For the first time since 2004, a Japanese rider has taken a MotoGP pole position. Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami secured pole position at the Teurel Grand Prix in Aragon with a flying 1m 46.882s lap—just six hundredths ahead of Franco Morbidelli, his closest competition. It’s a great way to celebrate the fact that Nakagami signed new two-year deal with Honda on Thursday.
“It’s just amazing,” and excited Nakagami said after the session. “We went pretty well on the last lap. Sector one was not the best, one-tenth slower. But this is the last lap. I tried to improve. I made adjustments for sectors two, three, and four. We managed to go faster and faster. It was under one minute 47, but I didn’t know because there are no monitors on the track. I didn’t realize it was pole position. When I came in, the crew was waiting at P1, so I realized, I got a pole position. Amazing feeling.”
Nakagami has been quick all week, but pole wasn’t guaranteed. Maverick Vinales and Alex Rins swapped provisional pole positions before Nakagami countered their efforts with another flying lap of his own. Very few drivers had as substantial an improvement as the Japanese rider.
Johann Zarco may have qualified fifth, but his crash in the last corner of Q1 brought out a yellow flag and cancelled the laps of some of his competitors.
One of the more surprising inclusions in the top 10 is rookie Iker Lecuona on a Tech 3 KTM. He originally qualified 11th but was promoted to ninth after a round of cancelled laps.
Andrea Dovisioso matched his worst-ever qualifying position in 17th. Current championship leader Joan Mir only qualified 12th and will have a fight to make it to the front of the grid.
Franco Morbidelli qualified second, lining up in the middle of the front row:
“It was a good lap. I didn’t improve sector one, but in the rest of the track, I felt a good feeling. I was able to go under the 47, which is unbelievable at the track. Unfortunately, Taka was able to go a little bit faster. But front row is the main goal on Saturday, and we were able to get it. Now we need to work a little more to adjust the settings a little more and be sharp in the race.”
After his win last week, Alex Rins lines up third on the grid, saying, “It was a long time that I’ve been here on the first row. Thanks to Fabio [Quartararo] because I followed his bike and was able to do this lap time. We did a big step from last week in terms of setup, so let’s see for tomorrow’s race.”
Top 10 Starting Grid
1. Takaaki Nakagami
2. Franco Morbidelli
3. Alex Rins
4. Maverick Vinales
5. Johann Zarco
6. Fabio Quartararo
7. Cal Cruthlow
8. Pol Espargaro
9. Iker Lecuona
10. Miguel Oliveira