Recently-crowned six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez scored his 10th pole position of the 2019 season by topping qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.
In the closing stages of Q2 on a damp-but-drying track, Honda rider Marquez posted a best time of 1m45.763s to take pole by 0.132 seconds and beat Petronas SRT Yamaha duo Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo.
The result is Marquez’s first premier-class pole at Motegi – which had previously been the only track on the current MotoGP calendar where he had not taken pole in the series.
Marquez had controlled the early stages of the session, at one stage pulling 1.1s clear of the field, and his 1m45.923s was comfortably the quickest time in the first runs.
It stood as the benchmark until he found another tenth and a half in the final sector on his best lap, with Morbidelli doing enough to take his first front-row start since the Catalan Grand Prix in June.
Quartararo suffered a rare defeat to his team-mate on his way to the final front row spot, 0.181s down on Marquez and half a tenth slower than Morbidelli.
Maverick Vinales made it three Yamaha riders in the top four on the best of the works bikes, ahead of Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda.
Jack Miller, who was first to change from wet tyres to slicks in the preceding practice four session, was the top Ducati runner – the Pramac rider narrowly beating the works bikes of Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), the second factory Yamaha of Valentino Rossi and the Suzukis of Alex Rins and Joan Mir completed the Q2 order.
Home hero Takaaki Nakagami – making his final outing of the season at Motegi – narrowly missed out on advancing out of Q1 aboard the second LCR Honda.
The Japanese rider led the way after the opening runs ahead of team-mate Crutchlow, but his final effort of 1m46.998s was beaten by both Crutchlow and then Rins.
It meant Nakagami missed out on a Q2 spot by just 0.034s, so he lines up 13th ahead of Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Ducati) and top KTM man Pol Espargaro.
Mika Kallio will start 17th on the second works KTM, behind the Tech3 bike of Miguel Oliveira.
Jorge Lorenzo could muster only the ninth-fastest time in Q1 and therefore will start Honda’s home race 19th on the grid, while Suzuki wildcard Sylvain Guintoli will start 21st.
On Saturday morning Guintoli was excluded from the results of both of Friday’s practice sessions for using a 2020-spec engine, following what is understood to be a misinterpretation of the wildcard rules by Suzuki.
He swapped to a 2019 engine for Saturday’s running.
|2||Franco Morbidelli||Petronas Yamaha||1m45.895s||0.132s|
|3||Fabio Quartararo||Petronas Yamaha||1m45.944s||0.181s|
|5||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda||1m46.189s||0.426s|
|6||Jack Miller||Pramac Ducati||1m46.337s||0.574s|
|13||Takaaki Nakagami||LCR Honda||1m46.998s||–|
|14||Francesco Bagnaia||Pramac Ducati||1m47.594s||–|
|16||Miguel Oliveira||Tech3 KTM||1m47.894s||–|
|18||Karel Abraham||Avintia Ducati||1m48.121s||–|
|20||Hafizh Syahrin||Tech3 KTM||1m48.522s||–|
|23||Tito Rabat||Avintia Ducati||1m47.158s||–|