MOTEGI, Japan: Jorge Martin on Saturday snatched pole for the Japanese Grand Prix in MotoGP with a new lap record at Motegi, championship leader Francesco Bagnaia following right behind him.
Current championship number-two Martin clocked in one minute, 43.198 seconds on a dry surface, followed 0.171 seconds later by Bagnaia, and 0.353 seconds later by last year's Japanese GP winner Jack Miller on KTM.
"I feel strong. Making the lap record here in Motegi is always special. I really enjoy this track," said Martin of Prima Pramac Racing, fresh from claiming second place last week in India to narrow the gap on Bagnaia for the championship title.
"I feel competitive. Let's try to do it again and let's try to win," the Spaniard said.
His time surpassed a record set as recently as Friday by Brad Binder, who came back in one minute, 43.489 seconds in practice, breaking the Motegi record set eight years ago by legend Jorge Lorenzo.
Bagnaia turned his focus to the sprint race later in the day as he resumed his campaign for the season trophy after crashing out in India.
"We are so competitive. Let's see this afternoon, but I am very happy," said the Ducati rider.
Bagnaia's crash in India allowed Martin to cut the defending champion's lead to just 13 points with seven races still to go.
Martin won the sprint race in India and finished second behind Italy's Marco Bezzecchi, who will start from the second row in Motegi, joined by Binder and Fabio Di Giannantonio.
The third row will feature Honda's Marc Marquez, making him the only rider on a Japanese machine in the front four rows.--AFP