Two weekends after he secured the 2019 MotoGP World Championship in Thailand, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) today scored his first-ever MotoGP pole position at Honda’s home race. This was his tenth pole of the year and his 90th across all three categories since he commenced his World Championship career in 2008.
The dazzling 26-year-old Spaniard ruled a thrilling qualifying session on a track that was still damp in places following rain both last night and this morning. It was yet another example of the youngster’s ability to get the absolute maximum from his RC213V whatever the conditions.
Neither did the rain bother the six-times MotoGP champion in either of today’s earlier practice sessions: he was a close second fastest in this morning’s soaking FP3 session and fastest in the damp FP4 outing.
Tomorrow – when Motegi is forecast to be blessed with dry weather – Marquez will do his best to help Honda achieve its 25th MotoGP Constructors World Championship. If Honda does secure the prestigious crown it will be the company’s 25th in total and its fourth in row with the amazing RC213V machine. Once again this performance underlines the excellent work done by Honda, HRC and the Repsol Honda team.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) also enjoyed a strong Saturday, topping the Q1 qualifying session to graduate to Q2 in which he excelled once again. The 33-year-old Briton looked like he might have a shot at the front row but was nonetheless happy with fifth fastest time, which puts him in the middle of the second row of the grid and capable of fighting for his first podium since July’s German Grand Prix. This was also the three-times MotoGP race winner’s best qualifying performance since April’s Grand Prix of the Americas.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) has had a difficult two days preparing for his home Grand Prix. The 27-year-old from Chiba missed Q1 by a fraction of a second and will therefore start from 13th.
Nakagami’s main problem this weekend is a worsening right-shoulder injury, initially incurred during June’s Dutch TT, when he was taken out by a rival. The injury is particularly troublesome here at Motegi, with several downhill braking zones.
Indeed the shoulder is so painful that the former Moto2 race winner will undergo surgery in Tokyo next week and miss the final three races of the year in order to fully complete his rehabilitation before 2020 preseason testing gets underway in February.
Marquez’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) continued his comeback from his own injury sustained at Assen in June. The three-times MotoGP World Champion missed four races before he was deemed fit to return and since then he has been steadily building his pace. This weekend he has tried different set-up options in an effort to further close the gap to the leaders. The 32-year-old Spaniard will start from 19th on the grid.
Tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix is the first event on three consecutive weekends, followed by the Australian and Malaysian GPs.