Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo romped to pole position for Sunday’s AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in a hard-fought and incident-packed qualifying session at the Twin Ring Motegi.
Setting a new track record with the only time in the 1:44s, Lorenzo pushed Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa into second on the grid, after the Spaniard had looked to be taking pole shortly before the end. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow completes the row in third, with the Brit doing very well to save a near crash after scoring his seventh front row start this season.
“I’ve been really fast all weekend with a very good pace but in qualifying, 10 minutes to the end I thought I was making a very good lap but I was in sixth position,” Lorenzo said. “I didn’t understand how the other riders were going so fast. I needed to push a bit more; in the second to last lap I made a mistake so in the last lap I had my last chance. I made it so I’m very happy but of course the important thing is the race tomorrow.”
Pedrosa, who in the morning session set the fastest time of the combined free practices, missed the pole position in the dying seconds of qualifying but, with a lap time of 1’45.215, will start from the front row of the grid for the ninth race in a row, maintaining his chase of Lorenzo in the fight for the MotoGP title.
“In the end I didn’t know the lap times of the others and I was just pushing as hard as I could to get a place on the front row of the grid because on my last exit I was eighth,” Pedrosa explained. “I had many problems with chattering in qualifying and we still don’t know why. Everything was OK during the free practices but this afternoon, it was hard to do the lap time. Finally the second place is good enough and I hope we can avoid this chattering in the race tomorrow. The key point will be to choose the correct rear tire and be consistent for the whole race because the pace will be fast.”
Heading row two is Yamaha’s Ben Spies, who suffered an awkward crash in the dying seconds of the session, yet did not obstruct anyone on their hot lap. Lining up next to him in fifth is San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, after his and the team’s suspension set-up work looked to be yielding the positive results they were looking for.
Sixth spot is occupied by Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who appeared to be on-course for a higher grid spot, but could not squeeze out those extra tenths needed.
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner heads the third row in seventh, with the Australian still struggling slightly with the bike on his return from injury. Alongside him in eighth is LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, whose session got off to a bad start with a crash, although the German managed to head back out for the latter part of qualifying.
Ninth position went to Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi, with the Italian not finding the one-off pace that helped him jump up the ranks in Friday’s timesheets. His teammate Nicky Hayden completes the top 10, with the American still suffering significant discomfort from his fractured right radius.
Tuenti Movil HP 40’s Pol Espargaró stormed to pole position in a frantic Moto2 qualifying session at the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in front of Marc Márquez and Esteve Rabat.
In a session that saw riders scrapping it out until the very end for the top grid spot Espargaró once again produced the goods at the end with a lap of 1:50.886, which Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Márquez was unable to beat on his final go. Making it an all-Spanish front row is Espargaró’s teammate Rabat, who has displayed good pace all weekend, and could be a serious threat in the race.
In a typically exciting Moto3 qualifying session Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Danny Kent charged to his maiden pole position ahead of Maverick Viñales and Sandro Cortese.