Gabriel Rodrigo’s stunning late place saw him soar to pole ahead of the Japanese Moto3 Grand Prix at Motegi.

The RBA BOE Skull Rider was perfectly placed on track to speed to the session best time of 1m 57.194s as the chequered flag came out.

The Argentine rider claimed the third pole of his career by chasing down Jorge Martin, who could not get away from riders looking for a tow; using him as a marker to find the best line and maintain his position at the top of the timesheets with an improved time.

Britain’s John McPhee was elated to swoop over the line and claim a last-gasp promotion to second for CIP - Green Power after chasing the group in front of him to finish just 0.075s behind Rodrigo.

The all KTM front row is completed by title hopeful Marco Bezzecchi for Redox PruestelGP as he looks to make up the points he lost to Martin after being taken out in Thailand - and the Italian has good form in Japan to look back on - he took his first podium in his rookie season at this track.

Martin, still sporting his modified glove in case of any further complications with his hand injury, remains in touch - just behind in fourth; after a frustrating session of being followed aboard his Gresini. The Spaniard was the best qualifying Honda rider.

His team-mate Fabio Di Giannantonio may have brought himself back into title contention with a win at Buriram but will have it all to do again after leaving himself needing to push through the pack from 15th.

Back at the front of the grid, a superb final run saw Darryn Binder climb from 16th to fifth in the closing seconds for Red Bull KTM Ajo.

The final spot on row two went to Leopard’s Enea Bastianini, who will start sixth.

Dennis Foggia, straight off the back of his first podium finish at the last race, claimed a strong seventh for Sky Racing VR46 and was the top rookie in the session.

Joining him on row three are fellow rookie Kazuki Masaki (RBA) - the best of the Japanese riders ahead of his home grand prix in eighth - and Albert Arenas who dropped to ninth for the Angel Nieto Team as the final flurry of fast laps came over the finish line.

Lorenzo Dalla Porta did enough to claim the final spot inside the top ten for Leopard in a close qualifying where the top eighteen were all within a second of the pole time.

Despite late falls Marcos Ramirez managed to hold on for eleventh for Bester Capital Dubai, and Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) kept 13th - the Japanese rider walked away after being violently flung over his handlebars at turn eight.

Aron Canet’s return from injury saw him struggle to 19th for Estrella Galicia.

Jakub Kornfeil was the first to fall, leaving him down in 16th. He was swiftly followed by a disappointed Tatsuki Suzuki, pushing too hard for a good result on home soil left him 26th at the chequered flag.

There is no Nicolo Bulega at the Twin Ring, his vacant seat at Sky Racing VR46 is filled by the team’s incoming 2019 rider, Celestino Vietti; who starts 24th following a tumble on his world championship debut.

The Italian could also miss the Australian Grand Prix after surgery to repair tendons in his hand between rounds following a ‘domestic incident’.

Wildcards Shizuka Okazaki (Kohara Racing Team) and Yuto Fukushima (Team Plus One) fill up the back of the grid. Okazaki has one previous Moto3 appearance, back in 2016 where she became the first female Japanese rider to compete in a grand prix for over 20 years - she finished the best of the pair in 29th while Fukushima fell on his way to 30th.

 

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