The Factory Yamaha team will defend its Suzuka 8 Hours crown from pole position after Pol Espargaro topped Saturday's Top 10 Qualifying session.
“I'm so happy, for a second successive year we will start from pole and try to win again. Thanks to everyone for their support,” beamed Espargaro, taking part in his last Suzuka appearance for Yamaha before switching from Tech 3 to KTM in MotoGP
The ten fastest teams in Friday qualifying each selected two riders to participate in the 'Top 10 Trial', which saw competitors go out one at a time for a Superpole-style single flying-lap.
WSS race winner PJ Jacobsen delighted the FCC TSR Honda squad with a 2m 7.248s early in the session, which stood unbeaten after riders from the teams ranked 5th-10th had completed their runs - including Jacobsen's team-mate, Moto2 star and Suzuka podium finisher Dominique Aegerter.
After a short pause, riders from the top five began their time attack.
The first four riders failed to beat Jacobsen's time and it took Espargaro, who claimed pole with a record 2m 6.000s last season, to finally topple the American. The Spaniard delivered a 2m 6.258s, putting the Factory Yamaha team 0.990s clear of the field as the last five riders headed out on track.
Next up was Takuya Tsuda, who was left just 0.147s behind Espargaro for Yoshimura Suzuki, with BSB title contender and former Suzuka winner Leon Haslam then putting his Factory Kawasaki 0.211s from pole!
Only the penultimate rider on track, Takumi Takahashi of the factory Musashi RT Harc-Pro Honda squad, could now deny Yamaha. But the Japanese was left a disappointing 1.136s from Espargaro.
Pole may now have been assured but there was clearly pride at stake as Espargaro's team-mate Katsuyuki Nakasuga - the quickest rider on Friday courtesy of a 2m 6.908s and last man on track today - pushed his R1 to the limit.
The multiple Japanese champion, MotoGP test and wild-card rider saved a major moment on his way to a time 0.177s slower than Espargaro.
Nakasuga and Espargaro - together with Bradley Smith - claimed Yamaha's first Suzuka victory since 1996 last season. Smith is replaced by WSBK star Alex Lowes for 2016, but with only two riders per team taking part the Englishman didn't get to ride in Superpole.
“This is the easiest pole pf my life - because I didn't do anything!” quipped Lowes. “We are looking forward to fighting for victory tomorrow.”
Also watching on from the pits this afternoon was 2006 MotoGP world champion and 2016 WSBK race winner Nicky Hayden, whose team-mates Takahashi and Michael VD Mark featured on track for Musashi RT Harc-Pro.
The factory Honda team - main biggest rivals for the #21 Factory Yamaha - lost out in qualifying and will start fifth on the grid.
The top ten positions on the starting grid will be as follows:
Suzuka 8 Hours: Top 10 Qualifying
1. #21 Yamaha Factory Racing
Nakasuga/Espargaro/Lowes 2m 6.258s
2. #12 Yoshimura Suzuki
Tsuda/Brookes/Haga 2m 6.405s
3. #87 Team Green
Yanagawa/Haslam/Watanabe 2m 6.469s
4. #5 FCC TSR Honda
Jacobsen/Aegerter/Watanabe 2m 7.248s
5. #634 Musashi RT Harc-Pro
VD Mark/Hayden/Takahashi 2m 7.394s
6. #17 Kagayama Suzuki
Kagayama/Uramoto/Kiyonari 2m 7.651s
7. #7 YART Yamaha EWC Team
Parkes/Nozane/Fujita 2m 8.602s
8. #7 TOHO Honda
G.Rea/Yamaguchi/Wilairot 2m 8.716s
9. #32 Moto Map Suzuki
Waters/Aoki/Konno 2m 9.774s
10 #83 DogFightRacing Australia Yamaha
Aitchison/Turner 2m 14.223s