MotoGP: Marquez locks in Phillip Island pole
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) bounced back from a difficult Free Practice at Phillip Island to take a fifth successive pole position at the Australian venue. Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was the closest challenger to Marquez’s 1m29.199s to line up in P2, with fellow Yamaha rider Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) completing the front of the grid in tricky conditions.
As premier class riders headed out to set their opening lap times, the rain started to fall as it looked like we could be in for a damp pole position shoot-out. However, this didn’t last long, and it was home hero Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) who led the charge to set the first reference lap time, before Marquez then took over the reigns, a 1m31.282s his benchmark.
Conditions were not ideal for setting a quick lap time but no matter, Marquez then moved the goalposts again on his second flying lap as the 12 riders stormed the Island. A 1m29.742s now the time to beat, with Vinales slotting into P2 — 0.082 splitting the two Spaniards.
Then, the man who dominated Free Practice went quickest: Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar). But he was then quickly ousted by Zarco as the provisional pole chopped and changed in varying Phillip Island weather. 0.007s was a minimal gap splitting the duo, with Marquez then slotting into third, 0.037 back. The champion didn’t stay there for long, though, shooting to P1 by 0.506s as the No. 93 raised the bar once more — a personal and session-best lap time that would prove to be crucial.
As most of the riders pitted for fresh rubber, the heavens opened again. Once more the rain didn’t stay but the light sprinkling proved a stretch too far for anyone to drastically improve their times. Miller set orange sectors but was unable to improve after a huge moment coming onto the Gardner straight. Vinales then raised eyebrows by going quickest in the first sector, but he also couldn’t hook up the final sector in the difficult conditions.
So the session ended with Marquez — who equals Casey Stoner’s Phillip Island consecutive pole record — Vinales and Zarco launching from Row 1, with Iannone missing out on a front row start by 0.007s. Fellow Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Alex Rins will start from P5, with Miller grabbing P6 in front of his home fans. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) will aim to challenge for a podium from P7 on the grid as he leads an all-Italian third row: Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) sits ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in P8 and P9 respectively, this was the latter’s worst qualifying result of the season.
After a huge Turn 1 FP3 crash, Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) earned his best Saturday afternoon result of the season in P10, with Q1 graduates Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Alvaro Bautista (Ducati Team) — who crashed heading into Turn 10 — completing the top 12.
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