Italian Andrea Dovizioso put pressure on championship leader Marc Marquez, qualifying on pole position for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, while the Spaniard will start in sixth place.
The Honda Marquez racer could win a fifth MotoGP title with a victory at Motegi, but Dovizioso, his closest rival in the championship fight, showed that he was not willing to give up without a fight as he achieved the fastest qualifying time of 1:44:590 seconds.
The 25-year-old Márquez, who had an accident during training, was 0.299 seconds off the pace and faces a difficult task in his bid to seal a third consecutive MotoGP crown in Japan on Sunday.
Johann Zarco, of France, the racer of the Yamaha Tech 3 team, was second in qualifying, with the Australian Jack Miller in third place.
Dovizioso’s pole was only the second of the year and came at a critical moment when the Ducati racer tries to delay the coronation of Marquez as champion.
The Spaniard is currently 77 points behind Dovizioso with four races remaining. Each race offers 25 points for a win.
The Spaniard is currently 77 points behind Dovizioso with four races remaining. Each race offers 25 points for a victory.
If Dovizioso wins in Japan, as he did last year, the title race will move into the last three races of the season, starting with the Australian Grand Prix next weekend.
“Our bike works well on this track,” Dovizioso told reporters. “It’s a good track for my style. The mix is very good. We knew it when we came here and then we did what we expected.
“Marc has a very good pace for the race, so it’s going to be a tough battle.”