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Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider masters tough-to-judge conditions at the Japanese GP to take his second ever pole
Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) shocked for a last minute pole position in the Motul Grand Prix of Japan – his second in the permier class – taking the honour late in the session and no further laps able to challenge the Frenchman. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) took second as another to navigate the wet-but-drying track conditions well, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) completing the front row by virtue of an earlier lap after gambling on slicks at the end of the session.
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.
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.
LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow endured a disappointing day in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix at the Twin Ring on Saturday. In the first of three successive flyaway races, the Briton had to settle for a place on the fifth row at Motegi after another rain-soaked day at the Japanese circuit.
Having proved competitive on Friday, Crutchlow was unable to make further progress and – after ending down in 15th in FP3 – failed to secure a place Q2 after finishing fifth in Q1, just behind Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales. The LCR rider expressed his frustration afterwards having failed to find a good rhythm in wet conditions.
Cal Crutchlow – 15th
(1’55.952 – lap 7 of 8)
“I’m not happy at all today, I’m really unhappy with the grid position. I’m disappointed that I don’t have a good feeling with the bike in the rain at the moment. In the previous years I have ridden in MotoGP, I’ve been strong in the rain, but at the moment we are struggling a lot.
“It seems we need to improve the package for me to be competitive in the rain. We will have to see what happens tomorrow, it’s going to be a long race and we’ll have to look through the data tonight to try to improve altogether.”
Jorge Lorenzo to start from row 2 after fifth place in qualifying for GP of Japan. Andrea Dovizioso will start the race at Motegi from row 3 with ninth-quickest time
Jorge Lorenzo will start tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Japan, round 15 of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship, from the second row of the grid. The Ducati Team’s Spanish rider was fifth quickest during the Q2 qualifying session, which was held on a partially damp track, with a lap of 1’54.235. This morning Lorenzo confirmed his fourth place in FP3 to go directly through the afternoon’s all-important 15-minute Q2 run.
Ninth place went to Andrea Dovizioso, who lines up on row 3 with a time of 1’55.064. The Italian also went through directly into Q2 thanks to the time he set yesterday (1’54.877), which no rider improved upon in the morning’s FP3 run.
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 1’54.235 (5th)
“I was just a few tenths off improving my fifth place, but at any rate starting tomorrow from the second row is not so bad. Conditions in qualifying were not ideal for us, because the track was drying, and I think that if the track had been wetter we could have got a better result. In any case the most important thing is to be in a good position for the start, also because tomorrow it will probably rain and in these conditions I think we’ve got a good base set-up. We’ve worked well and I feel good on the bike. The key to the race could be the choice of tyres: if the track dries, it’ll be vitally important to manage the tyre wear in the best possible way, and if the track stays wet until the very end I think we can certainly fight for the podium.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 1’55.064 (9th)
“Pity about my grid position: in qualifying I wasn’t able to do a good lap and the track was in quite a difficult condition, half wet and half dry. You had to interpret it in just a few laps and I wasn’t able to get the best out of it, also because on my fast lap the front turned in on me at Turn 9 and I almost finished off the track, as well as losing a bit of time. Pity about ninth place and the third row, but if it’s very wet tomorrow, like yesterday, I think we can do a really good race.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Take Fourth and Fifth Row in Motegi Qualifying
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi took a tyre gamble in Q2 at a drying Twin Ring Motegi track and secured 12th position. Teammate Maverick Viñales came just short of getting promoted from Q1 and will start tomorrow’s Motul Grand Prix of Japan from 14th place on the grid.
Circuit conditions were uncertain as a dry line started to form at the start of the second 15-minute shoot out. Unharmed after a crash in FP4, Rossi quickly went out on track in Q2 and took a risk, putting on slick tyres. Though he booked consistent improvement on each lap as the tyres started to warm, his gamble didn’t pay off. The Italian returned to the pits in 11th place, with five and a half minutes on the clock.
