Things got pretty hot in Texas in qualifying for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, with drama first striking as reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took a tumble at Turn 13 and was heading back to the garage on the back of a scooter as his rivals started to threaten his provisional pole. But the number 93 was able to get back out, and set a sixth pole position at the Circuit of the Americas – closely followed by the man who seems set to try and challenge him on Sunday, Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). It wasn’t done there, however…
Viñales, after an impressive show of race pace earlier in the day in FP4, came across a slower-moving Marquez on his first flyer on his second run and was forced to abandon the lap. Nevertheless, the Spaniard set the second quickest lap on a final push – and he’ll be starting from pole. After the incident between the two men was investigated by the FIM MotoGP™ Stewards, Marquez was given a three-place grid penalty and will therefore actually start from fourth.
Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – another man who has been key competition for Marquez in practice – set the third fastest lap and will be starting from the front row and now second place, with Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) bumped back onto the front row to make it seven races in the row the Frenchman has lined up there.
He had Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) for very close company on the timesheets; the Italian just 0.019 back and now starting fifth, next to Marquez now heading up Row 2. And it was just as tight for sixth and the final spot on the second row, as Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) was only another 0.065 in arrears behind the ‘Doctor’. Three men certain to attack right from lights out, with 20 World Championships between them.
Championship leader Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) took seventh as he aims to keep his points lead on Sunday, and he’s just ahead of the man chasing him in the standings, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) – who’s won off the third row before.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) completes that star-studded third row. The three-time World Champion is racing only a week and a bit after surgery on a broken wrist sustained in the Argentina GP, and not only gained direct entry to Q2, but took a third row start in another superhuman effort.
Q1 graduate Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), Argentina GP podium finisher Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completed the top twelve – with Espargaro having put in a stunner to come through Q1 and get KTM’s first visit to Q2 this season. Thereafter, however, the KTM rider was also given a three-place grid penalty, meaning Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) will start P12.
It’s set up to be a stunner, with Viñales alongside Marquez and Rossi and Zarco gunning from Row 2. Think you can call it in the MotoGP™ League? Iannone already said it on Friday: “Anything is possible!”