Japan MotoGP: Marquez takes sensational pole in wet qualifying

Marc Marquez scored his first MotoGP pole position in three years after topping a wet Japanese Grand Prix qualifying, as the title challengers struggled.

The Honda rider returned to action two weeks ago at Aragon after a three-month absence following a fourth major operation on the right arm he badly broke in 2020.

Topping this morning’s wet FP3, Marquez carried that form into a rain-lashed and delayed qualifying to claim his first pole since the 2019 Japanese GP – 1071 days ago.

Due to heavy rain, qualifying was delayed by over an hour as the preceding FP3 session was cancelled to try and make space in the schedule.

Though Q1 started as the rainfall intensified again, it had eased somewhat for the pole shootout session.

Marquez set the early pace with a 1m56.955s, but was immediately bested by Ducati’s Jack Miller and then championship leader Fabio Quartararo on the factory Yamaha.

Marquez would return to the top of the order with a 1m55.810s with around eight minutes of the 15-minute Q2 remaining, improving to a 1m55.698s moments later after Pramac’s Johann Zarco – who came through Q1 – briefly took over at the top of the pile.

Though a number of riders would threaten Marquez’s pole, he would cement it with a 1m55.214s in the final three minutes to take his 91st MotoGP qualifying success by 0.208 seconds from Zarco.

KTM’s Brad Binder registered his first front row start in MotoGP with a late effort of 1m55.537s, denying Maverick Vinales third.

The Aprilia rider led Pramac’s Jorge Martin – who joined teammate Zarco in advancing from Q1 – as Aleix Espargaro ended qualifying as the top title contender in sixth.

A big rear-end moment late on in Q2 would stop an angry Quartararo from improving on ninth, while his nearest title rival Francesco Bagnaia was 2.1s off the pace down in 12th on his Ducati.

Though he came into Motegi as an outside title bet, Enea Bastianini’s chances of boosting his remote hopes took a severe battering as he failed to get out of Q1 after a late crash left him 15th on the grid.

Jack Miller could only manage seventh on his factory team Ducati, while a late crash while on a lap that would have challenged for pole left KTM’s Miguel Oliveira in eighth.

Between Quartararo and Bagnaia came Luca Marini on his VR46 Ducati and the second factory Honda of Pol Espargaro.

VR46 Ducati’s Marco Bezzecchi was just 0.139s outside of a place in Q2 as he lines up 13th from the factory Yamaha of Franco Morbidelli.

Bastianini heads Gresini Ducati teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio in 15th as Alex Marquez on the LCR Honda trailed the pair.

Numerous yellow flags caused havoc for Suzuki’s Alex Rins, who had several laps cancelled and was unable to advance on 18th. Honda wildcard Tetsuta Nagashima will launch from 19th on his MotoGP debut on Sunday.

Remy Gardner was the faster of the Tech3 KTMs in 20th as teammate Raul Fernandez was 22nd after a crash.

Joan Mir’s Suzuki replacement Takuya Tsuda slotted in between the pair, while Cal Crutchlow headed RNF Racing teammate Darryn Binder – who also had a late crash – and the second LCR Honda of the injured Takaaki Nakagami, who slid off early in Q1.

Q2 results:

Cla Rider Bike Time Gap
1 Spain Marc Marquez
Honda 1'55.214
2 France Johann Zarco
Ducati 1'55.422 0.208
3 South Africa Brad Binder
KTM 1'55.537 0.323
4 Spain Maverick Viñales
Aprilia 1'55.620 0.406
5 Spain Jorge Martin
Ducati 1'55.686 0.472
6 Spain Aleix Espargaro
Aprilia 1'55.771 0.557
7 Australia Jack Miller
Ducati 1'55.784 0.570
8 Portugal Miguel Oliveira
KTM 1'55.895 0.681
9 France Fabio Quartararo
Yamaha 1'56.326 1.112
10 Italy Luca Marini
Ducati 1'56.354 1.140
11 Spain Pol Espargaro
Honda 1'57.354 2.140
12 Italy Francesco Bagnaia
Ducati 1'57.373 2.159

Q1 results:

Cla Rider Bike Time Gap
1 France Johann Zarco
Ducati 1'55.300
2 Spain Jorge Martin
Ducati 1'55.795 0.495
3 Italy Marco Bezzecchi
Ducati 1'55.934 0.634
4 Italy Franco Morbidelli
Yamaha 1'56.006 0.706
5 Italy Enea Bastianini
Ducati 1'56.130 0.830
6 Italy Fabio Di Giannantonio
Ducati 1'56.432 1.132
7 Spain Alex Marquez
Honda 1'56.578 1.278
8 Spain Alex Rins
Suzuki 1'56.656 1.356
9 Japan Tetsuta Nagashima
Honda 1'57.229 1.929
10 Australia Remy Gardner
KTM 1'57.288 1.988
11 Japan Takuya Tsuda
Suzuki 1'57.787 2.487
12 Spain Raúl Fernández
KTM 1'57.827 2.527
13 United Kingdom Cal Crutchlow
Yamaha 1'58.115 2.815
14 South Africa Darryn Binder
Yamaha 1'58.292 2.992
15 Japan Takaaki Nakagami
Honda 1'58.717 3.417

 

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