He soon exited pit lane for another go, this time on wet tyres, but at the end of his out lap there were only one and a half minutes of the session remaining, which meant he would only have one attempt to set a fast time. The Doctor put the hammer down, dropping a 1’57.786s lap, more than 12s quicker than he was on slicks, but he didn’t gain a position and had to settle for 12th place, on the fourth row on the grid.
After finishing outside the top-10 in this morning’s FP3 session, Viñales had to enter Q1 but looked to be a strong contender for advancement to Q2. The Spaniard didn’t linger at the start of the first qualifying heat and immediately set the provisional fastest time on his first flying lap, but dropped back to third place when he visited the pit box to put in an extra soft tyre.
He was sitting in fourth position when he resumed his attack and set a 1’55.916s for second place, but was pushed back two positions in the final stages. Back in fourth place, the Factory Yamaha rider put this head down once more, but was unable to further improve his position in the timesheets. He will start tomorrow’s race from fifth row on the grid, from 14th place.
Position: 12th – Time: 1’57.786 – Laps: 6
“This morning we started well, because with the full wet session, like yesterday, we improved the setting of the bike a lot. I was quite fast and it was good, but unfortunately with less water on the track we suffered a lot. Also for this reason we risked using the slicks, because the track was becoming dryer. We were hoping it would dry quickly, but unfortunately it was still too wet. We have to wait to see what the conditions will be like tomorrow. With more water on track we can be quite strong, with less water we’re struggling. The crash in FP4 was quite big, but I was lucky. No problems, just a little bit with the finger, but the important thing is that the leg is OK.”
Position: 14th – Time: 1’55.916 – Laps: 6
“I had the same problem today as I had all year in the wet: I had a lot of spin and couldn’t ride the bike the way I wanted to in these conditions. We are working hard and giving it everything. The qualifying result is what it is and now we focus on working for tomorrow. We know where we’re losing time, but it’s difficult to fix it in just one weekend. We are going to do our best, we’ll try to improve for tomorrow and score as many points as possible.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“Today’s results were not what we had hoped for. The changing circumstances on the circuit in Q2 made it difficult to understand what the track conditions would be like. Valentino decided to try the slick tyres, but it turned out that, despite the drying line, it was still a bit too early for slicks. When he opted for a wet tyre for his second stint he just ran out of time to make it work. Though he improved his time significantly on his last lap, he still has to start from 12th place on the grid. Maverick was on the attack in Q1 and set a 1’55.916s on the super soft tyre. It was a shame that he missed out on advancing to Q2 by just 0.072s, because starting from the fifth row is quite challenging. Now we will assemble the data from today’s sessions and prepare some setting tweaks we can test in tomorrow’s warm up.”
Sensational pole for heroic Zarco at Motul Grand Prix of Japan
Monster Yamaha Tech3 team rider Johann Zarco delivered a master class performance today to clinch a superb second pole position in his rookie MotoGP season. The French star progressed through to Q2 courtesy of his FP2 time, and here, he battled against the drying yet slippery track, before storming to the top on his penultimate lap. Tomorrow, the highly impressive rookie seeks to scoop his second podium of the year at Yamaha’s home Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, Kohta Nozane, who is standing in for Jonas Folger at this round, endured a challenging qualifying campaign after experiencing a crash in FP4. The young Japanese rider tried to persevere in the Q1 shootout but he was forced to abort due to a hand injury. Nevertheless, Nozane aims to compete in the race, which begins at 14:00 local time, or 07:00 in central Europe.
Position: 1st – Time: 1’53.469 – Laps: 7
“I am so happy about this pole position. The team and I did some great work since FP1. There, it was raining all the time, and I think that I improved the feeling of the bike a lot, plus I have grown up in this condition. For qualifying, it was a bit different because the track was drying, but not enough to use the slick tyres. However, I knew that I could feel really good and try things in order to be faster than my opponents in these conditions. It worked and I am so happy for that. Now, I need to use this opportunity to stay in front, whether it rains or not, and do the best race that I can and I will dream about the podium.”
