After dominating on day one of Free Practice at the Twin Ring Motegi ahead of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, the 600cc Kalex rider remained the man to beat as the class took to the track in ideal conditions for the final Free Practice session ahead of Qualifying.
Luthi the man to beat
When things settled midway through the session it was Luthi on top as the man to beat. The German Garage Plus Interwetten Kalex rider was out on track lapping consistently and by the end of a session on track consisting of approximately ten laps, around seven of those all clocked at a quicker time than anyone else on track.
Towards the start of the session Remy Gardner (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) ran off the track. Fortunately he was able to recover and re-join without issue.
First crash from Alex Marquez
Just over 10 minutes into the session Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Alex Marquez was the first in the Moto3 class to crash on day two. The front folded underneath him as he began to exit the corner. He was able to pick the bike up and get it restarted which allowed him to then return to the pits to be checked over.
Moments later, British rider Sam Lowes crashed out at turn ten. He entered the corner slightly wider than usual aboard his Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex on the approach, and as he began to accelerate out of the corner he slid out. He was unhurt and was able to recover his bike and return to the pits.
More crashes followed
With just 15 minutes of the session remaining, Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) crashed; not his first crash of the weekend. The front tucked under him as he entered turn nine and the bike slid into the gravel. Schrotter was also able to get restarted and returned to the pits.
Then Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) crashed out of turn 2 with less than three minutes to go. The Italian slid out and the bike and he, unusually travelled down pit lane. Fortunately he was unhurt.
Luthi quickest at the end of the final Free Practice session
By the end of the final Free Practice session for the Moto2 class, Luthi remained the quickest man a track with his time of 1:50,373. He led ahead of Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) in second and championship leader (by one point) Johann Zarco on his Ajo Motorsport Kalex.
Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) was fourth quickest ahead of Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Marquez in sixth. Takaaki Nakagami, who led the first Free Practice session on his Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex was seventh fastest ahead of Axel pons (AGR Team), Hafitzh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) and Sandro Cortese (AGR Team) who completed the top ten; all of the bikes where Kalex machinery.
Morbidelli sets an early flying and record breaking lap
Early on in the Moto2 Qualifying session, Morbidelli set out on a mission and claimed pole position ahead of the fifteenth round of the season. The Italian’s time of 1:50.317 was not only enough to temporarily take pole, but it also set a new lap record beating every previous time set by a Moto2 bike at Motegi.
Marini the first to crash out of Qualifying
Less than ten minutes into the session, Forward Team rider Luca Marini crashed out at turn 14. He slid across the track and his bike landed in the gravel, he was able to get straight up to his feet and was trying to get the bike restarted and attempting to get it across the track and back down the pit lane only to be stopped by Marshals.
Moments later, and unfortunately for the Forward Team, his teammate crashed out at turn nine of the circuit. His bike tumbled to the side of the road, but he also looked unhurt.
Luthi returns and lays down the gauntlet
Things settled down for a good while, popping in and out of the pits the 600cc class worked towards trying to improve their personal times with them all struggling to get near Morbidelli’s record breaking pace.
With less than 14 minutes to go Luthi crossed the line completing a time of 1:50.071 which took him up to pole position and again meant he had broken the Moto2 lap record that Morbidelli had previously set. On his next lap, he touched the edge of the kerb on one corner going into the dirt slightly, but nothing seemed to be stopping him as he looked so determined on track.
Baldassarri back out on track
The Forward Team did well to help Baldassarri return to the track with just over six minutes of the session remaining. The remainder of the riders were pushing hard, Sam Lowes was sliding everywhere on his Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex trying to steal the front row start from Zarco.
Championship the focus in the Moto2
The Moto2 championship is extremely close. Zarco leads by just one point ahead of Paginas Amarillas HP 40 rider Alex Rins. Behind them Lowes has a 12 point lead over Luthi as they battle it out for third. Zarco has been within the top ten throughout the weekend but Rins has struggled and a crash that hurt his wrist on day one didn’t help matters for the Spaniard.
Zarco steals pole and record from Luthi
With less than four minutes remaining, Zarco’s timing was red through the first three sectors indicating that he was on to steal pole from Luthi. However he made a mistake on the final sector and it meant he remained in third.
Luthi retaliated, he was on a hot lap with just over two minutes to go, as was Zarco again. Luthi crossed the line first and was 0.115 seconds off his own time, but Zarco did it! He improved on Luthi’s time by one hundredth of a second and broke through the 1:50 barrier. His time of 1:49.961 was now the new Moto2 lap record holder.
Axel Pons crashed at turn 10, it was session over for the who had to walk away from the bike that was buried deep in the gravel. At the same time, Lowes ran on at turn 11 which spoiled his chances of getting on to the front row as he ran out of time to complete another flying lap.
Zarco crashes out
Luthi had one last chance to snatch pole as he crossed the line just moments before the chequered flag went out. Zarco’s session had finished, and as he completed his slowing down lap he came off at turn through and he and his bike ended up rolling through the gravel. Marshals assisted him in getting going again but he decided to return to the pits via the back roads.
Still, Zarco had pole position and the lap record, and he would start the Motul Grand Prix of Japan Moto2 race on the front row alongside Luthi in second and Morbidelli in third. Lowes will lead the second row in fourth ahead of Cortese and Axel Pons who completes it despite both crashing on day two.
How the remainder of the grid looks…
Nakagami will start his home round from seventh on the grid ahead of Marquez and Folger in ninth. Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) will start from 10th ahead of Schrotter and Hafitzh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia). The fastest Speed Up rider Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) will start from 13th ahead of Baldassarri who had to settle for 14th, and they will be joined on the fifth row by British rider Danny Kent (Leopard Racing).
QMMF Racing Team teammates Julian Simon and Xavier Simeon make up row six along with the fastest Tech 3 rider Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing). Raffin will start from 19th on the grid ahead of Isaac Vinales (Tech 3 Racing) and Paginas Amarillas HP 40 teammates Edgar Pons and surprisingly Rins down in 22nd.
Gardner is 23rd ahead of wildcard rider Tetsuta Nagashima (Ajo Motorsport Academy) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia). Marini has to settle for 26th ahead of Robin Mulhauser (CarXpert Interwetten) and Dominique Aegerter’s replacement on the Technomag Racing Interwetten Kalex, youngster Iker Lecuona; who was brought in after the Swiss rider was sacked. Wildcards Naomichi Uramoto (Japan-GP2) and Taro Sekiguchi (Team Taro Plus One) complete the grid.