Niccolo Antonelli marked his return from injury with pole position in the tricky wet conditions in qualifying for the Moto3 Grand Prix of Japan.

The SIC58 Squadra Corse rider coped extremely well with the changeable conditions and damp track, using the knowledge he gained by coming through Q1 to his advantage to set a pole time of 2m 09.293s, slower than the track had been in the earlier fully wet FP3 session.

With Saturday morning a washout , the qualifying groupings were determined on the times the riders did back in FP2, and Estrella Galicia’s Alonso Lopez made moves to come up from Q1 with the best time, remaining consistent he was just 0.086s slower in second, claiming his first ever front row start.

The all Honda front row will be completed by Antonelli’s teammate, home hero Tatsuki Suzuki, who impressed as the best of the riders who made it directly into Q2 in third.

Q1 graduate Makar Yurchenko (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) also secured his best grid placing after towing Lopez to his second place and will start fourth as the top KTM performer.

Sergio Garcia was the best of the rookies, again after coming through Q1 first, proving how important track time was in fifth on the second Estrella Galicia entry.

Championship leader Lorenzo Dalla Porta had enough in the tank to successfully park his Leopard Racing bike ahead of his main title rival Aron Canet on the grid, posting a time good enough for sixth. Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) is two places further back in eighth.

They are split on the timesheets by Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PruestelGP) in seventh.

Celestino Vietti was ninth for Sky Racing Team VR46, while Gabriel Rodrigo also did enough to earn a top ten start for Gresini.

John McPhee found improvements every lap for Petronas Sprinta Racing, but could not match the pace of the frontrunners, leaving him eleventh.

Thailand race winner Albert Arenas struggled for pace at the Twin Ring and could only manage a time good enough for 13th.

Andrea Migno qualified in 15th but has a six place grid penalty to be applied tomorrow for irresponsible riding in the Thai GP.

Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) had been fastest in the wet FP3 but an early crash at turn four saw him unable to post a time in Q2, leaving him 18th.

A late Q1 spill saw Jaume Masia drop out of the progression places and into fifth, leaving him in 19th on the grid.

There is more home interest further down the order with Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) in 16th, wildcard Ryusei Yamanaka (Estrella Galicia 0,0) 20th and Kazuki Masaki (BOE) in 24th. 

A fall prevented Tom Booth-Amos (CIP Green Power) from making any progress after looking good in the wet FP3 where he finished seventh, leaving him 28th on the grid.

With a crash earlier in the weekend leaving his fitness in question and a pit lane start penalty coming his way, Filip Salac didn’t even put his leathers on as he starts last regardless if he is declared fit enough to race.