Position: 24th – Time: 2’01.730 – Laps: 2
“In the practice this morning, I struggled with the choice of tyre, and in the end, my position was not so good. Then in FP4, it went well at the beginning of the session, but I pushed a bit too much because I wanted to improve from the morning practice and I crashed after making a mistake. I have a small fracture in my right hand, but I tried to run in Q1 for one lap, yet I had to cancel. I am sorry to Yamaha and Tech3 but I will try my best to come back for the race.”
Stunning Petrux who fought for the pole until last corner and got his 4th front row start. Bad Saturday for Scott.
An extraordinary qualifying for Danilo Petrucci, who won second place on the #JapaneseGp starting grid, giving Octo Pramac Racing the fourth front row start after Barcelona, Assen and Germany. For Scott Redding a negative Saturday as he was unable to solve the grip problems already experienced in free practices.
Rain gives a respite after Friday’s showers but the circuit remains wet and slippery, forcing the riders to dispute qualifying with wet tyres. Petrux (directly qualified to Q2 after P6 of FP2) starts very strong and after the first run is second. The track starts to dry and the lap-times drop. The rider from Terni gets back to the track and pushes hard. After the T2 of the last lap he is the fastest on track then a small mistake caused him to lose precious tenths from the pole-man Zarco. The second place ahead of Marquez is celebrated by the team at the Parc Fermé of the Twin Ring Circuit in Motegi.
Scott Redding never manages to be incisive. A crash at the start of FP3 removes the confidence of the English rider who continues to struggle due to a lack of rear grip. Scott finishes in P22.
2th – Danilo Petrucci 1’53.787
“I’m very happy because I didn’t expect it. This morning the feeling wasn’t perfect and I couldn’t be as fast as I hoped. In qualifying we made a very good strategy by making the most of the time available. It’s a pity that I made a mistake on one of the last corners otherwise I could have finished with the pole position. But it doesn’t matter. The front row start is very good and starting ahead is very important in this circuit. I am very confident for tomorrow”.
22th – Scott Redding 1’57.787
“I have never had feeling. I had the same problems experienced on Friday and this morning’s crash didn’t help me. I cannot understand why we have lost our way completely. In qualifying, even when the track was starting to dry, I tried to push hard but I was a second slower than in wet conditions. Am I myself? Is the bike? Is it the setting? Tyres? So many questions around. We have to find somehow a solution for tomorrow”.
FOURTH TIME IN QUALIFYING FOR ESPARGARÓ AND HIS RS-GP TO START FROM THE SECOND ROW AT MOTEGI TOMORROW
NEVER BEFORE HAS APRILIA BEEN SO FAR FORWARD IN MOTOGP
ESPARGARÓ: “WE ARE CONTENDERS FOR THE TOP POSITIONS”
In qualifying, Aleix Espargaró confirmed the qualities demonstrated in free practice. On the Motegi track he took the fourth best time, coming just 44 thousandths from a brilliant first row and now he is one of the protagonists for the race tomorrow. After an excellent Friday (second in the first free practice session and third in the second), Aleix easily went straight through to Q2 where, as he has done throughout this Japanese round, he battled with the best for the top positions, proof of the competitive level he has reached.
In the decisive session, characterised by a damp track with some dry spots, Aleix took advantage of the confidence gained on his Aprilia and stopped the clock at 1’53.947 on his decisive lap, earning the fourth spot and the second row of the starting grid for tomorrow. Never before in MotoGP history has an Aprilia started so far forward. This is a result that rewards Aleix’s talent and the hard work of the Italian Racing Department who, throughout the season, have developed the RS-GP, the youngest bike on the entire grid.
Sam Lowes paid the price for the conditions of the Japanese track, difficult to interpret as it began to dry out. However, even though he was not able to reap the benefits of the work done yesterday in the wet, he improved compared to recent races, finishing in 18th place to earn a spot on the sixth row of the starting grid.
“I am definitely satisfied, not only with the qualifiers, but with the entire weekend so far. We have been competitive in every session and we showed that we have a great pace in the wet. Qualifying was demanding. The track in mixed conditions is certainly not the optimum situation for us. In any case, I was able to earn a good starting position, the best for Aprilia in MotoGP, and for this I must thank the entire team. We need to keep going like this. As for my choice of tyres if the track is very wet, that is not a problem. I hope it rains tomorrow because in those conditions we demonstrated that we can be extremely fast and consistent. If we look at the practice sessions, we are in the group contending for the top positions, but on Sunday anything can happen. A lot of riders who are having difficulties today, like Rossi and Viñales, will be in the game for the race.”
