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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez claimed his 23rd MotoGP™ pole position with an incredible final lap during a tense Q2 in Austin.
The lap was made even more remarkable by the fact the reigning MotoGP™ World Champion had to stop on track with 3 minutes remaining after a technical fault and run back down the pit lane to retrieve his second bike with just seconds to spare.
Not even this could stop the Spaniard as he went back out on track to set the fastest ever time on two-wheels around CoTA, a 2’02.135, over sixth-tenths quicker than his previous lap record set in Qualifying last year. It was a fitting end to a thrilling Q2, which saw the lead change hands a number of times in the dying seconds.
Despite overcast skies, track conditions were actually ideal for the fifteen-minute session, with Marquez finishing an impressive 0.339s ahead of his nearest rival, the pole sitter from Qatar, Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati Team GP15. The Spaniard explaining: “It was rather different to what we are used to, because when I crossed the line for the first time with the second tyre I saw a warning light on the bike. When that happens, we are normally advised to shut off the engine. I was able to get out again on the second bike and cross the line right at the cut-off point to put in a final lap, which worked out well for us.”
Dovizioso will start from 2nd place after just missing out on his second pole of the season in the dying moments of the session: “I am so happy to be on the front row, as I knew it would be hard. I was able to push really hard during qualifying, and I am very happy at how much we have improved the feeling over the weekend.”
Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo (+0.405s) took the final front row spot after completing a remarkable comeback from a bout of bronchitis that saw him down in 11th after FP2: “The antibiotics are doing their job, but I need to be in a perfect condition for tomorrow.”
The double MotoGP™ World Champion seemed pleased with how he had turned things around: “I was really satisfied with this time and position, I didn‘t expect to make the top five. Let‘s see what the weather is like tomorrow. Personally I prefer a dry race, but a wet race would be better for my physical condition. I am very happy that the Yamaha is becoming better in this track.”
Lorenzo's teammate and winner in Qatar Valentino Rossi (+0.428s) will start from the front of the second row and feels it will be a close race: “Last year there was a bigger difference to Marc‘s pace, this is very positive, but he remains the favourite for the race tomorrow. After him there‘s me, Jorge and Dovi very close in terms of rhythm.”
The leading Satellite rider was once again Cal Crutchlow (+0.478s) in 5th place on the CWM LCR Honda, who has impressed throughout the weekend. The British rider finished second fastest in FP3, and blames himself for missing out on the front row: "It is my own fault. I felt comfortable riding on my own but I just outbraked myself into turn 11, which is in the second sector and then I lost all the drive onto the straight, which is into the third sector. I wrecked two sectors basically and it definitely cost me the front row."
His compatriot Scott Redding (+0.539s) seems to be making rapid progress on his Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing Honda RC213V and will start from 6th: “Finally we’re finding our way with this bike. We struggled a lot in Qatar, but at least we left there with an idea of which direction we needed to go in and I think the lap times here show that it’s the right one. Each session we’ve improved, gone a little bit faster and closed the gap just a little bit more to the guys in front, while my race pace over the longer runs has also been good.”
The second factory Ducati of Andrea Iannone will start from 7th with the Team Suzuki Ecstar of Aleix Espargaro (8th) finishing ahead of his brother Pol (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) in 9th. Pol admitting that he was frustrated afterwards: “I made a mistake on my fast lap and ran straight on. After that, I was able to improve my lap time but the tyre wasn't fresh anymore and that unfortunately makes a huge difference at this track. I have nobody to blame as it was my own fault, but for sure starting from the back of the third row won't make things any easier tomorrow.”
Pol’s teammate Bradley Smith was disappointed to be starting from 10th on the grid after more bad luck for the British rider: “We had some technical troubles during FP4 and we couldn't fix them in time for QP2. Unfortunately, this meant that I had to stop to change the bike, which is far from ideal in a 15-minute session on such a long circuit. Furthermore, we didn’t have time to swap the front tyre on the second bike, so I did my laps with a used one. It was a session where nothing went our way, so it’s disappointing to start from the fourth row.”
Danilo Petrucci on the Pramac Racing Ducati and the second Team Suzuki Ecstar GSX-RR of Maverick Viñales will complete the 4th row on the grid for Sundays race.
Earlier on, it was Andrea Iannone and Maverick Viñales who made it through from Q1. Hector Barbera missed out on taking part in Q2 by less than five-hundredths of a second, but won the battle of the Open class riders and will start from the front of the 5th row in 13th place, ahead of Athina Forward Racing’s Stefan Bradl and Yonny Hernandez on the second Pramac Racing Ducati.
Click here for the full Qualifying results and starting grid for Sunday’s MotoGP™ race, which is due to start at 14:00 local time in Austin.
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