Marvellous Márquez storms to front row in Motegi
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Álex Márquez launched an incredible salvage operation to secure a brilliant front row start for tomorrow’s Japanese Moto2 Grand Prix in Twin Ring Motegi.
The Spanish rider missed crucial track time in the early stages of a dramatic and eventful qualifying session when he had to use lightning reflexes to avoid crashing because of a rare technical problem occurring as he powered down the high-speed Downhill Straight.
His Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS crew did another outstanding quick fix job to get him quickly back into the action, with lap times dropping throughout the session on a rapidly drying surface.
After almost incessant rain throughout practice, Márquez and the field could switch to Dunlop’s slick tyres for the vital final minutes of a session that saw countless changes of position at the top of the rankings.
A faultless final lap charge of 1’53.904 looked to have clinched Márquez his third Moto2 pole position, but he was denied by an inspired last lap attack from home crowd favourite Takaaki Nakagami, who took pole by the narrow margin of 0.128s.
This afternoon’s mixed conditions proved more of a challenge than World Championship leader Franco Morbidelli was expecting.
The Italian was one of the last in the 33-strong field to switch to slick tyres and he couldn’t quickly find the same confident feeling established so impressively by teammate Márquez.
Morbidelli logged a best time of 1’55.988, which left him in an uncharacteristic 15th position on the grid. The outcome of qualifying may have been disappointing for Morbidelli, but closest title rival Tom Lüthi will start just two places further up the grid for the 23-lap race.
Álex Márquez: 2nd – 1’53.904
“I am really happy to be on the front row of the grid here in Japan because it has not been an easy weekend with the bad weather. Qualifying didn’t start well when I had a technical problem on the back straight and to be honest it was a very scary moment. I must say a big thanks to my crew because they fixed the bike quickly and their fantastic work helped keep me calm and quiet. In the end, I just had six laps on the slick tyres to put in a fast time but I was happy to recover and fight for pole position. I thought I had done enough but congratulations to Taka because he put in a great last lap. Tomorrow it looks like it will be wet again and it will be a long race, so the key will be to keep maximum concentration to get back on the podium.”
Franco Morbidelli: 15th – 1’55.988
“I made a mistake today being completely honest. I didn’t see my board telling me to come in and switch to slick tyres and I stayed out too long on wet rubber. That meant I didn’t give myself enough time to build up my rhythm on the slicks and I couldn’t be fast. Luckily our main rival for the title is also outside of the top 10, so it will be an interesting race. I’ve got to make sure I score points tomorrow but we will be as prepared as we can be for whatever the weather throws at us.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“The result for Álex and Franco in qualifying was as mixed as the weather in Japan! Álex did a truly incredible job to fight for pole position because he didn’t let the early issue become a distraction at all. He didn’t get a lot of time on slick tyres, so it was outstanding to see him come so close to taking pole position. He did the maximum he could and I’m confident he can fight for the podium tomorrow. It is very unusual to see Franco so far down the order but we know the reason why and he admits that maybe the situation could have been better. The drying track always makes the decision when to change tyres a difficult one and collectively as a team it’s fair to say we could have managed the situation better. The consolation is that our main rival Tom Lüthi also struggled. They start close together on the fifth row, so it should be a fascinating battle to see how that unfolds.”