Zarco beats gambling Marquez/Rossi to Motegi pole, Vinales 12th

Johann Zarco grabbed a shock MotoGP pole position at a wet Motegi, as slick-tyre gambles backfired for Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales was eliminated in Q1

Zarco beats gambling Marquez/Rossi to Motegi pole, Vinales 12th

After setting the quickest time of the weekend so far in FP4, Marquez seemed nailed on for pole when he immediately bettered his own benchmark with a 1m53.903s, going 1.8 seconds clear of the pack.

But the Honda rider made a tactical error when he opted for slicks on his second run, and the track had not dried out enough for dry-weather tyres, despite the rain abating.

Valentino Rossi proved slicks were not the tyres to be on when he lapped 19 seconds off the pace early on, and an earlier crash in FP4 meant the Italian could not quickly switch back to wets.

With Marquez unable to improve on slicks, Tech 3 Yamaha's Zarco stole the top spot away with a minute left to run with a time of 1m53.469s, a full four tenths faster than the Spaniard, to earn his second MotoGP pole.

Pramac Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci rubbed salt in Marquez's wounds by going second-fastest shortly afterwards with a time 0.318s adrift of Zarco.

Marquez held on to third ahead of Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro, lead factory Ducati rider Jorge Lorenzo and the second works Honda of Dani Pedrosa.

KTM impressed in the wet conditions by getting both of its bikes out of Q1, with Bradley Smith taking his best grid slot of the year in seventh ahead of team-mate Pol Espargaro.

Andrea Dovizioso could no more than ninth on the second of the factory Ducatis, ahead of Suzuki pair Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone, the former taking a career-best grid slot.

With only a couple of minutes of track time on wets, Rossi was 12th and slowest in Q2, 4.317s off the pace.

The first qualifying segment was topped by Pol Espargaro, who made an early move to the top of the times with a 1m55.793s before later improving to a 1m55.258s.

That put him six tenths up on Smith, who made it out of Q1 for only the second time this season, edging out Loris Baz's Avintia Ducati by just 0.016s.

The big story was title contender Vinales missing out on a spot in Q2 with a final effort 0.072s slower than that of Smith, which leaves him down in 14th on the grid behind Baz.

Also missing out on a berth in the pole shootout was LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow, who was on course to make it through on his final lap before a big wobble left him fifth-fastest. The Briton starts 15th.

After a major highside crash in FP4, Tech 3 stand-in Kohta Nozane was slowest of all in Q1, and is set to line up 24th and last for his MotoGP debut - one place behind Yamaha testing mentor Katsuyuki Nakasuga.

Starting grid

Pos Rider Team Gap
1 Johann Zarco Tech3 Yamaha 1m53.469s
2 Danilo Petrucci Pramac Ducati 0.318s
3 Marc Marquez Honda 0.434s
4 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 0.478s
5 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati 0.766s
6 Dani Pedrosa Honda 0.873s
7 Bradley Smith KTM 1.403s
8 Pol Espargaro KTM 1.437s
9 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 1.595s
10 Alex Rins Suzuki 2.014s
11 Andrea Iannone Suzuki 2.148s
12 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 4.317s
13 Loris Baz Avintia Ducati 2.393s
14 Maverick Vinales Yamaha 2.447s
15 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda 2.483s
16 Alvaro Bautista Aspar Ducati 2.823s
17 Hector Barbera Avintia Ducati 3.199s
18 Sam Lowes Aprilia 3.302s
19 Tito Rabat MVDS Honda 3.434s
20 Karel Abraham Aspar Ducati 3.675s
21 Hiroshi Aoyama MVDS Honda 3.688s
22 Scott Redding Pramac Ducati 4.318s
23 Katsuyuki Nakasuga Yamaha 4.392s
24 Kohta Nozane Tech3 Yamaha 8.261s


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MotoGP Motegi: Marquez tops FP3, Vinales forced into Q1

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