2017 Motegi MotoGP Qualifying Result: Unusual Outcomes

With no more rain on the cards and a damp drying track, a few question marks started appearing in the riders’ minds. Whatever the question, Marc Marquez’s answer is to push harder, the Spaniard posting the first time into the 1:53s on his first flying lap, with a big twitch thrown in for good measure. The one and a second gap to the pursuers gave the world champion the confidence to test some slicks and while he was cautiously strolling around, Johann Zarco headed out on the soft-extra soft combination in the final minutes and pulled out of nowhere his second pole position of the season.

In a decent afternoon for independent riders, Danilo Petrucci was best of the rest, outpaced by three tenths of a second by Zarco, while Marquez only just held on to a front row start. The world championship leader sacrificed a second fast run with a flag-to-flag experiment in mind but kept third position from a charging Aleix Espargaro, the Aprilia man finishing only four hundredths of a second behind Marquez.

The Spaniard will be joined on the second row of the grid by Jorge Lorenzo, the second-best Ducati eight tenths down on the leader, with Dani Pedrosa sixth, another tenth down but more than what was promised on Friday.

Third row was the reward for a fantastic performance from the KTM duo, both riders making it through Q1 to deny the likes of Maverick Viñales and Cal Crutchlow. Bradley Smith qualified narrowly ahead of teammate Pol Espargaro, the two in elite company with Andrea Dovizioso in ninth place. The Italian went for the same tyre combination as the poleman to much less impressive results.

Fourth row saw two Suzukis in tenth and eleventh grid spots, Alex Rins outpacing teammate Andrea Iannone. Meanwhile, Valentino Rossi took an intriguing approach, heading out on slick tyres and gingerly going around waiting for ideal conditions. Whether that was a lack of tyres, a test for the race or wishful thinking, the plan didn’t work out and after a switch to rain tyres, the Italian qualified twelfth. Still, it could have been worse if you were called Maverick Viñales and you were hoping to keep your title charge alive from fourteenth grid position.


Pos. Num. Rider Bike Time Gap 1st Prev.
1 5 Johann ZARCO Yamaha 1'53.469    
2 9 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati 1'53.787 0.318 0.318
3 93 Marc MARQUEZ Honda 1'53.903 0.434 0.116
4 41 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia 1'53.947 0.478 0.044
5 99 Jorge LORENZO Ducati 1'54.235 0.766 0.288
6 26 Dani PEDROSA Honda 1'54.342 0.873 0.107
7 38 Bradley SMITH KTM 1'54.872 1.403 0.530
8 44 Pol ESPARGARO KTM 1'54.906 1.437 0.034
9 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati 1'55.064 1.595 0.158
10 42 Alex RINS Suzuki 1'55.483 2.014 0.419
11 29 Andrea IANNONE Suzuki 1'55.617 2.148 0.134
12 46 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha 1'57.786 4.317 2.169
    Q1 Results:        
Q2 44 Pol ESPARGARO KTM 1'55.258    
Q2 38 Bradley SMITH KTM 1'55.844 0.586 0.586
13 76 Loris BAZ Ducati 1'55.862 0.604 0.018
14 25 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha 1'55.916 0.658 0.054
15 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda 1'55.952 0.694 0.036
16 19 Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati 1'56.292 1.034 0.340
17 8 Hector BARBERA Ducati 1'56.668 1.410 0.376
18 22 Sam LOWES Aprilia 1'56.771 1.513 0.103
19 53 Tito RABAT Honda 1'56.903 1.645 0.132
20 17 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati 1'57.144 1.886 0.241
21 7 Hiroshi AOYAMA Honda 1'57.157 1.899 0.013
22 45 Scott REDDING Ducati 1'57.787 2.529 0.630
23 21 Katsuyuki NAKASUGA Yamaha 1'57.861 2.603 0.074
24 31 Kohta NOZANE Yamaha 2'01.730 6.472 3.869


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Terrific work from Zarco and Petrucci, who saw that coming? Add it to the list of unpredictable events for 2017...

Agreed re race conditions quite different, but we still get some very interesting bits from Motegi Qualifying eh?! Lack of proper set-up time and electronics dialing proffers up some opportunity for lesser teams, adaptive ingenuity, and talented riders. Some of our best races to watch. Zarco, Lorenzo and A.Espargaro perhaps to benefit? More mechanical grip focused machines get a potential boost. Of note...

Zarco w a half a second over a very strong Marquez. On a satellite bike. Late in the season when the factory bikes have had their time to surge past the ironed out 2016's. He is good!

Somewhat mixed conditions (a drying line was visible) and Lorenzo did not have any demons arrive. And again, the Gigi Ducati is a real deal contender now without a caveat flaw. That has come a bit towards Lorenzo 250 sweeping arcs of front end feel with several major advances, most notably the (horrendously ugly fokker) aerodynamics. And Lorenzo has come towards the Ducati a great deal from his Yamaha. Look at his body language on the bike, it has had several adaptations this season and continues to evolve.

Speaking of aero, get a look at that Suzuki! And speaking of adaptation efforts, has Iannone started the work of riding the bike he has? Perhaps swinging shiny balls around has left them hanging out in the wind a bit much for even him, how could he not take notice that even Superbike seat swaps were being discussed?

The Aprilia project.

The KTM is not just Mid-pack. It is at the FRONT of the Mid-pack. Whatever the conditions, this is something of note. And both of them, Smith is not encumbered by a lack of general feel for the bike...at least in these conditions. And he looks invigorated. Yes I had written you off on this bike, and yes I am glad to see you back.

Factory Yamahas, and Vinales' title chances both look a bit anemic. Enough said. Nakasuga is out there on NEXT year's bike. Must be a bit unnerving to be developing with all eyes to see amongst the whole circus. Development riders, they are an admirable breed. The Japanese cultural consciousness is one that lends itself well to this rather noble, humble and relentlessly committed role (antonym, see Iannone's balls above). I raise a sake to you Nakasuga-san. Please carve out a strong Yamaha for 2018.

Tires - we aren't hearing much, are we? Michelin is doing a good job. Wee Pedrosa could get heat into them. Rossi was on his own page again, which can so often come up with something for Sunday others just don't have available. This might not be one of those weekends.

Marquez continues to impress me with the way he goes about attacking a race weekend. Very brave. Oddly talented. Please don't get hurt with your bouncy gravel trap buffet, I am enjoying your style too much. What won't this kid do on a motorcycle at speed?! What a pleasure to behold. P.S...if you DO feel like sliding off your bike in a race and making the end of season championship dash more flavorful, tomorrow wouldn't be a bad day for it. It would be fun to watch this Ducati squad and unlikely rival Professor Dovisioso have a run to the line with you.

Has given himself a lot of work to do from 9th, I wonder if we may see team orders surface from Ducati.
MM's hands are inching closer to the trophy, it's looking more and more like it's his to lose.
Bradley's 'forget the development and get back to racing' approach seems to be paying dividends, aided no doubt by having his seat safe for next year.
Should be an interesting race tomorrow