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Yamaha's Johann Zarco nabs pole position for MotoGP Grand Prix of Japan

AP, Kyodo

Yamaha rider Johann Zarco secured pole position on Saturday for the MotoGP Grand Prix of Japan.

Zarco clocked a time of 1 minute, 53.469 seconds to edge Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci by 0.318 seconds. Championship leader Marc Marquez was third-fastest, 0.434 seconds off the pace.

“When it is wet and it is drying, for me, I get a lot more confidence,” said Zarco. “We cannot get good drive (out of the corners) but I feel good to come fast into the corner. Riding the bike this way can make the difference.

“The second (pole) in the year, that is fantastic. Sometimes when you are struggling you can think that it was only one day that (it) can happen in Assen (in the Netherlands), but it can also happen in Japan and I am so happy for that.”

With four races left, Repsol Honda rider Marquez leads Andrea Dovizioso by 16 points in the overall season standings.

Aprilia rider Aleix Espagaro was fourth followed by Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo.

Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa, who has five wins at Motegi, was sixth. Ducati rider Dovizioso, who had the fastest lap in Friday’s practice, finished ninth.

The three Japanese wild-card riders — Hiroshi Aoyama, Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kota Nozane — will make up the back of the grid after setting three of the four slowest qualifying times.

The story for the Japan was better in Moto2 as Takaaki Nakagami claimed pole position, the fourth of his career in the category.

The Chiba native, who has been tapped to move up and ride for Honda in the 2018 MotoGP season, will be out for his third win since entering Moto2 in 2011.