Martin blazes to Japan MotoGP pole, Miller front row
By Kyle White
Saturday 30th September, 2023 - 2:54pm
Jorge Martin shattered Brad Binder’s day-old MotoGP lap record at Motegi to clinch his second pole position of the season at the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Pramac Ducati rider set his best time in the first time attacks in Qualifying 2, lapping in 1:43.198s to claim the top spot after South Africa’s Binder had surpassed Jorge Lorenzo’s eight-year-old benchmark with a 1:43.489s to lead the way on Friday.
Binder qualified fifth on the second row, half-a-second down on Martin, with his Red Bull KTM team-mate Jack Miller pulling a big lap out of the bag on the new carbon fibre chassis to secure his place on the front row in third.
Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Lenovo Ducati) was 0.171s adrift of main title rival Martin in second spot.
Australian Miller, who won the Japanese Grand Prix for Ducati a year ago, was using the softer front tyre compared to the rest of the riders, who opted for the hard option and soft rear.
Bagnaia’s title advantage was whittled down to 13 points by Martin last weekend at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix after the Italian crashed out of second place, blowing the title race wide open.
The reigning champion wasted no time in the final runs as he chased a fast time, overtaking Indian GP winner Marco Bezzecchi on his out lap before pushing hard on the factory Ducati and securing second position.
Bezzecchi recovered impressively from a fast crash at the beginning of Q2 to go fourth-fastest on the VR46 Ducati and heads up the second row from Binder, while Fabio Di Giannantonio continued his strong weekend on the Gresini Ducati as he qualified sixth, 0.610s down on Martin.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, who tucked in behind the Pramac Ducati of Martin, sealed a third-row start in seventh ahead of Aprilia Racing’s Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro.
Marquez booked his place in Q2 after leading RNF Aprilia’s Raul Fernandez in Qualifying 1, when Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) could only manage fourth. The Frenchman, who hurt his ankle in a big crash on Friday, will line up in 14th.
Johanna Zarco (Pramac Ducati), Fernandez and Pol Espargaro (GasGas Tech 3 KTM) filled Row 4.
MotoGP rookie Augusto Fernandez (GasGas Tech 3 KTM) was 13th with Joan Mir (Repsol Honda) in 15th alongside Quartararo on the row five, whose factory Yamaha team-mate Franco Morbidelli was 17th behind Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia).
Yamaha wildcard Cal Crutchlow only managed four laps in Q1 and will start in 19th position, ahead of HRC test rider Stefan Bradl and Ducati test rider Michele Pirro, who are filling in for Alex Rins and Enea Bastianini respectively.