Phillip Island (Australia): Newly-crowned world champion Marc Marquez’s gamble on using slick tyres under the threat of rain paid off Saturday when he stormed to pole position for this weekend’s Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island.
The 23-year-old Spaniard, on a Repsol Honda, posted the fastest lap of one minute 30.189 seconds amid threatening rain to start on the inside of the grid for Sunday’s race.
It was Marquez’s 37th MotoGP pole and 65th across all classes as he vies for his 30th career premier class win at Phillip Island.
British Honda rider Cal Crutchlow was second, ahead of Spain’s Monster Yamaha racer Pol Espargaro with both to start off the front row with Marquez.
The two-part qualifying session played out under the threat of a downpour coming in off the sea but Marquez, who clinched his third MotoGP world title last weekend in Japan, took the risk and ran with slick tyres on the dry track surface.
His gamble paid off when he reeled off four fastest lap times before finishing 0.792seconds ahead of Crutchlow at the end of Q2.
“This weekend has been really tricky with the weather conditions,” Marquez said.
“You need to be fast, of course, but you also need a clever strategy and at the moment we are going out with the correct tyres every time and we were able to be on pole position.
“I feel comfortable on the bike and I am lucky that it (world title) was already done in Japan because this weekend it is really difficult to manage.”
– Unassailable lead –
Marquez rode one of his greatest races to pip Jorge Lorenzo by just 0.249 seconds in last year’s Phillip Island race and his Repsol Honda bike looks superior to the others this weekend.
He holds an unassailable 77-point lead in the standings with three races left, including this weekend at Phillip Island.
Crutchlow, who topped the Q1 session to advance into the second qualifying session along with Lorenzo, ran with intermediate tyres and was always in the top three in the final session.
“We are a little bit disappointed with the result, we could have maybe stole the pole today if I was clever enough,” Crutchlow said.
“In the end I am normally the bloke to put the slicks on first and I should have gone with my gut instinct. I changed my mind and it was the wrong decision to do so.”
Lorenzo could only finish 12th in Q2, some 6.6 seconds behind Marquez, while his Movistar team-mate and nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi failed to make it into the final qualifying session and will start 15th on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Rossi and Lorenzo are fighting for second place in this year’s world championship.
Lorenzo trails Rossi by 14 points heading into the final three races of the season.
Swiss Kalex rider Thomas Luthi, third in the Moto2 world championship, will start off the pole with French leader Johann Zarco back on the fourth row in Sunday’s race.
South African Brad Binder, who has already secured the Moto3 world title, has the pole at Phillip Island.