Fujiwara was the only rider to post within the 1:54s range, clocking in at 1:54.413s on his third lap out. This new record sees the defending champion bagging his third pole position of the season. Fujiwara will be leading an all-Japanese front row as compatriots Ryuichi Kiyonari and Yuki Ito park their bikes in second and third with times of 1:55.014s and 1:55.221s respectively.
However, Fujiwara is not one to celebrate too early. "Qualifying and race are two completely different entities. To me, the 1:54s only means a very small advantage. In a race situation, I expect to be slipstreamed and therefore, will not be able to go as fast. Consistency is more important. In other words, while I am happy to have this slight edge in pole position, there is still much to fight for in the race as the other riders in the first two rows will not be making it easy for me," said Fujiwara.
Meanwhile, Malaysians Zamri Baba and Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman will start the race from second row - specifically from fourth and fifth places each after clocking in times of 1:55.312 and 1:55.355. They will be joined by wildcard Hiromichi Kunikawa with 1:55.466s. At this juncture of the championship, good results from Autopolis would be critical in keeping Zamri and Azlan's championship hopes alive. It is a unique situation to be found only in Japan whereby the wildcards are frequently of the same level as the regular riders in the championship. If both Fujiwara and Kiyonari manage a 1-2 in the race on Saturday and Sunday while the wildcards somehow hinder Zamri or Azlan's path to the podium, their chances of staying in touch with the leaders would become slimmer.
With all to fight for, both teams PETRONAS Hong Leong Yamaha Malaysia and MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda will be working overtime to find solutions for their riders. "The team intends to make more changes to the bike settings, especially to the compression ratio in order to try to get more power out of the engine. Personally, I am a bit worried as I feel that there is not much time left for changes. Nevertheless, I will go with the team's decision," said Zamri.
"Because the Autopolis track is long, this will be one of our shortest races of the season - only 11 laps long. As such, I will not be employing any tyre-saving strategies or techniques because we know that the tyres can last up to the end of the race. With that, I intend to deliver an all-out race tomorrow."