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MotoGP Motegi: Marquez returns to pole

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez secured his 63rd MotoGP pole at Mobility Resort Motegi on Saturday.

The Spaniard set a commanding pace as his return from injury went from strength to strength, a 1’55.214, set on his sixth of eight laps around the 4.8km Japanese venue claiming the celebrations for HRC at its home circuit. Prima Pramac’s Johann Zarco utilised his Q1 knowledge to sit second from Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder.

With the final free practice cancelled due to the torrential rain delays, qualifying got underway an hour later than planned. Big hitters Zarco and Enea Bastianini facing the Q1 fight for the last two promotion places having met yellow flags during their hot laps on Friday.


Monster Energy Yamaha’s Franky Morbidelli set the pace with a 1’57.368, a pair of Prima Pramacs behind as LCR’s already injured Takaaki Nakagami slid out at turn 14. Martin and Morbidelli switched places out front as Alex Marquez demoted Zarco on the second LCR Honda, just 0.084s adrift of the promotion zone. Gresini’s Fabio Di Giannantonio heading fellow rookies Raul Fernandez, Marco Bezzecchi, Remy Gardner and Darryn Binder in the mid pack while Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins ran a disappointing 11th from replacement teammate Takuya Tsuda with WithU Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow behind.

The second half saw Martin and Zarco battle for team and session honours out front as Morbidelli dropped to third. Mooney VR46’s Bezzecchi bettering his fellow Italian moments later as Rins and Bastianini rose to eighth and ninth while Binder crashed out.

Zarco took charge by over six-tenths from his Pramac teammate after a 1’55.300 effort. Bastianini’s weekend going from bad to worse with a late turn five crash, the four-time race winner left down in fifth and facing a P15 start in the final minute.

Q2 kicked off with Zarco utilising his experience of the current conditions with a 1’56.076. Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo and Ducati Lenovo’s Jack Miller took second and third with Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder in fourth. Marc Marquez promoted the Repsol Honda from fifth to first despite a mid-lap moment next time around before Zarco bettered again. The pair running high 1’55 pace as KTM locked out third and fourth, Miguel Oliveira trailing his teammate by a tenth before they switched positions on lap four.

Marquez took provisional pole position thanks to a 1’55.698 at the halfway stage. Quartararo six-tenths adrift as Aleix Espargaro demoted him to sixth. Title-rival Pecco Bagnaia struggling in 11th and three seconds off the pace as he returned to the pits for a bike swap.

The eight-time champion was on a role as he fired back up at the front. A 1’55.214 refining the target in the closing three minutes as Oliveira crashed out and Miller rose to third.

A late push in the closing minute found Maverick Viñales up to third as Zarco consolidated his second place pace. Martin and Espargaro following him to fourth and fifth before Binder arrived to steal the final front row spot. Quartararo and Bagnaia failing to improve as the pair settled for ninth and twelfth respectively with Mooney VR46’s Luca Marini and Pol Espargaro in between.

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