Jorge Martin grabbed his second MotoGP pole position of 2023 at the Mobility Resort Motegi in Japan having headed title rival Francesco Bagnaia by just 0.171s.
The Pramac Ducati rider came out swinging from the outset of the pole shootout as he posted the fastest lap of the day on his very first flyer, before stringing together a blistering 1:43.198s effort on his next tour, which shattered Brad Binder’s lap record from Friday by nearly three-tenths of a second.
Bagnaia meanwhile struggled to put in a decent gambit in the opening phase of the test, the Italian languishing down in eighth.
He unleashed his true potential on his final run though as he lapped close to the pace of Martin, though he ultimately was unable to eclipse Martin’s opening benchmark as he slotted into second 0.171s adrift.
With nobody else getting anywhere near the leading duo, pole went the way of Martin for the second time this season despite him not improving on his final efforts of the test.
Jack Miller made a welcome return to form at the venue he dominated last season with Ducati to complete the front row, the Aussie heading Marco Bezzecchi who was lucky to survive a high-speed crash in the early moments of Q2.
The VR46 Ducati pilot lost the front of his Desmosedici while tipping into Turn 12 on his warm-up lap, Bezzecchi tumbling through the gravel as his primary machine was smashed beyond swift repair.
Having escaped injury, Bezzecchi returned to the track on his spare bike and eventually salvaged a solid fourth on the grid, albeit 0.426s adrift of pole man Martin.
Binder meanwhile ensured both factory KTM’s ended the session within the top five, the South African shading Gresini’s Fabio Di Gianantonio by just under a tenth.
Marc Marquez managed to escape the clutches of Q1 en route to a solid seventh for the factory Honda outfit, the six-time premier class champion heading Aprilia duo Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro in the end.
Johann Zarco struggled for speed on the sister Pramac entry and could only take tenth ahead of RNF Aprilia’s Raul Fernandez, who secured his third-successive Q2 appearance having graduated from Q1, and GasGas’ Pol Espargaro.
Fabio Quartararo meanwhile yet again missed out on a pole shootout shot having struggled to put in a competitive time in Q1.
The factory Yamaha pilot looked promising as he ended the opening salvo of Q1 second fastest behind Marquez, though a mistake on the first effort of his last run and a track limits infringement on his final lap sentenced him to a 14th place starting spot for the sprint race and Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Joan Mir ended up 15th on the other factory Honda ahead of Miguel Oliveira who once again found himself outperformed by RNF team-mate Fernandez, though the Portuguese rider still pipped the other factory Yamaha of Franco Morbidelli to 16th.
Yamaha wildcard Cal Crutchlow will take the start from 19th, the Brit out qualifying LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, the German called back into action after Alex Rins pulled out of the remainder of the weekend following Friday due to his broken leg still giving him trouble, and Ducati’s Michele Pirro.
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