Jorge Lorenzo produced a fantastic final lap to clinch a sixth pole position of the season ahead of Yamaha’s all-important home race at the Twin Ring Motegi tomorrow.
The Spaniard powered his factory YZR-M1 machine to a lap of 1.44.969 to grab pole by 0.246s from title rival Dani Pedrosa.
Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa had dominated practice and a lap of 1.45.792 put him 0.265s clear of Lorenzo after three sessions.
Pedrosa was able to lap 0.5s faster in qualifying but it still wasn’t enough to deny the impressive Lorenzo, who shaved over a second off his best time in practice to take his fourth pole position in the last six races.
Pedrosa, who trails Lorenzo by 33-points heading into tomorrow’s 24-lap race, secured second with a lap of 1.45.215 that put him just 0.042s ahead of British rider Cal Crutchlow.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider led until the final stages after he logged a quickest lap of 1.45.257. The 26-year-old ran straight off at the first corner immediately after clocking his best time though he clinched a sixth front row start of 2012 and a fourth in succession.
Crutchlow edged out Texan Ben Spies, who escaped unhurt in a late crash. Spies was only 0.079s slower than Crutchlow while Alvaro Bautista and Andrea Dovizioso complete the second row.
Casey Stoner will head the third row after a tough qualifying session. The Aussie is well short of 100% fitness after badly damaging his right ankle in a qualifying crash at Indianapolis in mid-August.
Stoner missed the last three races and he managed to wrestle his factory RC213V machine as high as fourth in the session but his best lap of 1.45.745 eventually put him seventh.
Stoner was still too fast for Stefan Bradl, Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden, who rounded out the top 10.
Bradl’s confidence suffered an early jolt when he crashed his LCR Honda in the opening eight minutes. He was unhurt and bounced back to finish eighth with a best time of 1.45.848.
Hopes that Valentino Rossi might be a podium challenger in tomorrow’s race look to have vanished after the Italian could only qualify in ninth. He was just over a second adrift of Lorenzo with a best pace of 1.45.976.
It was a frustrating afternoon for British rider James Ellison. The Cumbrian was in contention for a top 15 starting position when he crashed out unhurt.
The Paul Bird Motorsport rider set a best time of 1.49.023, but slipped down the rankings to 20th.