Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi has snatched pole position from championship rival Marc Marquez at the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit, after the Italian pulled a blistering lap time out of the bag to finish 0.180s ahead of the Spaniard who made vital mistakes towards the end of the session. A brave Jorge Lorenzo will start the Japanese Grand Prix from third on the grid.
Rossi, who trails Marquez in the championship by 52 points, started off his session quietly, slowly chipping away at the benchmark time of 1:44.134s set by the rapid Spaniard who looked set to secure his seventh pole position of the season. However on their second runs, Marquez was trailing behind Rossi as they started their flying laps, with the championship leader running wide just as the “Doctor” made his way to the the top of the timesheets with a stunning 1:43.954s. Subsequently this lap proved to much for the Repsol Honda man who ran wide once more, this time at turn five – which ensured Rossi’s Pole.
Speaking afterwards Rossi expressed his concern for his health and how he may struggle in the latter part of the race: “In FP4 I improved the pace a lot and that’s very important for the race tomorrow. Me, Marquez and Lorenzo are strong – we’re close but it looks like Jorge and Marc are a little faster than me. So we need to work hard tonight to fix the tyres and hope the weather stays good tomorrow. I’m not at 100% because I push for a lot of laps I don’t feel at the maximum – over a lot of laps I feel quite sick and I’m worried about the race because it’s a lot of laps and very demanding.”
Marquez, who was fastest in FP3 and FP4 prior to qualifying, will be ruing the two mistakes he made as he was up on Rossi’s pole time until the two incidents occurred. Nevertheless Marquez will be content with his front row start as the Cervera man showed superior race pace during FP4 with the Spaniard hoping to extend his championship lead over Rossi.“This morning we made a big improvement and in FP4 we made some changes, but for qualifying we went back. We are there, we are very close and consistent in the lap times, and on the front row – which was the goal. It looks like I struggle a bit on the new tyre but when the tyre drops a little bit I feel stronger. We’ll see what the weather is like tomorrow but it looks like the Yamaha’s are stronger if it’s warmer – but we’ll see.”
Reigning World Champion Lorenzo produced an incredible qualifying session, coming back from a brutal highside during FP3 which forced the Spaniard to undergo a precautionary CT scan, the “Spartan” gritted his teeth snatch a place on the front row 0.267s behind Yamaha teammate Rossi. “It’s been a long time since I had a crash like today – flying a lot of meters in the air with a bad landing. I was scared and expected the worst, especially my left leg, but it was just a warning. So we went to hospital as a precaution and then came back for FP4. I was much better than I thought and ready to fight for pole – but then the lap-times from Rossi and Marquez were very strong, especially Rossi’s lap-time following Viñales. I think we have good pace and a chance to fight for the victory. With the adrenaline and some painkillers in qualifying I forgot the pain.”
Andrea Dovizioso completed a rather disappointing session in fourth as the Italian had been hoping to qualify on the front row. Late crasher Cal Crutchlow joins the Ducati on the second row, slotting into fifth, with the row being rounded out by Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro.
Silverstone winner Maverick Vinales spearheads the third row ahead of the impressive Hector Barbera, who replaces the injured Andrea Iannone. His time of 1:44.494s put him ahead of Pol Espargaro who completed the third row on his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha.
Pramac Ducati duo Danilo Petrucci and Scott Redding were P10 and P11 as the pair continue to battle to see who will seal a ride on the new GP17 next season. Q1 graduate Alvaro Bautista suffered a fall early in the session resulting in the Spaniard not setting a time and qualifying in P12.
The Motul Grand Prix of Japan begins at 06:00 BST with Marquez, Rossi and Lorenzo squaring up against each other in what could be the race of the year.
Image Via: Motorsport.com