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Champion Marquez secures his first pole at Japan MotoGP

Marc Marquez clocked 1min 45.763sec for his first pole start in the premier class at Twin Ring Motegi, where he won in 2016 and last year (AFP Photo/Toshifumi KITAMURA)

Motegi (Japan) (AFP) - MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez will eye his tenth win of the season after snatching pole position Saturday in Japan.

The Honda rider clocked 1min 45.763sec for his first pole start in the premier class at Twin Ring Motegi, where he won in 2016 and last year, while coming second in 2017, 2014 and 2013.

"Finally we did it. So happy," Marquez said, after securing his 90th career pole.

He will be joined in the front row by Petronas Yamaha SRT riders Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo, who came in 0.132sec and 0.181sec later.

Marquez, who finished third in Friday practice, has already secured his sixth season win in seven years after triumphing in Thailand two weeks ago.

He also finished second in five of the season's six other races, missing the podium only once in the United States after crashing out while leading the race.

Still, the season champion was keeping his guard high, with the Yamaha duo and Andrea Dovizioso on Ducati maintaining pressure.

Marquez admitted that he and his team were yet to find the best setup for their machine, saying "tomorrow will be a tough race" as the weather has changed constantly on Friday and Saturday.

"We will see tomorrow because Yamaha riders have good pace, Dovizioso has a good pace. We will try to do our 100 percent," the Spaniard said.

"The main target is to finish in the podium. Then if I feel OK, try to fight for the victory," he said.

Quartararo is nipping at the Spaniard's heels after two narrow defeats to the world champion in recent races, with victory only decided on the closing laps.

"I am ready to fight. I hope to make good first laps," the Frenchman said about the Sunday race.

Riders in Motegi had to navigate hostile conditions after heavy rain into the afternoon, leaving the track with damp spots and with thick cloud cover for the qualifying sessions.

Sunny weather is expected for Sunday's race day on the Japanese circuit.

Starting from the second row will be Maverick Vinales of Monster Energy Yamaha, Cal Crutchlow of LCR Honda and Jack Miller of Pramac Racing.

They are followed by Dovizioso, who could seal second place in this year's championship with Sunday's race, while Valentino Rossi starts from the fourth row.

Qualifying times

1. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 1min 45.763sec, 2. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) at 0.132sec, 3. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha-SRT) 0.181, 4. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) 0.327, 5. Cal Crutchlow (GBR/Honda-LCR) 0.426, 6. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati-Pramac) 0.574, 7. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 0.647, 8. Danilo Petrucci (ITA/Ducati) 0.664, 9. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 0.795, 10. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 0.795.