Marc Marquez continued his perfect run of MotoGP qualifying at Phillip Island over the last 4 years as he secured his 7th pole position of 2017, which is also his 44th in the class and 72nd in Grand Prix racing.
Despite a bit of light rain for Moto3, the qualifying sessions for MotoGP were all dry and riders put in the fastest times of the weekend.
After a difficult Friday and a wet FP3; Valentino Rossi, Danilo Petrucci and Jorge Lorenzo found themselves amongst the riders fighting through Q1, but Rossi had little trouble topping the session and was joined in Q2 by Bradley Smith. Lorenzo had crashed in FP3 and sprained his ankle, leaving him on the back foot (no pun intended), while Japan podium-finisher Petrucci continued to struggle with setup in Australia.
Time for the top 12 shootout and it was Andrea Iannone who set the benchmark on the Suzuki before he was bettered by Marc Marquez who continued to show his excellent pace on The Island. After a quick change of rubber, it was time for the final push. Johann Zarco took over at the top of the times before he was demoted by Maverick Vinales, who in turn was beaten by Marc Marquez with an excellent time of 1’28.386, putting him 0.333 ahead of Vinales in second. Zarco’s time was enough to secure him 3rd and his 4th front row of the year.
Early leader Iannone finished the session in 4th, a great qualifying for the Suzuki team who have made a real turnaround in the last two race weekends, with the Italian joined on the second row by home rider Jack Miller (who still has a broken leg!) and Pol Espargaro who put in another excellent performance for KTM.
Row 3 will be lead by Valentino Rossi who found himself struggling in corner entry, with Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia and the second KTM of Bradley Smith lining up alongside The Doctor.
Rounding out the top 12 on row 4 will be Cal Crutchlow who fell during qualifying as he pushed just a bit too hard, Andrea Dovizioso who had his confidence affected by a nasty crash in FP4 and Dani Pedrosa who continues to struggle.
The Australian Grand Prix will be all about tyres and weather, if it rains then the riders will hope warmup is also wet as most of them have a lot of work to do on their wet setup and if it’s dry then making tyres last to the end while battling cooler temperatures, especially with the later race start, will prove a real challenge.
On paper, Marc Marquez is the rider to beat but he made his main target clear; to finish, to beat Dovizioso and not to lose too many points to Vinales. Dovi’s starting position of 11th doesn’t rule him out because he won Motegi from 9th on the grid and at this stage, every point counts.
If it comes down to choosing between pushing and possibly crashing or settling for second or third, then this is the time when Marc will need to choose the latter, 11 points are a lot easier to lose than gain.
Wet or dry, tomorrow’s race promises to be another MotoGP spectacle and one you won’t want to miss.. it could prove decisive for the championship.