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6 days ago
By motogp.com

Connect four: title contenders chase Turn 1 advantage

The Championship top four sit P6, P9, P12 and P15 after a rain-drenched qualifying threw another twist into the title tale

With just five rounds remaining in 2022, every move from the Championship’s top four riders is being observed under a microscope. A spread of just 17 points separates Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Aleix Espargaro, while Aragon GP victor Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) remains an outside shot 48 points off the lead.

FREE: The final 5 minutes of Q2 from Motegi

Any mistake could prove detrimental, with rivals ready to pounce and feed off scraps provided. The first of the fly-away Grands Prix threw a spanner in the works of their plans, with the heavens opening and leaving the Motegi tarmac soaking as time attacks came in. Some adapted better than others, with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) claiming a first pole in three years, while others struggled.

Espargaro salvaged his day by posting a late effort that elevated him to the second row and P6, with reigning Champion Quartararo three places further back. Bagnaia will line up behind the Yamaha star in P12, the first time the Italian has been off the front two rows since the Portuguese GP, while Bastianini completes the line of contenders in 15th.  

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It puts an added importance on Sunday’s race start, with all four having the inside line into Turn 1, with early field position set to prove crucial, as it so often does in MotoGP™. Don't expect any of them to take the holeshot at the opening corner, but anticipate aggression from the off as they scramble to find an advantage they can hammer home to take the initiative in the race, and even the title fight!

With the premier class' top riders scattered across the grid, and dry conditions predicted, the Japanese GP race is set to make for unmissable viewing. Make sure you catch it all, with lights out at 15:00 local time.

"Another negative day" - Bastianini talks qualifying shocker

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