By Lisa Lewis

The fog eventually lifted and the track action got underway at Motegi in Japan on Saturday, where Alex Rins clinched his seventh Moto3 pole of the season in wet conditions.

After a cautionary few laps through the streams of standing water, the 55-minute session was led by Rins and Maverick Vinales, who swapped positions at the top in the tricky conditions.

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Rins looked comfortable in the wet and immediately excelled, his time of 2m 09.387 being untouchable over the final 15 minutes as the rain returned and worsened, reducing visibility.

The Spaniard, who won in Australia last weekend, is enjoying a great late run of form, having won three of the last four rounds and a podium finisher at every race since Brno.

However he had to watch the closing minutes unfold after his Estrella Galicia bike hit the gravel at turn three.

Vinales, who has not previously shown much wet weather confidence, looked driven and after changing the Team Calvo KTM's springs to a softer setting he was able to secure second on the grid.

Rins' team-mate Alex Marquez was one of just a handful of riders to improve on their final laps as the weather showed sudden improvement and pushed himself into the final front row grid spot.

This displaced championship leader Luis Salom onto the second row, in fourth. The Red Bull KTM rider - just five points ahead of Rins - was down in eighth for much of the session, and a poorly-timed return to track saw him fail to improve as the weather worsened.

The late break in the weather then helped the Mallorcan take a leap up the timesheets leaving him better placed to manage his slender five point championship lead.

Jack Miller was pleased with the grip level in the wet. The Australian looked set to secure his first front row before being pushed down to fifth for Caretta Technology-RTG. He remained the highest placed Honda rider after four KTM's filled the first four grid slots.

A late dash saw Isaac Vinales push up to sixth ahead of Go & Fun Gresini's Niccolo Antonelli in seventh.

Hiroki Ono was the top wild-card performance for Honda Team Asia, he fell while pushing hard but returned to finish eighth ahead of Aspar's Jonas Folger who was the final rider to take the flag in ninth.

Fellow wild-card Sena Yamada also got a chance to shine through the rain on his debut when in the early part of the session he was able to use his local knowledge to top the timesheets, slicing seconds off his fastest time lap after lap.

The Team Plus One & Endurance rider eventually finished in tenth place. He was also the first crasher as the rain resumed after a brief break.

Regular championship rider Hyuga Watanabe also faired well on home soil and starts from 12th for La Fonte Tascaracing. his best qualifying position to date.

Brad Binder was the only other crasher. The South African rider went on to qualify in 15th.

The Mahindra Team riders struggled around the Japanese circuit. Miguel Oliveira placed best in 18th, with Efren Vazquez even further down the grid in 21st.

British rider John McPhee finished qualifying by taking 22nd on the grid.

Romano Fenati, who had proved to be a strong rider in the wet in his rookie season, could do nothing with his San Carlo Team Italia Honda and was a distant 26th.

After a string of improving performances Philipp Oettl had a nightmare session.

First his Interwetten bike suffered from a broken gear lever, then he had serious visibility issues with his visor, leading to an attempt to borrow Moto2 rider Tom Luthi's helmet. This left the German rider down in 32nd.