Jorge Lorenzo will start from the front in the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan, having clinched his second pole position within the space of a week. At the end of a single 75-minute qualifying session, the Yamaha Factory Racing rider headed Marc Marquez and Nicky Hayden, who picks up a first front row start for over a year. On the same day, Ignite Pramac Racing’s Ben Spies, who has been plagued by injury, announced his retirement from racing.
On a weekend heavily disrupted by inclement weather, Qualifying on Saturday afternoon marked the first time the MotoGP™ riders had taken to the track at Twin Ring Motegi. In order to allow the field as much track time as possible, one single session of 75 minutes replaced the usual setup of 15-minute Q1 and Q2 periods.
Already quickest on a drying track, Lorenzo recorded blistering pace as conditions improved towards the end of the period, registering an effort of 1’53.471. Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) went second on his final flying lap, demoting Hayden to third; nevertheless, the Ducati Team rider still achieves his best qualifying result since the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez in 2012. He now aims to take advantage of his grid position with Ducati before switching to Power Electronics Aspar next season.
Lorenzo’s impressive pace was demonstrated by the fact that all riders from third place downwards were over a full second in arrears. Behind, Row 2 will be occupied by Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi for Honda and Yamaha respectively, with the second Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso in sixth position. GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista will line up seventh – despite a crash at Turn 7 – from LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, with the German returning from a fractured right ankle. Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro was ninth, having already claimed the overall CRT honours for 2013.
Yonny Hernandez completed the top ten for Ignite Pramac Racing, while wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga enjoyed a strong session en route to 12th place for Yamaha YSP Racing Team. However, it was a difficult time for Monster Yamaha Tech3 as Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith could manage no more than 11th and 13th spots. Nakasuga’s compatriot Hiroshi Aoyama will begin his home race from 18th position on the grid with the Avintia Blusens FTR machine.
Should he be able to end the race with a points lead of 26 or more, 20-year-old Marquez will become the youngest ever MotoGP™ World Champion and first rookie title winner for 35 years. Taking place over the course of 24 laps and with dry conditions expected, Sunday’s 2013 AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan is set to begin at 2pm local time (GMT +9). Due to the lack of track time, Free Practice will start at 9.40am local time, and run for 50 minutes.
On the same day, American rider Ben Spies, who has taken part in only two races this season, has announced that he will retire from racing, and hence split from the Ducati family. Spies and Ducati sighted his injuries as being too much of a hindrance, feeling that he is not able to race at the highest standard next season. He had originally signed with Ducati until the end of the 2014 season.
Mika Kallio will start from pole position for the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan, picking up the top spot in Moto2™ for the first time. The Marc VDS Racing Team rider will share the front row with Xavier Simeon and Johann Zarco, while title contenders Tito Rabat, Pol Espargaro and Scott Redding line up sixth, seventh and 15th.
Ahead of Qualifying, there had been no track action for any category through a lack of visibility and heavy rain at Twin Ring Motegi. Eventually, the intermediate class had one hour of running time in which to set up bikes as well as posting lap times for grid position. On a mostly dry circuit as the sun began to set in Japan, Kallio topped the timesheets with a 2’01.248, edging out Simeon by two tenths of a second; this marked Kallio’s first pole since the 250 season closer in Valencia six years ago.
Less than one tenth of a second covered the riders filling spots two to four, with Simeon (Maptaq SAG Zelos Team) second, as Zarco (Came IodaRacing Project) demoted Simone Corsi (NGM Mobile Racing) to fourth place in the last knockings of the session. There was a top-five effort from QMMF Racing Team’s Rafid Topan Sucipto of Indonesia, while Tuenti HP 40 pairing Rabat and Espargaro will line up sixth and seventh from Technomag carXpert’s Dominique Aegerter. The top ten was rounded out by Danny Kent (Tech3) and Mattia Pasini (NGM Mobile Racing).
It was a difficult day all-round for Redding. On Thursday, the erstwhile championship leader had been cleared to compete, having missed the last race in Australia after breaking his left wrist on the Saturday. In pain today, the Marc VDS rider rode to 15th position ahead of a day on which Espargaro could win the 2013 title; to claim the ultimate honour, he would need to finish inside the top seven, with Rabat not winning and Redding far enough behind to be left outside of touching distance. The current margin between Espargaro and Redding is 16 points, with a maximum of 50 remaining.
Sunday’s Moto2™ AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan is schedule to commence at 12:20pm local time (GMT +9), being decided over the course of 23 laps. Due to the lack of track time, Free Practice will start at 8:50am local time, and run for 40 minutes.
Fresh from his victory in Australia last weekend, Moto3™ title contender Alex Rins has taken pole position for the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan. The Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider sealed the top spot for the seventh time this season as the field was presented with an unprecedented challenge, having not taken to the track before Qualifying.
In a highly unusual situation, Moto3™ Qualifying signalled the first track action of the weekend at Motegi, with all Friday action plus Saturday morning practice having been called off due to poor visibility and wet weather. Qualifying began at the slightly delayed time of ten to one; with 55 minutes on offer, the riders were challenged with adapting to track conditions as well as attempting to post lap times for grid position.
With the circuit already wet when the green light illuminated, further late rain helped to cemented pole in the form of Rins’ best effort of a 2’09.387 – 11 seconds off record pace. On Sunday, the Spaniard will aim to overhaul compatriot Luis Salom in the championship table, having already moved to within five points of the leader. Rins will be joined on the front row by fellow title challenger Maverick Viñales (Team Calvo) and Estrella Galicia 0,0 teammate Alex Marquez.
Championship leader Salom (Red Bull KTM Ajo) will start fourth, joined on the second row by Caretta Technology – RTG’s Jack Miller and Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Isaac Viñales. Niccolo Antonelli and Jonas Folger will line up seventh and ninth for their respective GO&FUN Gresini Moto3 and Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3 outfits, while Japanese wildcards shone as Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia) and Sena Yamada (Team Plus One & Endurance) qualified eighth and tenth. Fellow countryman Hyuga Watanabe also enjoyed a strong day, managing 12th place for La Fonte Tascaracing.
Some qualified lower than expected, but could be ones to watch in Sunday’s race, which is forecast to take place in dry conditions. Mahindra Racing’s Miguel Oliveira and Efren Vazquez could muster no more than 18th and 21st positions, while Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Arthur Sissis will be looking to rise from their corresponding 13th and 19th places. Several riders were caught out by the wet surface, including Rins, who slid off-track at the end of the session but had already sealed pole.
Sunday’s Moto3™ AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan is scheduled to begin at 11am local time (GMT +9), taking place over the course of 20 laps. Salom could win the title this weekend, but would have to win the race with Rins finishing 11th or lower. Due to the lack of track time, Free Practice will start at 8am local time, and run for 40 minutes.
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