Zarco on pole after Marquez slick tyre gamble

Johann Zarco

Johann Zarco has qualified on pole for the Japanese Grand Prix after previous fast man Marc Marquez finished the session on slicks on a drying Motegi circuit.

Despite appearing unbeatable at the start of the session, Marquez (Repsol Honda) was very nearly bumped off the front row altogether as Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati) qualified second-fastest.

Zarco was third-fastest after the first runs before moving to the top of the timesheets with a 1:53.469s at the start of his second run, the Tech 3 Yamaha rider earning his second career MotoGP pole.

Marquez had laid down a 1:53.903s on his very first flying lap, nearly 0.7s faster than the previous fastest lap of the weekend which the championship leader had set in Free Practice 4 despite nearly crashing.

While the track did not have an obvious dry line, and while Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) had started Qualifying 2 on slicks and lapped over 15 seconds off the pace, Marquez opted to do the same for his second run.

With Zarco having since already taken over top spot, Marquez was relegated another position by Petrucci after the chequered flag.

Aleix Espargaro then came within half a tenth of knocking him off the front row, the Gresini Aprilia taking fourth in the end.

He will start alongside Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda).

Both Red Bull KTMs made it through Qualifying 1, with Bradley Smith qualifying seventh and Pol Espargaro eighth.

They will share the third row with factory Ducati rider and championship contender Andrea Dovizioso.

The factory Suzukis of Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone occupy 10th and 11th on the grid, alongside Rossi.

Still recovering from a broken leg, Rossi caused a scare when he crashed in FP4 but was able to remount.

Maverick Viñales, who has been uncompetitive in all practice sessions as rain fell for most of the weekend so far, will start 14th on his Movistar Yamaha.

Cal Crutchlow was the other big name to not progress past Q1.

The LCR Honda rider was on track to be just fast enough to make the top two but cost himself valuable time with a big moment at the Victory Corner on what would have been his fastest lap of the session.

Jack Miller’s injury replacement Hiroshi Aoyama qualified 21st, two positions behind Marc VDS Honda team-mate Tito Rabat.

In Moto3, Australian debutant Tom Toparis will start at the very rear of the 31-bike field.

Sunday’s 24-lap MotoGP race starts at 1600 AEDT.

Qualifying: Japanese Grand Prix

Pos Num Rider Nat Team Bike Time Gap 1st/prev
1 5 Johann ZARCO FRA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 1’53.469
2 9 Danilo PETRUCCI ITA OCTO Pramac Racing Ducati 1’53.787 0.318 / 0.318
3 93 Marc MARQUEZ SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1’53.903 0.434 / 0.116
4 41 Aleix ESPARGARO SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia 1’53.947 0.478 / 0.044
5 99 Jorge LORENZO SPA Ducati Team Ducati 1’54.235 0.766 / 0.288
6 26 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1’54.342 0.873 / 0.107
7 38 Bradley SMITH GBR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 1’54.872 1.403 / 0.530
8 44 Pol ESPARGARO SPA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 1’54.906 1.437 / 0.034
9 04 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Ducati Team Ducati 1’55.064 1.595 / 0.158
10 42 Alex RINS SPA Team SUZUKI ECSTAR Suzuki 1’55.483 2.014 / 0.419
11 29 Andrea IANNONE ITA Team SUZUKI ECSTAR Suzuki 1’55.617 2.148 / 0.134
12 46 Valentino ROSSI ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1’57.786 4.317 / 2.169
13 76 Loris BAZ FRA Reale Avintia Racing Ducati 1’55.862 Q1 / Q1
14 25 Maverick VIÑALES SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1’55.916 Q1 / 0.054
15 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR LCR Honda Honda 1’55.952 Q1 / 0.036
16 19 Alvaro BAUTISTA SPA Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati 1’56.292 Q1 / 0.340
17 8 Hector BARBERA SPA Reale Avintia Racing Ducati 1’56.668 Q1 / 0.376
18 22 Sam LOWES GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia 1’56.771 Q1 / 0.103
19 53 Tito RABAT SPA EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 1’56.903 Q1 / 0.132
20 17 Karel ABRAHAM CZE Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati 1’57.144 Q1 / 0.241
21 7 Hiroshi AOYAMA JPN EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 1’57.157 Q1 / 0.013
22 45 Scott REDDING GBR OCTO Pramac Racing Ducati 1’57.787 Q1 / 0.630
23 21 Katsuyuki NAKASUGA JPN Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing Yamaha 1’57.861 Q1 / 0.074
24 31 Kohta NOZANE JPN Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 2’01.730 Q1 / 3.869

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