Jorge Lorenzo continued to dominate the Japanese Grand Prix weekend at Motegi, as the works Ducatis took the fight to the Yamaha ace.
Lorenzo is 14 points behind points-leading teammate Valentino Rossi in the championship standings, following his fantastic weekend in Aragon last time out.
Rossi ended the session fifth, 0.733s off Lorenzo’s pace.
Story of the session
Lorenzo, who set the practice pace yesterday with 1m44.731s, warmed up with a 1m44.949s early on before banging in a 1m44.770s – just his final sector was found wanting.
Rossi set a 1m45.345s early on, jumping him from eighth to sixth overall, then improved to a 1m45.325s which put him within 0.6s of Lorenzo’s Friday time.
LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow rose to seventh on his first lap out, a 1m45.543s, thanks to towing the works Honda of Marc Marquez around.
On his second run, Ducati’s Andrea Iannone improved to 1m45.003s, the third-fastest time of the weekend at that point but didn’t improve his overall position. He also topped the speed traps at 194.3mph.
In the top 10, only Iannone, Rossi and Crutchlow improved on their Friday times in the first 30 minutes of the session – but it finally came to life in the last five minutes.
Iannone slammed in 1m44.698s to top the session overall on the ultra-soft concession tyres that are available to Ducati.
Marquez jumped to third on 1m44.771s, but Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso leapt to the top of the times with 1m44.568s, also using the 'supersofts'.
Lorenzo then regained P1 with 1m44.235s, and lowered that to 1m44.089s – the fastest-ever two-wheeled lap of Motegi.
Iannone went P2 on 1m44.497s, 0.408s behind Lorenzo, and just ahead of Dovizioso.
Marquez stayed fourth, ahead of Rossi in fifth, who was 0.733s down on Lorenzo.
Bradley Smith was on a quick lap when he dropped his Tech 3 Yamaha at Turn 7 after setting the fastest second-sector time. Meanwhile, Honda's Dani Pedrosa failed to improve on his Friday best.
Battle to escape Q1
Scott Redding bumped Pol Espargaro out of the top 10 with seven minutes remaining thanks to using the ultra-soft rear tyre, only to be bumped himself by Maverick Vinales on his Suzuki.
Then Pol Espargaro went seventh, with Crutchlow improving to eighth. Smith stayed ninth, with Suzuki's Aleix Espargaro grabbing the final Q2 spot at the expense of Redding.
Eugene Laverty and Pol Espargaro were early fallers, and Mike de Meglio also took a big tumble near the end.