Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez secured a seventh straight pole position at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas after setting a 2:03.787 in Q2 to finish 0.273 clear of Yamaha’s second Valentino Rossi, with LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow completing the front row in Texas.
After horrendous weather throughout the morning in Austin, the lightening and rain was replaced with beautiful blue skies above the Circuit of the Americas for qualifying. Normal service was resumed at the beginning of Q2 as Marquez slammed in a 2:03.787 straight out the gate, chasing down teammate Jorge Lorenzo – who topped the timesheets in Q1 – to put in the best time of the weekend. Lorenzo then encountered a chain issue with his Honda machine heading onto his second flying lap behind the number 93 – a Marquez-style park it and run down pitlane followed for the five-time World Champion.
Meanwhile, Marquez’ scorcher of a time was seemingly well out of sight as the riders completed their first flying laps, with Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales a full two seconds back before his teammate Rossi jumped up to second, 0.733 the gap. No one could get closer than that to Marquez after the first runs though, with Rossi emerging as best of the rest ahead of Pramac’s Jack Miller, Viñales, Suzuki’s Alex Rins and Crutchlow.
The riders emerged out of the box for their second time attacks, with Marquez unable to better his sensational first lap at the first attempt on fresh rubber.
Marquez said: “I’m happy to be on pole position but for tomorrow nothing is certain yet. Today we were fastest and got pole, but no one knows about race pace or tyres yet as we lost FP3. We will have to work well in Warm Up to make up for the time we sadly lost to the weather. After Warm Up we will know more but there are many people who could be in the fight.”
But it wasn’t the same story for his rivals behind, with Rossi improving to move within three tenths of P1, with Rins and Miller exchanging laps good enough for the final front row slot just behind. However, neither would occupy P3 for long as Crutchlow crossed the line to displace the duo, the British rider just 0.087 off Rossi.
Miller took top Ducati honours in P4, with KTM’s Pol Espargaro just behind. The Spaniard enjoyed a stellar Q2 session to secure KTM’s best qualifying position in fifth, just 0.685 from pole, with Viñales improving on his last lap to grab a second row start in P6.
The Spaniard’s lap knocked Rins down a place to seventh, with Q1 graduate Danilo Petrucci piloting his Ducati to eighth ahead of Petronas Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo. Teammate Franco Morbidelli qualified P10, ahead of Lorenzo and rookie Francesco Bagnaia on the second Pramac bike.
The major talking points from qualifying were the absence of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso from Q2 and Lorenzo’s bike throwing a chain, with paddock insiders posting the finger at Honda’s carbon fibre swingarm; many speculate that the swingarm now flexes too much to keep a chain on at full throttle on a slow turn.