Zarco Johann takes pole; Marquez takes P3

By | October 14, 2017

Zarco Johann of Monster Yamaha Tech3 took a shocking pole in wet conditions even as reigning world champion Marc Marquez set the third fastest time of the day in the Japanese Grand Prix at the Motegi track here on Saturday.

The Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, the championship leader, switched from rain tyres to slicks for his second time attack and the 24-year-old Spaniard was unable to improve on the time that had until then put him on provisional pole. Italian Petrucci Danilo of Octo Pramac Racing set the second fastest time for P2 with a 1’53.787’’.

Nonetheless, Marquez 1’53.903” time, set despite a big slide in the final corner, was quick enough to earn him his 11th front-row start of this season, less than half a second from pole-setter Johann Zarco.

For rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) it was a shock last minute pole position, his second in the permier class as he took the honour late in the session and no further laps able to challenge the Frenchman. Petrucci second came in wet-but-drying track conditions.

With a dry line beginning to appear by the start of MotoGP™ Q2 session, it was the KTMs of Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith moving through to join the top ten in the shootout – and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) sending immediate shockwaves through the field as he headed out on slicks straight away. That would prove the wrong decision, and the nine-time World Champion was then forced back in to switch.

Marquez, meanwhile, was 1.6 seconds clear at the top when he decided to try slicks – despite a moment on the wet tyres on what would prove his fastest lap. That left a target on P1 for many in the field still pushing hard on wets, with Zarco best able to take the challenge to the reigning Champion and Petrucci then taking second – with Marquez locking out the front row. A gamble gone wrong, but a heads up on how quickly Motegi dries out in case of a flag to flag?

Heading the second row and fulfilling his Friday target is Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), who just missed out on lining up further forward in the latter stages of his last lap, with Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) taking fifth on his final push and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) locking out Row 2.

The KTMs were next up, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) initially taking a provisional front row before times began to further tumble, and by the flag it was teammate Bradley Smith who just pipped the Spaniard. The Austrian factory machines will start seventh and eighth; Espargaro only 0.034 in arrears.

Title challenger Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) had a more difficult session and ended Q2 in P9, with Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone taking tenth and eleventh. Rossi, after his early gamble on slicks, lines up in P12.

After going third fastest in Q1, Loris Baz (Reale Avintia Racing) will line up behind the nine-time World Champion, and just ahead of the second factory Yamaha Maverick Viñales, who had a tough Saturday. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) starts fifteenth after missing out on Q2 following a moment at the final corner on his last lap in Q1.

Marc Marquez said: The result is good but clearly the slicks today weren’t the right choice, as it was a bit too early for them. Anyway, you always have to look at the positive side of things, which in this case, firstly is that we’re still on the front row, as we had already done a very good lap time on rain tyres; and secondly is that we managed to understand a few things in case of a flag-to-flag race. I’m also happy I saved a crash when I set my fastest time and avoided my team missing dinner tonight!

Now it’s time to race. Wet, dry, something in between…it all remains to be seen at Motegi, with the title contenders split throughout the field and some dark horses beginning to emerge. Tune in at 14:00 (GMT +9) on Sunday to see the Japanese GP kick the flyaways into gear.

Qualifying Results

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 ZARCO Johann 5 FRA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’53.469
2 PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA Octo Pramac Racing 1’53.787
3 MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team 1’53.903
4 ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1’53.947
5 LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA Ducati Team 1’54.235
6 PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA Repsol Honda Team 1’54.342
7 SMITH Bradley 38 GBR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 1’54.872
8 ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 1’54.906
9 DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Ducati Team 1’55.064
10 RINS Alex 42 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 1’55.483
11 IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA Team Suzuki Ecstar 1’55.617
12 ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1’57.786
13 BAZ Loris 76 FRA Reale Avintia Racing 1’55.862 Q1
14 VINALES Maverick 25 SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1’55.916 Q1
15 CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR LCR Honda 1’55.952 Q1
16 BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA Pull&Bear Aspar Team 1’56.292 Q1
17 BARBERA Hector 8 SPA Reale Avintia Racing 1’56.668 Q1
18 LOWES Sam 22 GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1’56.771 Q1
19 RABAT Tito 53 SPA EG 0,0 Marc VDS 1’56.903 Q1
20 ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE Pull&Bear Aspar Team 1’57.144 Q1
21 AOYAMA Hiroshi 7 JPN EG 0,0 Marc VDS 1’57.157 Q1
22 REDDING Scott 45 GBR Octo Pramac Racing 1’57.787 Q1
23 NAKASUGA Katsuyuki 21 JPN Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing 1’57.861 Q1
24 NOZANE Kohta 31 JPN Monster Yamaha Tech 3 2’01.730 Q1

eom/with inputs from Repsol Honda and MotoGP releases