MOTEGI - Andrea Dovizioso stormed to Ducati's first pole position since 2010 and in record time Saturday as he eclipsed title-seeking championship leader Marc Marquez at the Japanese MotoGP. The Italian set a new pole record of 1min 44.502sec at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit as he put Ducati at the front of the grid for the first time since Casey Stoner at Valencia in 2010.

Yamaha's Valentino Rossi placed second and Dani Pedrosa was third in front of his Honda team-mate Marquez, whose bid to wrap up the title with three races to spare has been hindered by glitches. The 21-year-old Spaniard, who had a minor crash after a brake malfunction on Friday, had to pull off the track and switch to a new bike during Saturday practice.

He said he may be forced to ride for points rather than the win on Sunday, which he may not need to seal his second straight title. Marquez is 75 points clear of Pedrosa in the standings. "If I feel good, obviously, I will try to push and try to go for the victory. But I will try to manage my limit," Marquez said. "If I feel that for some reason, especially Dani or Valentino, on that day, if they are faster than everybody, we will try to get points," he said. "Maybe the strongest one looks like (Jorge) Lorenzo. He is behind me and behind everyone on the grid, but for the race, (he could be) the strongest one," Marquez added. Meanwhile, Dovizioso used soft tyres to outshine rivals at Motegi circuit, known for its stop-and-go design with lots of hard braking and acceleration points.

"I was able to make the lap time... and it was not easy on this track," the Italian said. "We know the level of the competitors and it will be difficult to fight for the podium, but it is not impossible," he said. In dry conditions, Marquez was 0.273sec slower than Dovizioso and expected a tight fight on Sunday. Yamaha's Lorenzo placed fifth. "I am happy because we improved a lot compared with yesterday. The rhythm is really good. I feel good," Marquez said. "I will try tomorrow to fight for the victory, of course. We are really close compared with Lorenzo, Valentino and Dani."

Nine-time world champion Rossi said he edged passed his rivals with strategies and not necessarily raw speed. "My pace was not so bad, but nothing special," he said. "I was in the right place at the right moment." Rossi added he was still feeing pain from a crash two weeks ago in Aragon.

"I have some pain, but I have a feeling and I have power for the race, so I can go 100 percent," he said. At the very end of the qualifying session, Pedrosa crashed as he aimed to get the pole position. The Honda rider walked away and later said he was unhurt. "It could be a very tight race, because there are many riders who have shown a good pace and this is a circuit that allows for very close lap times," Pedrosa said. Sunny weather and no rain is expected in Motegi for Sunday, with the effects of approaching Typhoon Vongfong unlikely to be felt at Motegi until late Monday or early Tuesday.