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Zarco takes shock pole in Japan

Written by  Oct 14, 2017

Johann Zarco 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 took second as another to navigate the wet-but-drying track conditions well, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez completing the front row 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 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 therefore locking out the front row.

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

The KTMs were next up, with Pol Espargaro 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 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 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 starts fifteenth, after missing out on Q1 following a moment at the final corner on his last lap.

Qualifying result:

Pos Rider Team Km/h Time Gap 1st/Prev
1 Johann ZARCO Monster Yamaha Tech 3 297.7 1'53.469  
2 Danilo PETRUCCI OCTO Pramac Racing 300.9 1'53.787 0.318 / 0.318
3 Marc MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team 295.8 1'53.903 0.434 / 0.116
4 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 298.6 1'53.947 0.478 / 0.044
5 Jorge LORENZO Ducati Team 298.7 1'54.235 0.766 / 0.288
6 Dani PEDROSA Repsol Honda Team 293.8 1'54.342 0.873 / 0.107
7 Bradley SMITH Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 294.9 1'54.872 1.403 / 0.530
8 Pol ESPARGARO Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 297 1'54.906 1.437 / 0.034
9 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati Team 297.1 1'55.064 1.595 / 0.158
10 Alex RINS Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 296.9 1'55.483 2.014 / 0.419
11 Andrea IANNONE Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 295.6 1'55.617 2.148 / 0.134
12 Valentino ROSSI Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 289.8 1'57.786 4.317 / 2.169

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