Valentino Rossi will start tomorrow’s MotoGP at Motegi from pole after stealing the top spot from Marc Marquez.
The Doctor was the only rider to dip into the 1.43s as he stormed to pole, while early pacesetter Marquez messed up both of his fast laps, ruling himself out of contention.
As the 15-minute second qualifying session got underway, Marquez threw down the gauntlet almost immediately as he went straight to the top of timesheets on his first fast lap, only to better it a lap later as he stuck in a 1’44.134.
The next best man at this point was Movistar Yamaha’s Lorenzo, who surprised everyone by appearing completely unscathed from a massive crash in FP3 a few hours earlier.
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow was sitting in third as everyone hit the pits for new rubber, and Marquez emerged first and set off in a bid to better his time while the track was relatively clear.
But the Repsol Honda man just wasn’t able to set a lap that was perfect, running wide on his first fast one. Ahead on the track, Rossi was looking strong and steady and shot to P1 with what looked like an effortless lap of 1’43.954 on his Movistar Yamaha.
With around 30 seconds until the flag, there was still time for Marquez to save his day and he set off for another shot at fast one.
However, Crutchlow’s hopes of improving ended in the gravel moments later as he crashed his LCR Honda at Turn Five.
Marquez who passed seconds later on another fast lap but the Spaniard was forced to slow for the yellow flags and abandoned his lap..
It was clear that no-one else was in any position to mount a serious challenge to Rossi, who crossed the line delighted with his 64th pole, equalising the record held jointly by Marquez and Lorenzo.
Marquez was able to hold onto second and will line up in between Rossi and team-mate Lorenzo.
Fourth fastest and heading the second row is Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso with Crutchlow managing to cling onto fifth ahead of Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro.
Espargaro’s team-mate Maverick Vinales will start from seventh, while Hector Barbera – in for Andrea Iannone on the second Ducati – starts eighth ahead of Octo Pramac Yakhnich rider Danilo Petrucci in ninth and Monster Yamaha’s Pol Espargaro in 10th.
Next best Brit was the second Pramac bike of Scott Redding in 11th, while Bradley Smith will start 15th, the Monster Yamaha man making his return from injury this weekend. Eugene Laverty battled on to secure 19th spot aboard his Pull & Bear Aspar Team Ducati.