Five places may separate Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez on the grid for the Japanese MotoGP outing at Motegi, but the Italian feels that will count for very little once the race is underway.

Marquez could manage no higher than sixth place in Q2 as a crash in FP4 left his number one machine with too much damage to use again in the 15-minute qualifying shootout. Dovizioso meanwhile stormed to his second pole position of the year.

Yet Dovizioso still sounded wary of the threat posed by Marquez after the Spaniard’s electrifying run in FP4, which demonstrated he had pace in abundance. On Saturday “he was the fastest guy,” according to the Italian.

By the close of the first lap, Marquez will be among the top three in the race, he said, while adding the championship permutations will count for very little once the lights go out.

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“For sure [Marquez] will try but it’s normal,” said Dovizioso soon after securing his second pole position of the year.

“He has a margin and he’s able to take a risk like in the last three races. Unfortunately the last four races we were fighting a lot but without thinking about the championship - just fight to win and it will be the same tomorrow.

“It will not change the fight for the championship. And his approach will be strong like always and he will be in the top three positions after the first lap for sure.

“I’m happy about the pace; it’s really good. But Marc has a really good pace - and not only Marc. I’m happy. We’re there to fight for the victory but we still need to study a few things to improve a little bit. I don’t know if we have a margin to do it.”

The pair produced one of 2017’s great moments at the 2.9-mile Motegi track a year ago, contesting the race win until the final corner on the final lap in atrocious conditions. To put it simply, no one else could get a look in.

On whether Sunday would be another straight Dovizioso-Marquez showdown, the Ducati rider feels it is difficult to gauge as their approaches have differed through the weekend.

However, Dovizioso did concede their pace is “very, very similar.”

“It’s difficult to know in the details because unfortunately we did the weekend in the opposite way. When he used the soft I used the medium and the opposite.

“So we never really made the pace at the same time in the same conditions. The details we don’t know. But overall we are very, very similar.”