Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez has taken pole position at Phillip Island, as the new World Champion chose the perfect moment to head out in the changeable conditions on full slick tyres. It was his 37th pole in MotoGP and the 65th in his career, which is also the new historical record, at just 23 years of age. It’s also Marc’s seventh pole of 2016, meaning that the Spaniard has already won the BMW M Award for the best-qualifying MotoGP rider of the season, a feat he has achieved every year since entering the premier class.
With Q1 seeing some incredibly high profile casualties, it was LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow and Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo who moved through to fight for the front, leaving Suzuki’s Maverick Viñales and Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi behind – with Rossi in P15 on the grid in his worst qualifying since 2011.
The track was drying in Q1, and drier by the start of Q2. With rain forecast to hit halfway through the second qualifying session however, the pressure was on to do a good lap – and choose the right tyre. With some heading out on intermediates, Marquez then came back in quickly to switch to slicks – untouchable from that point on, and 1.5 seconds clear a few minutes later until the grid began to reel him closer. Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro was late to switch, attempting a fast lap on the intermediates, before coming back in for slicks and then taking the front row – as Crutchlow didn’t quite take the full gamble, and set his front row qualifier on an intermediate front and slick rear.
Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro shone in the session to challenge for the front – just beaten over the line by his brother – and will start fourth, ahead of Aussie Jack Miller on the Marc VDS at his home race, who completed the top five in his best ever qualifying result. Locking out Row 2 is Octo Pramac Yakhnich rider Danilo Petrucci.
Nicky Hayden, riding in place of injured Dani Pedrosa at Repsol Honda, took an impressive P7 on his return to MotoGP, ahead of Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider Stefan Bradl – who is also set to become Hayden’s teammate in 2017 at Honda World Superbike Team. Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso is ninth to complete the third row, finding going a little tougher as the track dried. His teammate, Hector Barbera – standing in for injured Andrea Iannone – completed the top ten.
Pramac’s Scott Redding will start from eleventh, ahead of five-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who once again struggled in the tricky conditions after having graduated from Q1.
Marquez said: “I’m happy because, in addition to the pole, I was able to put in five laps and I noticed some things we can improve tomorrow. For example, we can get more grip, especially with the rear and on corner entry. In FP4, in the wet, I felt very comfortable, so this weekend we’re getting things right and we have to maintain this dynamic. Tomorrow’s race is still an unknown because we aren’t sure what tyres we’ll use, nor who our rivals will be, but we’ll try to make the best of any situation we find.”