Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith progressed to Saturday's Suzuka 8 Hours pole shootout despite a big Friday accident for the Spaniard, with retired double MotoGP champion Casey Stoner quickest of the Hondas.

While each team shared a bike during Thursday practice - when the #21 Factory Yamaha of Espargaro, Smith and Katsuyuki Nakasuga set the pace - riders had their own individual track sessions for Friday qualifying.

Already divided into an A and B Group, the three riders per team each had two qualifying (20-minute) sessions to determine which teams made it through to Saturday's Top 10 Trial.

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Qualifying began perfectly for Yamaha as Nakasuga and then Espargaro led their respective Q1 sessions.

But Smith was up against Stoner and it was business as usual for the Australian, who topped his first two-wheel qualifying since the 2012 Valencia MotoGP! Smith was fourth (+0.770s), while the scorching track temperatures meant Nakasuga's earlier 2m 6.877s remained unchallenged.

Nakasuga put Yamaha on top again at the start of the Qualifying 2 sessions, with Espargaro continuing their momentum by setting his best lap of the day (2m 7.075s) early in his Q2 outing.

But disaster struck moments later when the Spaniard had a big accident on the approach to the hairpin, heavily damaging his R1. Fortunately Espargaro was unharmed and remained fastest in his session, before returning to the pits on the back of a recovery truck.

Smith (who had fallen in the morning practice) and Stoner then dominated the early part of their second qualifying - only for Kawasaki's Kazuki Watanabe to outdo them both with a stunning 2m 6.656s. That beat Nakasuga's earlier Q1 time and put Team Green at the head of the overall Friday timesheets.

Stoner - teamed with reigning Suzuka champions Michael VD Mark and Takumi Takahashi at the factory Musashi RT Harc-Pro team - also broke into the 2m 6s on his final run, the only Honda rider to do so, with Smith posting a 2m 7.308s for third in the session.

Other international riders to lead one of the Friday qualifying sessions were: Sebastien Gimbert (Honda Endurance Racing), Dominique Aegerter (FCC TSR Honda), Josh Hook (FCC TSR Honda), Kyle Smith (FCC TSR Honda) and Alex Lowes (Yoshimura Suzuki).

The four riders that broke the 2m 7s barrier today were: Watanabe (Kawasaki) 2m 6.656s, Nakasuga (Yamaha) 2m 6.877s, Tsuda (Suzuki) 2m 6.958s and Stoner (Honda) 2m 6.963s.

Friday's track schedule ends with a night free practice session.

Suzuka 8 Hours: Top 10 teams through to Pole Shootout
1. #87 Team Green Yanagawa/Watanabe/Yudhistira (Group A)
2. #12 Yoshimura Suzuki Tsuda/Lowes/Waters (Group B)
3. #21 Yamaha Factory Racing Nakasuga/Espargaro/Smith (Group A)
4. #778 FCC TSR Honda Hook/Aegerter/Smith (Group B)
5. #634 Musashi RT Harc-Pro Takahashi/VD Mark/Stoner (Group A)
6. #71 Sakurai Honda Herfoss/O'Halloran/Uramoto (Group B)
7. #17 Team Kagayama Kagayama/Haga/Kiyonari (Group A)
8. #01 Trickstar Deguchi/Izutsu/Nigon (Group B)
9. #104 Toho with Moriwaki Yamaguchi/Elias/Wilairot (Group A)
10. #32 MotoMap Supply Konno/Aoki/Ogata (Group B)

Friday Qualifying summary: Qualifying 1: Group A: 'Rider 1' (as nominated by each team)
1. Nakasuga Yamaha Factory Racing 2m 6.877s
2. Kagayama Team Kagayama 2m 7.594s
3. Takahashi Musashi RT Harc Pro 2m 8.477s Group B: 'Rider 1'
1. Tsuda Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance 2m 6.958s
2. Hook FCC TSR Honda 2m 9.162s
3. Reiterberger BMW Motorrad France Penz13.com 2m 9.640s Group A: 'Rider 2'
1. Espargaro Yamaha Factory Racing 2m 7.156s
2. Yamaguchi Toho with Moriwaki 2m 8.787s
3. VD Mark Musashi RT Harc Pro 2m 9.199s Group B: 'Rider 2'
1. Gimbert Honda Endurance Racing 2m 10.342s
2. K. Smith FCC TSR Honda 2m 10.421s
3. O'Halloran Sakurai Honda 2m 10.541s Group A: Rider 3
1. Stoner Musashi RT Harc Pro 2m 8.113s
2. Watanabe Team Green 2m 8.548s
3. Wilairot Toho with Moriwaki 2m 8.835s Group B: 'Rider 3'
1. Aegerter FCC TSR Honda 2m 8.306s
2. Uramoto Sakurai Honda 2m 9.046s
3. Lowes Yoshimura Suzuki 2m 9.215s

Qualifying 2: Group A: 'Rider 1'
1. Nakasuga Yamaha Factory Racing 2m 7.376s
2. Takahashi Musashi RT Harc Pro 2m 8.109s
3. Parkes Monster Energy Yamaha-YART 2m 8.973s Group B: 'Rider 1'
1. Hook FCC TSR Honda 2m 8.678s
2. Tsuda Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance 2m 8.955s
3. Reiterberger BMW Motorrad France Penz13.com 2m 9.714s Group A: 'Rider 2'
1. Espargaro Yamaha Factory Racing 2m 7.075s
2. Yamaguchi Toho with Moriwaki 2m 7.622s
3. VD Mark Musashi RT Harc Pro 2m 8.667s Group B: 'Rider 2'
1. K. Smith FCC TSR Honda 2m 9.003s
2. Bridewell BMW Motorrad France Penz13.com 2m 9.325s
3. Waters Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance 2m 9.526s Group A: 'Rider 3'
1. Watanabe Team Green 2m 6.656s
2. Stoner Musashi RT Harc Pro 2m 6.963s
3. B. Smith Yamaha Factory Racing 2m 7.308s Group B: 'Rider 3'
1. Lowes Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance 2m 7.717s
2. Aegerter FCC TSR Honda 2m 7798s
3. Uramoto Sakurai Honda 2m 8.693s

Unofficial top 10 riders list: Ranking by best lap time set during qualifying
1. Watanabe Kawasaki 2m 6.656s
2. Nakasuga Yamaha 2m 6.877s
3. Tsuda Suzuki 2m 6.958s
4. Stoner Honda 2m 6.963s
5. Espargaro Yamaha 2m 7.075s
6. B. Smith Yamaha 2m 7.308s
7. Kagayama Suzuki 2m 7.594s
8. Yamaguchi Honda 2m 7.622s
9. Lowes Suzuki 2m 7.717s
10. Aegerter Honda 2m 7.798s

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Vilas46
I am MORE than aware of how good the "old donkey" actually is, (and am a big fan of it due to NOT being all horsepower and electronics) it was more for effect.
Im not new to this bike racing lark...

Four riders into the 2:06 bracket. Three of them are Suzuka specialists on the latest updated bikes, and the forth is a bloke who hasn't raced for over 2 years on an old donkey. welcome back CS27!