Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Skull Rider) will start Sunday’s Motul Grand Prix of Japan from pole position after a stellar qualifying session, putting in a 1:56.894 to edge less than a tenth clear of those on the chase. The first of those was John McPhee (CIP – Green Power), 0.075 in arrears, with title contender Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) joining the duo on the front row in P3.

Rodrigo was topping the timesheets before the typical late flurry of times came in an enthralling final ten minutes of the session, with Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) took the chequered flag first to shoot to P1 but the story of the session not yet concluded. Championship leader Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) managed to find himself some clean air to beat the Bastianini’s time, but lurking just behind him was Rodrigo. A great lap from the Argentinean rider saw him dip below the 1:57 barrier, with key title contender Bezzecchi then crucially setting a faster lap than Martin to put himself P2. The Spaniard looked like he would be able to cling on to the front row before McPhee then shot up to P2, making it a front row lock out for Austrian manufacturer KTM.

The points leader therefore has to settle for a P4 starting slot, with Darryn Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) managing to put in a strong last lap to line up alongside the Spaniard on the second row. P5 is the South African’s best ever qualifying, beating his previous best of sixth last time out. In Japan, however, it’s Bastianini starting sixth, with the Italian pushed down from the top to the outside of the second row.

Compatriot Dennis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46) heads Row 3 after missing out to Bastianini by just 0.008, with Kazuki Masaki taking eighth to complete a great Saturday for the RBA BOE Skull Rider team. He’s the highest-placed Japanese rider on home turf. Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team) and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) complete the top ten.

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A perfect mix of title contenders and pacesetters with nothing to lose populate the first two rows in Motegi. Will there be another twist in the tale on Sunday? Or can Martin get back the momentum? Find out from 11:00 (GMT +9).

Moto3™ Qualifying Results
1 – Gabriel Rodrigo (ARG) KTM 1’56.894
2 – John McPhee (GBR) KTM +0.075
3 – Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) KTM +0.120

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