Photography by Gold & Goose
Earthquakes, typhoons, rain, fog and chill – Mother Nature threw everything she had at the MotoGP circus, yet still racing proceeded. One and a half days after the scheduled start, MotoGP motorcycles finally took to the track on Saturday at the Motegi Circuit in Japan and it was Jorge Lorenzo coming through on a wet track to put his factory Yamaha on the pole for Sunday’s race with a 1:53.471. Lorenzo’s time was over 6-10ths of a second faster than second-place qualifier Marc Marquez. It was Lorenzo’s fifth pole of the season.
Joining the world championship leaders on the front row for the first time this season is none other than American Nicky Hayden, who broke through with a strong session on the factory Ducati in his second-to-last race with the Italian team. It marks his best start of the season.
Saturday morning’s Free Practice was canceled due to low visibility preventing use of the medical helicopter, which meant that qualifying was the first time the riders had an opportunity to hit the track at Motegi. It was a one hour, 15 minute session that would determine the grid for Sunday’s race. The session ran in full wet conditions.
Rossi and Marquez traded P1 in the early going. Nicky Hayden moved up to second 20 minutes into the session, Hayden saying he was hoping for a rainy weekend. The other surprise was the fact that Lorenzo ran far down the list in the early going. Slowly, but surely he improved his times and climbed the charts.
Traction with the Bridgestone wets looked quite ample. Many riders were dragging their knees through the turns, aided somewhat by double-thick knee pucks.
Halfway through the session Pedrosa and Lorenzo both broke into the 1:55 bracket and moved to first and second on the timing screens. With a half-hour remaining Hayden shot to the top of the charts with a 1:54.937, the first into the 54s and certainly a big morale boost for the Ducati squad. Shortly after setting the time however he ran off the track into the gravel.
Hayden’s time held for about 12 minutes before Pedrosa went back on top with a 1:54.741 with about 18 minutes to go. Lorenzo moved to second. Lorenzo then went into the 53s for the first time with about 14 minutes to go.
Dry lines became to form in the final 10 minutes of the session.
Action was hot and heavy late in the session. Alvaro Bautista was a faller with about seven minutes left. He was fifth at the time. Marquez ran off the track at a high rate of speed and was into the gravel with six minutes to go giving the Honda camp a near cardiac arrest. With a little over four minutes to Hayden went to second. Marquez recovered to take second with just under a minute to go. He then ran off the track for a second time, proving how hard he was pushing to get that time.
In the end it was Lornezo’s time holding for the pole, the Spaniard showing he’s not going down without a good fight.
“I’m very happy to get this second pole position in a row,” Lorenzo said. “It was hard because the last time I rode in the wet was at Assen, so I didn’t have good memories about this race. So at the beginning I was very careful with not so much confidence… very scared. We were lucky to have so much time to get the confidence, so little by little I start to do better. Finally I find very well, especially on the braking, and I did a very good lap time. So I’m very happy. Tomorrow it’s going to be in the dry so we’ll see what happens.”
MotoGP qualifying for the Grand Prix of Japan from Motegi Circuit (Oct. 26, 2013)
1. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 1m 53.471
2. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 54.129
3. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Team (GP13) 1m 54.539
4. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 54.542
5. Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 1m 54.732
6. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP13) 1m 55.036
7. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 1m 55.135
8. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 1m 55.610
9. Aleix Espargaro ESP Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) 1m 55.719
10. Yonny Hernandez COL Ignite Pramac Racing (GP13) 1m 55.998
11. Cal Crutchlow GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 56.058
12. Katsuyuki Nakasuga JPN Yamaha YSP Racing Team (YZR-M1) 1m 56.125
13. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 57.114
14. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 1m 57.297
15. Andrea Iannone ITA Energy T.I. Pramac Racing (GP13) 1m 57.347
16. Danilo Petrucci ITA Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT) 1m 57.540
17. Randy De Puniet FRA Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) 1m 57.715
18. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 1m 57.994
19. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (ART CRT) 1m 58.540
20. Luca Scassa ITA Cardion AB Motoracing (ART CRT) 1m 58.802
21. Claudio Corti ITA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 1m 59.617
22. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 1m 59.646
23. Damian Cudlin AUS Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART CRT) 2m 0.982
24. Bryan Staring AUS Go&Fun Honda Gresini (FTR-Honda CRT) 2m 2.712
25. Lukas Pesek CZE Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT) 2m 2.932