Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Johann Zarco scored his second pole position of the 2017 MotoGP Championship at Motegi, dropping a remarkably quick lap late in the second qualifying session. Octo Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci will start from second on the grid followed by Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez in third.
Conditions were not easy, as riders were faced with a drying track. Though a dry line was visible in places, there wasn’t enough to make slicks a viable option and Zarco capitalized on his experience in such circumstances to take the top-spot.
“I am so happy about this pole position,” the Frenchman explained in a Tech 3 press release. “The team and I did some great work since FP1. There, it was raining all the time, and I think that I improved the feeling of the bike a lot, plus I have grown up in this condition. For qualifying, it was a bit different because the track was drying, but not enough to use the slick tires. However, I knew that I could feel really good and try things in order to be faster than my opponents in these conditions. It worked and I am so happy for that.”
Petrucci logged his best effort shortly after Zarco crossed the line. A slight mistake in the final corners of his flying lap cost him valuable time, as he was on pace to grab the number one position himself.
Marquez, meanwhile, had a bit of good luck on his side. He set his fastest time on his first quick lap of the session while using a wet set-up, despite nearly coming off the bike just before crossing the line. He was well clear of the field at the halfway mark, so came in and switched over to slicks to test the grip of the drying track. There still wasn’t enough of a dry line to make this choice effective however, so he was unable to contend for a better lap in the final stages.
“The result is good but clearly the slicks today weren’t the right choice, as it was a bit too early for them,” said Marquez in a team press release. “Anyway, you always have to look at the positive side of things, which in this case, firstly is that we’re still on the front row, as we had already done a very good lap time on rain tires; and secondly is that we managed to understand a few things in case of a flag-to-flag race.”
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro nearly bumped Marquez back to the second row with his late session lap, coming just short and snagging fourth-place on the grid. Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo claimed fifth-position followed by Marquez’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa, in sixth.
KTM’s Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro gained entry to Q2 after taking the top-two positions in Q1, and the two riders made the most of the opportunity. Smith gave KTM its best premier-class qualifying result to-date, placing seventh, with Espargaro following just a fraction of a second behind to claim eighth.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso will start from ninth-place with Suzuki duo Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone following in 10th and 11th.
Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi rounds out the fourth row in 12th. Like Marquez, he gambled on slicks during the session, however his choice was to go out first thing on the tires to see if he could capitalize on the drying track. Midway through he came in for a tire swap because it was still too wet. He managed to get up to speed for one flying lap at the end, but it proved too little too late.
2017 MotoGP Motegi Qualifying Results
1. Johann Zarco (Yamaha) 1’53.469
2. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) 1’53.787
3. Marc Marquez (Honda) 1’53.903
4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 1’53.947
5. Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati) 1’54.235
6. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’54.342
7. Bradley Smith (KTM) 1’54.872
8. Pol Espargaro (KTM) 1’54.906
9. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 1’55.064
10. Alex Rins (Suzuki) 1’55.483
11. Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) 1’55.617
12. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1’57.786
13. Loris Baz (Ducati) 1’55.862
14. Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) 1’55.916
15. Cal Crutchlow (Honda) 1’55.952
16. Alvaro Bautista (Ducati) 1’56.292
17. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’56.668
18. Sam Lowes (Aprilia) 1’56.771
19. Tito Rabat (Honda) 1’56.903
20. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1’57.144
21. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1’57.157
22. Scott Redding (Ducati) 1’57.787
23. Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha) 1’57.861
24. Kohta Nozane (Yamaha) 2’01.730