Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi delivered superb performances in this afternoon‘s thrilling qualifying session to take first and second place for tomorrow‘s Grand Prix of Japan.
Motegi (Japan) - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Jorge Lorenzo has been the man to beat so far and continued to set a high bar during qualifying. He will start the Grand Prix of Japan weekend from pole position 0.081s ahead of teammate Valentino Rossi, who was the only other rider to lap in the 1‘43s at Twin Ring Motegi circuit and secured a second place on the grid.
Eager to chase his third consecutive win at Motegi, Lorenzo was quick to exit pit lane at the start of the 15-minute qualifying heat. His first flying lap of 1‘44.768s gave him provisional pole, until his rivals completed their first laps, dropping him to fourth.
He quickly returned to the pits with nine minutes remaining for a quick stop and returned to a relatively empty track a minute later as it was the other riders turn to change tyres. The Spaniard took the opportunity with both hands and posted the first ever 1‘43 MotoGP lap of 1‘43.990s on his next hot lap to reclaim pole.
It was a great duel between Jorge and Vale, played on thousandths of a second.
With more than three minutes remaining Lorenzo hurried back to the box to change bikes and complete his three-stint strategy. When he rejoined the action he had just enough time left for one last time attack. Having been pushed to second place by his teammate in the final minute, but he had one more trick up his sleeve. He put his head down and set a sensational 1‘43.790s lap to secure his fourth pole position of the season.
Rossi also rode a strong qualification session at Twin Ring Motegi. He was the second rider out on track in the second qualifying session and closely followed his teammate. The Italian soon topped the timesheets with his first lap of 1‘44.662s, until a rival took over the top spot few seconds later. With more than ten minutes on the clock his second effort saw him take provisional pole, setting a new pole position record at that time of 1‘44.222s, but the duel between the teammates was far from over.
The Doctor quickly returned to the pit box for a new rear tyre. He was back on track with more than four minutes remaining, but unable to improve on his third flying lap. He had one more try and put his head down to post an impressive 1‘43.871s in the last minute, to move from third back up to the top of the rankings, only to get moved back one place by his teammate again at the very end of the session.
Yamaha Factory Racing Team wildcard rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga also had a good day at the track today. He continued to make progress and positioned his special ’60th Anniversary‘-styled YZR-M1 in 15th place on the grid for tomorrow‘s race.
"I did the maximum and I am very happy with my pole position. The humidity that came in the last hour also didn't help me to enter the corners with confidence like I could in the morning. I struggled a little bit, trying not to crash, but I gave my all and it‘s a good lap time."
"We hoped to get the pole, but it didn‘t happen. It‘s a shame, because getting a pole position doesn‘t happen very often, especially not to me. On the other side, I‘m very satisfied about today‘s progress. Already this morning we made good improvement with the team, but the important step came this afternoon when I was consistently fast in the fourth free practice session. I was confident for qualifying and we used a good strategy and I was in the right place. Unfortunately I made a small mistake, but it was OK and I hope I can be competitive enough tomorrow to fight with Jorge."
Massimo Meregalli - Team Director
"Today we have seen an amazing qualifying session. It was a great duel between Jorge and Vale, played on thousandths of a second. It‘s very impressive that both Jorge and Vale set those spectacular lap times under the 1‘44 mark and it also shows how strong they are mentally. To see both our riders compete for the top spots on the grid gives us confidence that we can fight for the win tomorrow. The weather conditions will be the biggest challenge but, despite this, we will be ready to give a great show whatever the conditions will be."