Japanese Moto2: Chantra continues Motegi domination for pole

Somkiat Chantra had topped every session he had been in in Motegi, as he once again set the fastast time, this time a record, for pole position in qualifying for the Moto2 Japanese Grand Prix.
Somkiat Chantra, Moto2, Japanese MotoGP 30 September
Somkiat Chantra, Moto2, Japanese MotoGP 30 September

Idemitsu Honda Team Asia rider Chantra continued to top the timesheets as he powered to pole for round fourteen of the championship, at Motegi.

The Thai rider, who has extensive track knowledge from his time in the Asian Talent Cup had been able to lower his lap time, seemingly at will, all weekend so far. Chantra had come close to breaking the lap record in practice.

Q2 saw the #35 rider immediately go top once on track and then drop the lap to a 1m 49.898s new best, beating Johann Zarco’s long standing record.

It is Chantra’s frist pole position of the season.

His teammate Ai Ogura moved into second late on for a team 1-2 at his and their home round,  breaking out a wheelie at the end of the session to celebrate as he continues his late flourish after his season began with injury, finishing just 0.120s slower.

Turnaround sees Dixon claim third.

Jake Dixon began his day on the ropes after failing to gain automatic progression to Q2.

The Inde GasGas Aspar man had still not figured out his issues by Q1, only just moving through as he cut a frustrated figure while his mechanics continued to work with him to find a solotion to his lack of feeling on the bike.

Q2 was a complete turnaround for the British rider. Faster to begin with, he then found Pedro Acosta on track to sit in behind and made further gains behind the championship leader. A personal best lap as the chequered flag came out meant all the shouting was worth it as both rider and team celebrated the final front row slot in parc ferme.

Mixed fortunes for title hopefuls 

Acosta seemed to have a different plan for Q2. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider was constant near the top of the timesheets, but unlike Chantra, who came in for a tyre change to finish his charge for pole, the Spaniard instead was tasking himself with lapping consistantly, with every run around the almost same speed as the next on his way to fourth.

Tony Arbolino, who remains his main rival in second in the title hunt, has struggled with qualifying of late - and Motegi continued that pattern. 

Around the half way stage the Elf Marc VDS rider had worryingly dropped to 18th and last in the session. Slotting in for a tow behind Filip Salac, who was chasing the rider in front of him saw the Italian move on to 14th. A final push saw the #14  finish 13th as the late flurry of fast laps came in, handing Acosta a big grid advantage once again.

Ahead of Arbolino on track and on the grid Salac went on to set the fifth best time for QJMotor Gresini.

Alonso Lopez had been quickest in Q1, but Dixon got the bettter of his Buddh nemesis in Q2, with the Beta Tools Speed Up rider setting the sixth best time on the Boscoscuro - the Spaniard has a double long lap penalty to serve in the race for his actions back in India.

2022 pole man Aron Canet started the day being presented a birthday cake by his Pons team. Second overnight, the Spanish rider slipped back slightly for seventh on the grid.

Sam Lowes improved as the time went on but could only manage the eighth best time in a close session, the best of the Marc VDS riders having spent much of his track time solo.

Fermin Aldeguer ensured both Speed Up bikes made it inside the top ten in ninth.

Manuel Gonzalez (Correos Prepago Yamaha VR46 Team) continued his good run of form, moving into the top ten and holding positon as the clock hit zero.

Joe Roberts will be looking to build on his podium for Italtrans last time out from eleventh for Italtrans.

A fall for Zonta van den Goorbergh (Fieten Olie RacingGP) halted his progress, the Netherlands rider will start 15th after moving through Q1 only to end up trying to pull his bike out of the deep turn two gravel.

What happened in Q1?

Lopez topped the session with the remaining progression slots filled by Darryn Binder who had sat provisionally first in the session as both he and van den Goorbergh slipped ahead of Jake Dixon, who inadvertently towed the duo around in a faster time, leaving him a nervous wait in fourth.

2022 Moto3 Japan winner Izan Guevara just missed out on moving on for Inde GasGas Aspar, fifth for 19th on the grid.

Albert Arenas also missed out, he will be one place further back in 20th on the grid for Red Bull KTM Ajo.

Kohta Nozane (Correos Prepago Yamaha VR46 Team) enjoyed his best ever qualifying performance earning a 22nd place start . Rory Skinner was close to his best but aded a little for 27th for American Racing.

Injuries and Replacements

Moto2 sees three regular suspects back as replacement riders in Japan.

Sean Dylan Kelly (25th) is back on the Forward bike, in again for Alex Escrig.

Celestino Vietti broke his pubic bone in India, so newly crowned MotoE world champion Mattia Casedi has been enlisted to fill in at Fantic Racing. The Italian has endured a flurry of falls in Japan, with yet another in Q1, leaving him 16th in the session and last on the grid.

Senna Agius (29th) also returns qualifying one place higher, again to deputise for Lukas Tulovic at Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP, as  he continues his recovery.

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