AFP/Phillip Island, Australia
World championship leader Marc Marquez snatched pole position and left title rival Andrea Dovizioso in his wake in the final seconds of qualifying yesterday for the Australian MotoGP. Triple world champion Marquez grabbed his 44th pole in his 88th MotoGP with a best lap time of one minute 28.386 seconds at Phillip Island, while Ducati’s Dovizioso struggled to 11th fastest and will start today’s race from the fourth row.
The Spanish Honda rider, who leads Dovizioso by 11 points with three rounds left, will start on the inside of the grid, alongside his compatriot Maverick Vinales and French Yamaha racer Johann Zarco. Dovizioso will be hoping Marquez continues to have his impetuous moments around the fast, sweeping Phillip Island track.
Marquez crashed out of last year’s race while leading and already crowned world champion. He also came off his Honda bike during the 2014 race. “We will see the feeling with the bike, it is important at the start that I warm the tyres well and we will see which rear tyres we will choose,” Marquez said.
“The race is very long, 27 laps, the tyres can drop, I will just try to start well and get the feel of the bike. The most important thing is to finish on the podium and especially in front of Dovi (Dovizioso). It’s important to start ahead of Dovi, but at Motegi he started from ninth and he was behind me already by lap four.”
Zarco, who snatched pole position at Motegi last weekend, looked set to repeat the feat when he hit the front before Vinales and Marquez in turn claimed the best lap time in the final moments of qualifying.
Andrea Iannone (Suzuki), Australian Jack Miller (Honda) and Pol Espargaro (KTM) will start off the second row of the grid. Six-time race winner Valentino Rossi will join Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and Briton Bradley Smith (KTM) on the third row.
Dovizioso, who beat Marquez in a thrilling final lap duel in Japan last weekend, struggled in qualifying and will start off the fourth row along with last year’s race winner Cal Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa. Rossi and Smith advanced to the second qualifying session by finishing in the top two positions in the first session, for riders whose practice times were outside the top ten. Rossi posted a best 1:29.346 lap time on his Yamaha, 0.359secs ahead of Smith on a KTM.
Triple world MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, who injured his ankle in a tumble during third free practice, was sixth on his Ducati to push him down to 16th for today’s race grid.
Leading grid positions
1st row: 1. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 1:28.386, 2. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) 1:28.719, 3. Johann Zarco (FRA/Yamaha) 1:28.744; 2nd row: 4. Andrea Iannone (ITA/Suzuki) 1:28.937, 5. Jack Miller (AUS/Honda) 1:28.964, 6. Pol Espargaro (ESP/KTM) 1:29.030; 3rd row: 7. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 1:29.203, 8. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 1:29.271, 9. Bradley Smith (GBR/KTM) 1:29.321; 4th row: 10. Cal Crutchlow (GBR/Honda) 1:29.429, 11. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 1:29.496, 12. Dani Pedrosa (ESP/Honda)1:29.546
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