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Old 10-10-2015, 01:10 PM   #1
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MotoGP Motegi Qualifying: Lorenzo Stays On Top

Jorge Lorenzo (99) held up to the pressure from teammate/title rival Valentino Rossi to start on pole position for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix. Photo Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha

Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi are the last two riders standing in the MotoGP title fight, and aptly traded blows at the top of the time screens during the qualifiers in Motegi, Japan. The Spaniard has been constantly leading the charge this weekend, and was seven tenths of a second clear from his teammate in the morning session, but Rossi struck back in the afternoon, cutting the gap to 0.1 seconds in FP4. The qualifying session mirrored the last free practice and turned into a heated duel, with Lorenzo taking the 60th pole position of his career with a 1:43.790 and Rossi pushing his opponent to the limits, missing first spot on the grid by only 0.081 seconds.

“I'm happy for this result, but I chose the wrong strategy,” commented Lorenzo. “I should have gone out twice instead of three times. Humidity rose and I had issues with my engine brake. The rear tire kept locking in turn one and five. It must have been fun to watch, anyway. Rossi managed to improve his setup, and following me in my first stint must have helped him. I need to smarter in the future.”

Rossi was just shy of pole position - .081 of a second. Photo Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha

Rossi was indeed behind his teammate in his first attempt, but posted his best lap time while Lorenzo was still in the pits, waiting for what became his final, successful shot at pole position. According to the Italian, the timing was fortuitous.

“I wanted to go out as soon as the pit lane opened and Jorge decided to do the same,” Rossi said. “I think he saw me but thought he could shake me off. He struggles when I'm so close, so it's up to me to put him in a difficult position. Anyway, that wasn't my best lap. With such short qualifying sessions, you can't only be fast, you need to keep your eyes open. Sometimes I had some riders behind me who turned out to be faster in the final time sheets.”

Marc Marquez is soldiering on at the demanding Motegi circuit in spite of a recent surgery on his left little finger. Photo Courtesy of MotoGP

Marc Marquez took the final first-row spot, 0.426 seconds slower than Lorenzo, despite a fractured left hand. The Honda rider, however, is not as optimistic as usual about the race.

“We've made a big step forward, but at the moment it's difficult to even think about a podium, as I'd have to beat Dani (Pedrosa) and the factory Ducatis. The hand is not a big problem, it hurts a bit but I didn't even take painkillers. We're struggling under acceleration, and I have to compensate under braking. I took some risks today, but everyone's trying to help overcome this situation.”

The standard top three: (left to right) Rossi, Lorenzo and Marquez. Photo Courtesy of MotoGP

In second row, Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone and Pedrosa were the last riders within a second from Lorenzo. The chronological analysis hints at a possible six-way battle, but the race could start as a blank page if the expected rain hits Motegi tomorrow. All the top riders, nonetheless, prefer a dry showdown. A viewpoint summarized by Rossi, who said: “It'd be a shame if we had a wet race, because we would all have to restart from scratch. Also, it's not granted that whoever went fast in these conditions this year could do it again, me included. I hope it stays dry, as we could have a really good race.”

Rain or shine, the importance of each lap from now until the end of the season should provide enough excitement already.

2015 MotoGP Motegi Qualifying Results:
  1. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha 1:43.790
  2. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha 1:43.871
  3. Marc Marquez (SPA) Honda 1:44.216
  4. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Ducati 1:44.322
  5. Andrea Iannone (ITA) Ducati 1:44.436
  6. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda 1:44.582
  7. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Suzuki 1:44.809
  8. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Honda 1:44.932
  9. Bradley Smith (GBR) Yamaha 1:45.067
  10. Maverick Vinales (SPA) Suzuki 1:45.081
  11. Pol Espargaro (SPA) Yamaha 1:45.219
  12. Scott Redding (GBR) Honda 1:45.333
  13. Stefan Bradl (GER) Aprilia 1:45.432
  14. Yonny Hernandez (COL) Ducati 1:45.438
  15. Katsuyuki Nakasuga (JPN) Yamaha 1:45.496
  16. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Aprilia 1:45.608
  17. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Ducati 1:45.691
  18. Hector Barbera (SPA) Ducati 1:45.724
  19. Takumi Takahashi (JPN) Honda 1:45.743
  20. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Honda 1:45.751
  21. Nicky Hayden (USA) Honda 1:45.843
  22. Jack Miller (AUS) Honda 1:46.039
  23. Loris Baz (FRA) Yamaha 1:46.048
  24. Mike Di Meglio (FRA) Ducati 1:46.179
  25. Toni Elias (SPA) Yamaha 1:46.256
  26. Kousuke Akiyoshi (JPN) Honda 1:47.760
  27. Alex De Angelis (RSM) Aprilia 1:48.192

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