Jorge Lorenzo kept the pressure on MotoGP title leader Marc Marquez with pole position for the Japanese MotoGP, during the very first track session of a disrupted Motegi weekend.

All free practice sessions were cancelled due to visibility problems grounding the medial helicopters, with the premier-class action finally getting underway with an extended qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

Rather than the usual two-part system, the exceptional circumstances meant MotoGP reverted to a traditional qualifying format.

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Yamaha's reigning double world champion Lorenzo dominated the closing stages of the wet 75-minute session, holding pole by over one-second with a minute to go.

But rookie championship leader Marquez then vaulted from fifth to second, 0.658s from Lorenzo, before running off track for the second time.

Marquez, disqualified for pitting too late in last weekend's Phillip Island bike-swap race, has a reduced 18-point title advantage over Lorenzo heading into the penultimate round.

Marquez will be champion with one round to spare if he can raise his advantage to 26 points on Sunday, while Lorenzo will be looking to force the first MotoGP title showdown since 2006.

Surprise of the session was Ducati's Nicky Hayden, who was at the sharp end throughout and eventually claimed third on the grid - his first front row start since Jerez 2012.

Row two will be formed by Marquez's Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, Lorenzo's team-mate Valentino Rossi and Hayden's team-mate Andrea Dovizioso.

Alvaro Bautista's session ended prematurely after a fall from his Gresini Honda, leaving the Spaniard in seventh. Stefan Bradl claimed a courageous eighth for LCR Honda on his early return from injury, with Aleix Espargaro the top CRT in ninth for Aspar.

Yonny Hernandez completed the top ten for Pramac Ducati.

Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga is competing as a wild-card this weekend. Nakasuga, who claimed a shock podium in the damp at Valencia 2012, exploited his local knowledge to star in the early part of the session on his way to twelfth place.

Among those not enjoying the conditions were Monster Yamaha Tech 3 riders Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith, who will line-up eleventh and 13th respectively.

Bryan Staring (Gresini) and Lukas Pesek (Ioda) were both outside the 107% qualifying time, but with Sunday expected to be dryer are likely to make the cut in morning practice.

A 50-minute free practice session will now be held on Sunday morning, in place of the usual 20-minute warm-up, followed by the race in the afternoon.

Qualifying:
1. Jorge Lorenzo
2. Marc Marquez
3. Nicky Hayden
4. Dani Pedrosa
5. Valentino Rossi
6. Andrea Dovizioso
7. Alvaro Bautista
8. Stefan Bradl
9. Aleix Espargaro
10. Yonny Hernandez
11. Cal Crutchlow
12. Katsuyuki Nakasuga
13. Bradley Smith
14. Colin Edwards
15. Andrea Iannone
16. Danilo Petrucci
17. Randy De Puniet
18. Hiroshi Aoyama
19. Michael Laverty
20. Luca Scassa
21. Claudio Corti
22. Hector Barbera
23. Damian Cudlin
Bryan Staring
Lukas Pesek