x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Rossi's title bid is upstaged

Jorge Lorenzo surprises his Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi taking pole position for today's Japanese Grand Prix.

Jorge Lorenzo is on pole for today's Japanese Grand Prix.
Jorge Lorenzo is on pole for today's Japanese Grand Prix.

MOTEGI // Jorge Lorenzo surprised his Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi by racing to pole position for today's Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi. Rossi only needs to finish on the podium to secure his sixth MotoGP title, but he will have been surprised to have been so comprehensively out-paced by his young rival. Lorenzo set a new lap record around the Motegi track of 1min 45.543secs in the final moments of yesterday's session to take his fourth pole of the season.

The Spaniard said: "I can say that now I'm in one of the best shapes of my life. "I'm riding so fast, and also the bike and the tyres are working well, because if they weren't, I wouldn't be like that. "The team is doing a great job working on the set-up of the bike and the chassis. This result is fantastic." Rossi admitted that starting from the second row was not ideal after only clocking 1.46.060, but was still confident of getting the points he needs to be champion for the first time since 2005.

"Honestly I'm a bit disappointed because the front row was our target today, but anyway fourth isn't too bad," the Italian said. "Our race pace is quite good so I am confident that we can be in the fight, although we will have to get a good start." Rossi leads nearest challenger Casey Stoner by 87 points, and the current champion will start second on the grid after being two tenths slower than Lorenzo.

The Australian needs to win the race on the Ducati and hope that Rossi does no better than fourth to keep the title race alive going to Australia next weekend. Stoner is confident of challenging for victory, saying: "For the race, we're in quite good shape. We've still got a couple of things we want to improve, but we're running reasonably consistent lap times and we know we can go a little bit quicker."

* PA Sport