Andrea Dovizioso poised to deny Marquez from pole 1
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) is doing everything he can to deny Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) the crown in the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, going fastest on Friday and following it up with pole position on Saturday – his third in the premier class at the track – as Marquez heads into the battle for his seventh title from sixth. ‘DesmoDovi’ won’t go down without a fight and the news gets even worse for Marquez on the rest of the front row, with Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) taking second and third respectively – two men with no Championship pressure and everything to gain.

It was a quickfire end to Q2 qualifying at Motegi and ‘DesmoDovi’ avoided the drama to perfection. That wasn’t quite true of Zarco, who put in a spectacular last ditch all-or-nothing lap and only just missed pole, but it was even less for Miller as the Australian set a stunner and then ended the session in the gravel trap. No harm done and rider ok, his earlier exploits made sure he held on to his front row – and he’s optimistic ahead of race day.

The second row also has some big contenders for Marquez to pick his way past: fellow Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), who was on provisional pole until the last push, took fourth and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Andrea Iannone was a man who, like Zarco, left it late to pounce but then pushed Marquez back down to sixth.

The threats could also come from behind for the reigning Champion, however. Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) is in seventh and edged out Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) by less than a tenth, with the gap even smaller back to the second Movistar Yamaha of Valentino Rossi. Rossi, a former premier class winner at the venue, left it late to move through to Q2 in the morning and wasn’t able to challenge ahead of Row 3 in qualifying, with the Italian now looking for gains on Sunday.

Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) completes the top ten after he made it through Q1 – his final lap breaking Red Bull KTM Factory Racing hearts as he pushed out Bradley Smith – and three-time Motegi winner Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) had a more difficult session in P11. Home hero Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was the other graduate from Q1 and he lines up in tweflth after getting through to Q2 for the fourth time this season.

Smith was pushed down to P13, with his teammate Pol Espargaro and Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci locking out the fastest fifteen on Saturday.

So the stage is set and it’s Dovizioso in the driving seat so far at the Twin Ring Motegi. Will that be true on Sunday? A win can stop Marquez taking the title but anything less would likely see the Spaniard crowned. Tune in for the all-or-nothing Motul Grand Prix of Japan at 14:00 (GMT +9)!

MotoGP™ Qualifying Results
1 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) DUCATI 1’44.590
First Independent Team Rider:
2 – Johann Zarco (FRA) YAMAHA +0.068
3 – Jack Miller (AUS) DUCATI +0.137

How Marquez could win the title at Motegi
Marquez has a big chance at the crown on Sunday but it’s not yet a done deal – especially at a track that’s such a good venue for Dovizioso and Ducati. Simply put, the number 93 is Champion if:

– He scores points finishing ahead of Andrea Dovizioso
– He doesn’t concede more than two points to Dovizioso and 24 to Valentino Rossi

So if Dovizioso can pull off the win, not even second would be quite enough for Marquez and the fight would roll on to Phillip Island.