Tatsuki Suzuki (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) chose the perfect time to score his first pole position of the year, going fastest at soaking-wet Motegi today, giving him an excellent chance of achieving his first home Grand Prix victory tomorrow. Even better, today is Suzuki’s 25th birthday!
The 24-year-old from Chiba battled throughout the 15-minute Q2 session, fighting his way through from fifth place halfway through to grab pole, three tenths of a second faster than anyone else.
The big surprise was rookie Scott Ogden (Visiontrack Racing Team Honda NSF250RW) who used his super-smooth riding style to go second fastest at the end of the session and take his first-ever front-row start. The impressive 18-year-old Briton has already scored points at six races but has yet to finish in the top ten, so a first top-ten result will be his aim tomorrow.
Honda NSF250RW riders took five of the first seven positions in today’s slippery conditions, proving the machine’s rider-friendly performance.
World Championship challenger Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) will start the race from the middle of the second row and will need a strong result in the race to boost his title chances after a difficult ride to 14th in last Sunday’s Aragon GP.
Next to him will be fellow Italian Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team Honda NSF250RW), who will start from the second row of grid for the first time since May’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
Grand Prix rookie Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) gave it everything he’s got in the Q1 session, missing out on promotion to Q2 by one position and 0.355 seconds. This is the second race in a row that he’s missed Q2 by a fraction, further proof that he is gaining speed and consistency as his first world-class season enters its closing stages. The 17-year-old from Kanoya’s day wasn’t helped by a tumble in this morning’s soaking FP2 session, when he was feeling strong. He will start his first home Grand Prix from 19th on the grid.
Mario Suryo Aji (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) had high hopes of a good qualifying at Motegi after setting second-fastest time in the wet morning FP2 session, until he fell victim to the soaking and very slippery track. The 18-year-old Indonesian will learn from his mistake and aim to make amends by making up ground when the race starts tomorrow.
Tomorrow is the second consecutive race day in a three-week marathon, between the Aragon and Thai Grands Prix. Riders and teams get one weekend off before the back-to-back Australian and Malaysian GPs before returning to Europe for the season finale at Valencia, Spain, on 6 November. The 2023 MotoGP season effectively starts two days later with a one-day post-season test at Valencia, the last time riders will ride their MotoGP bikes before the first pre-season tests at Sepang, Malaysia, next February.
Tomorrow’s Japanese GP follows last weekend’s Aragon GP in Spain and precedes next Sunday’s Thai GP. The last three races take place in Australia, Malaysia and Spain, at Valencia.