Danny Kent makes a welcome return to pole at a Motegi circuit where he has tasted success before, as machine-like Rabat would not falter in his quest for pole.
Moto3 got things under way in Japan in an action packed qualifying session which saw title hopefuls Alex Rins and Jack Miller fall and two British riders make the front row for the first time since 2010.
Speeding up as the clock ran down it was to be Danny Kent who was to find himself on pole, Husqvarna’s first in Moto3, at the track where he took his first pole which he converted to a win back in 2012.
|Determined – Tito Rabat Photo : Marc VDS
Not far behind Kent’s new lap record of 1m 56.555 was Niccolo Antonelli, the early pace setter for Junior Go & Fun KTM once again finding some late speed to displace John McPhee, who still scored his best ever qualifying with a first front row start in third for Saxporint-RTG, and was also the top Honda rider.
Row two holds the Mahindra of Miguel Oliveira who held the top spot until late in the session after taking over from Antonelli and the Red Bull KTM Ajo of Jack Miller, whose massive crash looked as if it would ruin the session for the Australian after his bike landed on him in the dark of turn five, before his mechanics saved the day.
Sixth went to Team Calvo’s Isaac Vinales, holding off the time of championship leader Alex Marquez, who failed to capitalise on his rivals bad fortunes and starts from seventh on row three.
Joining the Estrella Galicia rider are Ambrogio’s Brad Binder in eighth and Marquez’s team-mate Alex Rins, who also suffered a big crash before Miller, though he returned to the action from the pits after the Australian and suffered from a lack of track time, only advancing to ninth.
Juanfran Guevara pushed his Aspar to complete the top ten, while Aragon winner Romano Fenati has it all to do again after qualifying in 17th for Sky Racing Team VR46.
There were also crashes for Karel Hanika, Matteo Ferrari, Alexis Masbou and Zulfahmi Khairuddin, though all walked away unharmed.
Moto2 was all about the weekend long battle so far between championship leader Tito Rabat and an on form Tom Luthi.
Interwetten’s Luthi looked to have the upper hand with his time from his ninth lap holding firm at the top as the track cooled and fast times became harder to come by.
An obsessed and relentless Rabat was determined to get pole, though the final sector was holding him back and he was losing all the time he was ahead there. The Marc VDS rider pushed his Kalex harder in the sections where he was finding success to eventually pass the Swiss Suter man’s time in his 22ndlap, setting a new record of 1m 50.854 in the process.
Luthi’s old lap remained his best despite a late return to the track to try to keep pole in second, the rivals are joined on the front row by Air Asia Caterham rider Johann Zarco.
Newly crowned rookie of the year Maverick Vinales looked disappointed with fourth for Paginas Amarillas HP 40. Joining him on row two are Mika Kallio on the second Marc VDS bike in fifth after a late dash and top home rider Taka Nakagami for Idemitsu Honda Team Asia in sixth.
Julian Simon took seventh on the grid, out-qualifying his team-mate Franco Morbidelli by one place in eighth, with an improving Axel Pons ninth for AGR Team. Marcel Schrotter completes the top ten for Tech 3.
British riders Sam Lowes (Speed Up) and Gino Rea ( AGT Rea Racing) qualified in 12th and 23rdrespectively.
There were few crashes in the session but Azlan Shah fell first,Ratthapark Wilairot fell late on and Luis Salom saved a wobble.
For the full Moto3 qualifying result click here
, and for Moto2, here