was 15th from Tech 3 Yamaha’s Hafizh Syahrin (1m45.765s) – the four riders were separated by only 0.043s to each other.
A crash for Marc VDS Honda’s Marco Morbidelli (1m45.969s) on his quickest lap meant the Italian was only 17th with Angel Nieto Ducati’s Karel Abraham (1m46.072s) in 18th from leading Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro (1m46.183s).
Yamaha’s wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga (1m46.441s) did well to be 19th in the Aprilia sandwich with Scott Redding (1m46.571s) in 20th with Avintia Racing Ducati’s Xavier Simeon (1m46.573s) in 21st abode the last year’s Desmosedici.
Marc VDS Honda’s Thomas Luthi (1m46.817s), Suzuki’s wildcard Sylvain Guintoli (1m47.106s) and Avintia Racing Ducati’s Jordi Torres (1m47.147s) rounded out the 25 riders for the Sunday’s race.
The fight for pole saw LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow take provisional pole with a 1m44.909s lap time to beat factory Honda of Marc Marquez and Ducati’s Dovizioso. But it changed dramatically on the second run of the riders.
Marquez shot into the top spot initially but he was beaten by Pramac Racing Ducati’s Miller, who took provisional pole out of nowhere. The Australian though then crashed in Turn 5 but hung on to a front row start still in third.
Only Dovizioso (1m44.590s) and Tech 3 Yamaha’s Zarco (1m44.658s) could beat him with the former taking pole for the Japanese GP – only his second of the 2018 season. Miller (1m44.727s) led the leading Honda of Crutchlow (1m44.820s).
A late quick lap from Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone (1m44.832s) put him in fifth pushing Marquez (1m44.889s) to sixth ahead Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales (1m45.140s). Teammate Valentino Rossi (1m45.265s) was seventh behind Suzuki’s Alex Rins (1m45.225s).
Coming in from Q1, Bautista (1m45.396s) finished 10th as the Spaniard managed to beat Honda’s Dani Pedrosa (1m45.519s) and Nakagami (1m46.168s) in the Top 12.