Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia took advantage in the title hunt with a smooth and commanding performance as he claimed his sixth pole of the season in style in qualifying for the Moto2 Japanese Grand Prix.

The Sky Racing VR46 rider got straight to business with a timesheet topping banker lap on his Kalex , which deposed rival Miguel Oliveira. ‘Pecco’ then set about lowering his best with his lap of 1m 50.759s still leading the way at the chequered flag after being set with more than half an hour of the session remaining.

Oliveira pushed hard but his wriggling Red Bull KTM Ajo could not provide him with the response he needed, leaving the Portuguese rider needing to fight back from ninth.

Fabio Quartararo had no such issues with his superb late pace on the Speed Up pushing him up to second in the closing stages, and just 0.165s behind Bagnaia.

The front row is completed by Iker Lecuona, his upward spiral continued with a career best qualifying to take third for Swiss Innovative Investors, proving the KTM is capable of a strong performance around the Twin Ring.

Marcel Schrotter climbed to fourth as the session progressed for Dynavolt Intact GP.

Lorenzo Baldassarri had a string of issues to overcome on his way to fifth. The Pons HP40 rider survived a huge wobble on track while following his team-mate on a good lap and then had various issues starting his Kalex, which required a spell in the pits to fix.

Alex Marquez, riding with a cracked shoulder blade following his fiery practice crash on Friday, secured a solid sixth for EG 0,0 Marc VDS.

Xavi Vierge did enough to claim seventh on the second Dynavolt entry, just ahead of Moto2’s only Japanese rider, Tetsuta Nagashima; who smashed his previous best qualifying performance of twelfth with an impressive eighth on home turf for Idemitsu Honda Team Asia.

Brad Binder was another of the handful of riders to be able to pick up the pace in the closing stages, he improved lap after lap to ride from 18th to complete the top ten right behind his Red Bull team-mate.

Bagnaia attempted to get fellow Sky rider Luca Marini in the mix and ahead of Oliveira in the final minutes, but leading him around the track could only propel him as far as eleventh.

Further down the order Joan Mir was once again the top rookie performer in 14th on the second Marc VDS entry.

Sam Lowes struggled to match the speed of his team-mate Lecuona and could only manage a best of 19th.

Stefano Manzi registered his 29th crash of the season. The only other faller was Augusto Fernandez, who had already done enough to secure 12th before his late tumble at turn ten.

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