Marc Marquez has put himself in pole position to defend his MotoGP crown at the Valencia Grand Prix tomorrow, after a dominant Saturday that saw him further demonstrate his superior pace compared to the others.
Before the final top 12 shootout of 2017 could begin, there was Q1 to decide, with the top two moving through into Q2. Maverick Vinales found himself in Q1 after both he and team-mate Valentino Rossi battled their familiar issues with low grip, braking and turning.
The 15-minute session saw crashes from Cal Crutchlow, Tito Rabat and Sam Lowes and it was the Espargaro brothers Aleix and Pol that ended on top and moved into Q2. While Vinales ended the session in 13th.
Attention then turned to the final fight for pole. There was a reasonable mix of front tyre choices, with all 3 compounds being run, although all stuck with the soft rear.
Marc Marquez headed to the top of the times with his first flying lap, before immediately improving on the next with an untouchable 1’29.897. And that was pole position secured for the Spaniard, no-one else was able to challenge the first (and only) sub-1’30 time of the weekend.
Jorge Lorenzo had the best chance of getting close to Marquez’s time but crashed out at turn 13 and had to run back to the box for his second bike.
As riders headed out for their second run, Marquez told his crew chief Santi Hernandez that he wasn’t feeling 100% on the first lap with the tyre at turn 4, which is a common place for crashes due to it being the first right-hander for a while. His concerns were soon shown to be true as he hit the floor at that very corner, almost kicking the bike in frustration before restraining himself at the last moment. Crash number 27 of the year for Marquez was an unwelcome one (as they all are) but didn’t cause him any problems.
Jack Miller and Aleix Espargaro also hit the floor as the clock ticked down and the chequered flag was readied.
With Marc Marquez’s pole position confirmed, he’ll start from first on the grid for the 73rd time in his career, the 45th in MotoGP and the 8th time this season.
Joining Marquez on the front row after great qualifying performances and strong weekends overall will be Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco and Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone. With both riders unafraid of getting their elbows out, the run down to turn 1 could be very interesting tomorrow.
Row 2 will be made up of Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Michele Pirro, while Valentino Rossi leads row 3, followed by the injured and ill Aleix Espargaro and championship fighter Andrea Dovizioso.
Rounding out the top 12 was Alex Rins, Pol Espargaro and Jack Miller, although Pol will start from pitlane and with a 5-second penalty after exceeding his engine allowance.
9th is far from the ideal starting position for Dovi, especially at a track like Valencia, but he remains calm and practical. This weekend always had the potential to be a difficult one and the championship is almost out of reach with 21 points between him and Marc. But a wise man once said, “That’s why we line up on Sunday…you never know what’s going to happen.” The wise man? Nicky Hayden, who came from behind in 2006, at Valencia, to beat Valentino Rossi to the world championship.
Realistically, it’s going to be almost impossible for Dovizioso to become champion tomorrow. He needs to win and needs Marquez to finish 12 or below. But this is MotoGP, and there’s no time for realism at this stage of the season, to race you have to have a dream and there’s no such thing as impossible.
Regardless of whether it’s Andrea Dovizioso or Marc Marquez that is crowned on Sunday both are worthy champions. They’ve each won 6 races, they’ve pushed each other to the very limit and they’ve done so with complete respect for one another. Whether Dovi takes his first premier class title or Marc takes his fourth, it’s MotoGP that’s been the real winner this season.