Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) secured his first pole position of the season in sensational style after going over a second faster than anyone else in Moto2™ Q2 at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan; untouchable to head the two FlexBox HP 40 machines of Augusto Fernandez and Lorenzo Baldassarri on the front row. Championship leader Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) took fourth, but key challenger Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had a tough day at the office as he ended up P18.
After a morning of rain, rain and more rain – and a jaw-dropping save from Alex Marquez in FP3 – Friday’s combined timesheets remained the decider in Q2 entry, leaving a few key names with some work to do. By the time qualifying came around, however, the rain itself had at least stopped, although wet tyres remained the name of the game. In Q1 it was Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) who set the pace, the Australian going through alongside Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up), Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) and Somkiat Chantra (Honda Team Asia) to take part in the fight for pole.
In that battle, Marini was an immediate presence to be felt, with compatriot Baldassarri initially within a tenth before Fernandez split the two. Marini soon struck back, however, putting himself half a second clear as the likes of Gardner and Binder pitted for slicks. The Italian’s choice to push on proved right though, with his next lap putting him another four tenths further ahead.
Marquez moved up to take his P4 late on, and he’ll be joined on the second row by Q1 graduates Navarro and Chantra as heading through the first session once again seemed to be no hindrance in the wet. Chantra also took his second best result of the season despite a crash. Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) qualified P7 at a track that’s seen him take two previous wins; the Swiss rider just ahead of Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) who put in a late personal best lap for his second best qualifying performance of the season despite having encountered an issue with his machine halfway through Q2.
Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Gardner, who didn’t make it round in time to try a flying lap on the slick tyres at the end of the session, completed the top 10. Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Temporary Forward) gave MV their best grid position of the season in P11, ahead of Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), Iker Lecuona (monday.com American Racing), Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2).
Home hero Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) starts 16th on home turf, and Binder’s even further back in P18 after a tough day for both. Nagashima will want some home glory on hopefully better weather on Sunday, and Binder will itching to move forward as he fights for the Championship. If there’s one thing we’ve seen the South African do before, however, it’s win from the back.
Tune in for the intermediate class showdown at the slightly later time of 13:20 (GMT +9), where Marquez will be pushing to extend his lead, Fernandez will do anything to stop him and Binder faces a serious mountain to climb.
1 – Luca Marini (ITA – Kalex) 2’00.985
2 – Augusto Fernandez (SPA – Kalex) +1.148
3 – Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA – Kalex) +1.227
Random News Story