By Neil Morrison
Rookie MotoGP title leader Marc Marquez recovered from his Phillip Island nightmare to qualify in second place for Sunday's Japanese race at Motegi, his eleventh consecutive front row start.
Saturday afternoon's wet, elongated 75-minute session was Marquez's first opportunity to sample the 2.9 mile Motegi circuit on the Repsol Honda RC213V and he wasted no time shooting to the top of the timesheets.
His consistently fast times were only hampered by several incidents at turn one, where the Spaniard was unable to stop before running into the gravel.
Marquez's fastest time of 1min 54.129secs was over six tenths of a second shy of Lorenzo's best and hopes of improving it further were scuppered when he ran on at the first turn once more.
However the Catalan declared himself happy with a front row start and is adequately placed to challenge pole sitter and championship rival Lorenzo during Sunday's race.
“It was quite difficult. It was my first time in Motegi [on the MotoGP machine] and the first time qualifying in wet conditions so I took more risks than usual,” he said.
“But anyway, we did a very good job because the target was to finish on the first row and we did it.
“For tomorrow we hope for a dry race. It will be hard because no one has had time to find the best set-up, but it is the same for everybody and we will try to do our best. For sure Jorge will push in the race, but I will try to manage the situation.”
The 20-year old can become the first rookie to win motorcycle racing's premier class since 1978 on Sunday should he win and Lorenzo finish third or lower. Marquez is currently 18 points ahead of Lorenzo in the standings.
Marquez's team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who still has a slim mathematical chance of the crown, will start from the head of row two, in fourth.
"It was a long wait, but in the end we were finally able to put some laps in and I tried to get the best out of this wet session,” he said. “We led the timesheet for a long time, but in the final ten minutes we had some problems with the tyres I used. I wasn't able to ride as well as I wanted and we eventually took fourth.
“Tomorrow we will try to get a good start and we will see if the warm-up is dry beforehand, in order to try out everything possible with the bike and tyres”