“Unfortunately, qualifying was the worst session of the weekend for me. Especially because the conditions were intermediate and I still lack experience with the MotoGP bike. In FP3 I made a mistake on my last flying lap which would have let me go straight through to Q2, whereas in qualifying we decided not to change the tyres and, seeing how our rivals did, that definitely cost us a few tenths. In any case, we worked well in view of the race. If we have a wet track tomorrow, it would not be unrealistic to aim for a top 10 finish.”
Best MotoGP qualifying for Red Bull KTM at Motegi as oversea races kick off
QUALIFYING 15th Rd. MotoGP 2017 – Twin Ring Motegi (JAP)
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing have had a brilliant day at the Japanese circuit of Motegi with a 7th and an 8th position for Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro with their KTM RC16 motorcycles. Indeed, today was one of the best days the MotoGP project has had at a Grand Prix as both riders advanced through Q1 to Q2 – a landmark first for KTM MotoGP. The result is all the more impressive as before yesterday the RC16 motorcycle had never turned a wheel at the Japanese track before.
KTM also took brilliant Moto3 pole position as Nicolo Bulega was fastest with Red Bull Ajo’s Niccolo Antonelli in second spot to make a 1-2 for the Austrian manufacturer.
In Moto2, Miguel Oliveira was consistently high up during the practice sessions to eventually be 5th on the grid for tomorrow’s race, a result made all the more impressive as the KTM Moto2 motorcycle had also not turned a wheel at Motegi before yesterday, Friday.
The Red Bull KTM MotoGP Factory Racing team have had a fantastic afternoon to produce their best team result from qualifying so far in the premier class of motorcycle racing with 7th and 8th position for Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. KTM’s previous best grid slot was 7th at the Sachsenring with Espargaro but to have both motorcycles together on the third row of the grid is not only proof the commitment from the riders but also the on going development behind the scenes at KTM Motorsport headquarters in Austria.
For Smith it is his best grid position aboard the KTM RC16 MotoGP motorcycle as the trio of races in Asia kick off over the next three weekends in Japan, Australia and Malaysia. Motegi is the last circuit on the 2017 calendar where the KTM has not turned a wheel before, so this strong result is all the more positive for the future.
Smith: “Today was one of those days where with those drying track conditions it could have gone either way at the end of Q1 but I was 2nd right behind Pol. A great result for us! In Q2 itself I knew I had to be smart with my knowledge of Q1 and use the tyre in the right way when the track was as dry as possible. We are 7th on the grid tomorrow and that makes our life so much easier. It looks like it will be a wet race tomorrow which makes the start even more critical because this track can get very wet indeed that in turn gives a lot of spray. However; today was crucial and I took the opportunity when it was there so to do this for KTM, the team and for all my guys on my side of the garage, it feels very good indeed.”
Espargaro: “In these tricky conditions you have to make your own luck but it worked. You need to be fast but in these conditions as you never know what the next corner can give to you so we did well to do these lap times. I’m very happy for the guys in the garage and in Austria as so many people are working so hard for us to get these good results. Another great day for KTM in MotoGP. For the race tomorrow, let’s see what the weather is going to do but whatever happens, it is going to be a Sunday to enjoy.”
Sebastian Risse (Technical Director MotoGP): “We have however enjoyed the moment as it was so good today to have both Bradley and Pol having making this the best ‘Saturday afternoon’ of the KTM MotoGP project to be both on the third row of the grid. The whole team is super happy with what we have done today so now we’re concentrating on tomorrow. We’re here for the first time but when you have wet sessions it isn’t as consistent as you think so you have to adapt to this, but when we didn’t have a good session in practice we worked hard to know why and it looks like we knew how to fix it. We’ve had a good day but we must concentrate on these races ahead.”