Questions and doubts about the weather vanished by the time Q2 came about, with the darkest of clouds having gone past without unfurling their load of rain over the home of Honda. And in the initial stages it looked like a lucky day for the Japanese outfit, with Cal Crutchlow posting the first 1:44 time of the weekend and keeping in charge of the top of the timesheets until the final set of flying laps. That was when Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati was finally unleashed to its full potential and the Italian soared to only his seventh pole position in the premier class, stealing the spotlight from the local manufacturers.
Johann Zarco came very close to challenging that after a fairly consistent session at the sharp end of proceedings. The Frenchman got within a tenth of the poleman and will start from second on the grid as the top Yamaha rider, a position he has probably missed. The front row ended up being bookended by Ducatis despite Jorge Lorenzo's absence, Jack Miller having one of his best qualifying performances in the dry to secure third grid spot despite a late tumble in turn five.
While Crutchlow did improve on his earlier benchmark, the LCR rider was demoted to fourth, two tenths off pole and only seven hundredths of a second ahead of his second row colleagues. Andrea Iannone followed up on an excellent practice session with a fine fifth grid position, while Marc Marquez pushed his one remaining bike to its limits to take only sixth place out of it. The Spaniard started his final flying lap at the top of the timesheets but made some mistakes and allowed the Christmas tree of red sectors on the timing screens to get the better of him, while finishing only three tenths off pole.
The gap to Maverick Viñales in seventh position was another two and a half tenths, the Yamaha man sharing row three with Alex Rins and teammate Valentino Rossi. Row four was comprised of the Q1 escapees sandwiching Dani Pedrosa, Alvaro Bautista showing the way ahead of the Spaniard and his HRC colleague Takaaki Nakagami, who put in an excellent performance to make it to Q2 at his home race. Amongst the less lucky adventurers were Bradley Smith who only just missed out on Q2, Danilo Petrucci who had to settle for 15th and Franco Morbidelli who got demoted to 17th following a late crash on a seriously hot lap.