Martin keeps pressure on Bagnaia with Motegi MotoGP pole

Jorge Martin kept the pressure on MotoGP world championship leader Pecco Bagnaia by beating him to pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.

Pramac Ducati rider Martin was nearly six tenths of a second clear of all his rivals early in Q2, and though Bagnaia closed that gap to 0.171s by the end of the session, Martin’s new lap record of 1m43.198s never really looked under threat. He is now just 13 points behind Bagnaia in the standings following the champion’s Buddh crash a week ago.

Outside title contender Marco Bezzecchi starts fourth for VR46, despite tumbling through the gravel trap when he lost it at high speed going into the Turn 6 left-hander on his first Q2 run. He made it back to the pits seemingly unscathed to take his spare Ducati to row two.


He’s lost it on his out lap! He’s already making his way back to the pits! 💨#JapaneseGP 🇯🇵

— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) September 30, 2023

Bezzecchi starts between two KTMs, as Jack Miller thrived on the new carbon chassis (and the soft front tyre no one else in Q2 used) to take third, two places ahead of Friday pacesetting team-mate Brad Binder.

Fabio di Giannantonio – Gresini Ducati’s only representative this weekend with Alex Marquez out injured, as is VR46’s Luca Marini – qualified sixth ahead of the man who seems increasingly likely to take his seat for 2024: Marc Marquez.

Marquez came through from Q1, where he chased Fabio Quartararo around to set the fastest time, and then tucked in behind Martin to give Honda seventh on the grid for its home event.

The works Aprilias of Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro start eighth and ninth, with RNF counterpart Raul Fernandez making it through from Q1 to qualify 11th between Johann Zarco’s Pramac Ducati and the Tech3 Gas Gas of Pol Espargaro.

Quartararo had looked good for progressing from Q1 for Yamaha before failing to improve at the end and dropping behind both Raul Fernandez and Augusto Fernandez to 14th on the grid.

That meant no Yamahas escaped Q1 at its home race. Wildcard test rider Cal Crutchlow didn’t get out in Q1 until halfway through the session and starts 19th for his latest MotoGP return.

Joan Mir was some way off his breakthrough Buddh form on the other works Honda, and ended Q1 with a low-speed crash at the Turn 5 right-hander that leaves him 15th on the grid.

💥 @JoanMirOfficial‘s charge comes to nothing!

He was just one thousandth off in the first split! 😢#JapaneseGP 🇯🇵

— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) September 30, 2023

Honda test rider Stefan Bradl has taken over Alex Rins’s LCR Honda after Rins had to admit defeat in his bid to return from his injury layoff this weekend. Bradl starts 20th, ahead of only Ducati’s Enea Bastianini stand-in Michele Pirro.

Qualifying result

1 Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati)
2 Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati)
3 Jack Miller (KTM)
4 Marco Bezzecchi (VR46 Ducati)
5 Brad Binder (KTM)
6 Fabio di Giannantonio (Gresini Ducati)
7 Marc Marquez (Honda)
8 Maverick Vinales (Aprilia)
9 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia)
10 Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati)
11 Raul Fernandez (RNF Aprilia)
12 Pol Espargaro (Tech3 Gas Gas)
13 Augusto Fernandez (Tech3 Gas Gas)
14 Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha)
15 Joan Mir (Honda)
16 Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia)
17 Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha)
18 Taka Nakagami (LCR Honda)
19 Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha)
20 Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda)
21 Michele Pirro (Ducati)

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