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JACK Miller will start from the front row of the Japanese Grand Prix despite a crash at the end of qualifying.
Andrea Dovizioso took pole position in a race that is crucial for his slender 2018 title hopes, but it was Miller that nearly pulled the major shock.
The Australian held pole position with 30 seconds remaining and was on an even faster lap when he crashed.
Dovizioso and Johann Zarco both surpassed him as the chequered flag waved.
A setup change just before qualifying saw Miller feel more comfortable with his Ducati, and looked a genuine contender for pole until crashing at Turn 5 on the second lap of his final run.
“The second tyre went in and I went all out,” Miller said. “Not particularly happy because I know I could’ve gone faster!
“The tyre wasn’t on in the first sector (of the first lap), and the second lap I went two tenths quicker – but then I got a little bit carried away and braked a little too late into Turn 5.
“There was no way I was going to make it, but I gave it a try anyway!”
The difference between Miller and pole? 0.137s, or less than two tenths.
Marc Marquez could only manage sixth on the grid on a weekend where he just needs to ensure his 77-point advantage doesn’t dip below 75 to clinch his seventh world championship.
The Honda rider crashed during the preceding Practice 4, perhaps encouraging him not to overreach and make his job too difficult on race day.
Joining him on the second row are Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Iannone, the latter on track to pip Miller to the front row until losing time in the final sector where the Ducati is strongest.
The results meant no factory Hondas will start on the front row at the Honda-owned track, while neither of the factory Yamahas could do better than the third row at their home grand prix.
Maverick Vinales was the best of the blue bikes in seventh ahead of Alex Rins’ Suzuki, while Valentino Rossi will start Sunday’s race from ninth.