Marc Marquez is undeniably the fastest rider at Circuit of the Americas just outside of Austin, Texas.
The 21-year-old Repsol Honda pilot arrived in Austin this week holding all circuit records – Fastest Lap, Circuit Record, Best Pole and Top Speed. He was quick during a rain-soaked Friday, leading the day after dry line surfaced.
But on Saturday, Marquez was even quicker; under dry conditions, the RC213V pilot set a new Best Pole record with a 2:02.135 around the 3.426-mile circuit containing 20 corners. This time arrived after Marquez had technical issues with his main bike; he was forced to switch to his back-up bike, and with seconds to go he took the top qualifying position.
It should be noted that since COTA joined MotoGP in 2013, Marquez won all races from the pole position.
Joining the Spaniard on the front row for Sunday’s 21-lap encounter at 3 p.m. ET is Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo. Dovi – the pole sitter for the season opener at Qatar – trailed by 0.339, and Lorenzo by 0.405 of a second.
This was Marquez’s 51st pole in Grand Prix racing, and his 23rd in MotoGP.
“I’m happy, because after having a problem we were able to come back and set the fastest time. It was rather different to what we are used to, because when I crossed the line for the first time with the second tyre I saw a warning light on the bike. When that happens, we are normally advised to shut off the engine,” Marquez says.
“I was able to get out again on the second bike and cross the line right at the cut-off point to put in a final lap, which worked out well for us. It’s important, because tomorrow we are expecting an eventful race with the unstable weather conditions. If the race is dry, then I’m ready. If it’s wet, then we will have to see how things go in the moment!”
Dovi was once again fast on the Ducati GP15, and the Italian is hoping for another podium in 2015 MotoGP to add to his second-place finish at Qatar.
“When we get these results, it means that we have certainly been working well. I am very satisfied with the front row position and with my best time, and I’m also happy with the way my team has worked, Dovizioso says.
“We managed to improve the feeling a bit in FP4, and this allowed me to be aggressive in qualifying and record a really good time. Here in Texas we’ve had a bit more difficulty than in Qatar, because the Austin track is very unusual and the weather conditions have certainly not helped. Tomorrow it’s not going to be easy, but I have to say that we are competitive and so I think I can do a good race.”
Lorenzo earned a front-row qualifying spot, though he once again had troubles. During Qatar, the two-time MotoGP champion finished fourth after struggling with his HJC helmet. And this weekend, Lorenzo says he’s suffering from bronchitis.
“Qualifying was very exciting as always. The positions were changing a lot and we tried the maximum, even with not the best physical conditions. For one lap it was not so bad, I could give a maximum effort to ride this lap time. I was really satisfied with this time and position, I didn‘t expect to make the top five,” Lorenzo says.
“Let‘s see what the weather is like tomorrow. Personally I prefer a dry race, but a wet race would be better for my physical condition. I am very happy that the Yamaha is becoming better in this track. We didn‘t have a lot of time, so we don‘t exactly know what our pace is like. The front tyre wears down very quickly on the right side, just like last year. Let‘s see in a dry race how it performs. I feel so-so at the moment. The antibiotics are doing their job, but I need to be in a perfect condition for tomorrow.”
Qatar winner Valentino Rossi heads up the second row aboard the Movistar Yamaha YZR-M1. The nine-time World Champion will be joined by leading satellite pilot Cal Crutchlow (CWM LCR Honda) and Scott Redding (Marc VDS Honda). Rossi was 0.428 of a second off the pace, Crutchlow 0.478 and Redding 0.539.
Dovi’s teammate Andrea Iannone, who finished third at Qatar, will start from seventh. The Italian will be joined on the third row by Team ECSTAR Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Pol Espargaro. Both Iannone and the other Suzuki pilot Maverick Vinales – who qualified 12th – made it into Q2 from @1.
Hector Barbera missed out on taking part in Q2 by less than five-hundredths of a second, but won the battle of the Open class riders and will start from the front of the 5th row in 13th place, ahead of Athina Forward Racing’s Stefan Bradl and Yonny Hernandez on the second Pramac Racing Ducati.
As for the sole American in MotoGP, Aspar Honda’s Nicky Hayden qualified 22nd.
The second round of MotoGP – the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas at Circuit of the Americas – will be broadcast live at 3 p.m. ET.
Photos by Ara Ashjian