Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) won a superb pole position at sun-blessed Jerez this afternoon, bettering fellow RC213V rider Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) by 0.259 seconds with the fastest-ever lap around the famous Andalusian racetrack. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V), winner of the last Grand Prix in the USA two weekends ago, ended the day fifth overall, a mere 0.324 seconds off pole position.
The 15-minute Q2 qualifying session was a real thriller, with Honda riders dominating much of the way, with Crutchlow, Pedrosa and Marquez in the top three for much of the time.
The lead was shared mostly by Marquez and Crutchlow, who finally secured his fourth MotoGP pole position and his first since the 2016 British Grand Prix.
Positions changed constantly throughout the quarter of an hour, with MotoGP’s greatest stars riding the outer limits in search of the best-possible grid position. Their jobs weren’t made easier by the scorching-hot weather conditions which had track temperatures reaching 44 degrees.
Crutchlow was delighted with his performance, which continues a strong series of showings at each of this year’s opening rounds. He finished a close fourth at the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix, won round two in Argentina and was going well in the USA when he slid off, before remounting to finish 19th. The 32-year-old Briton was a close second fastest to Marquez in the first three free practice sessions. All weekend he has paid tribute to the sterling support he receives from HRC, which has provided him with a motorcycle that he can take to the absolute limit.
Pedrosa’s qualifying result was another heroic achievement from the 32-year-old Spaniard, who broke his right hand in Argentina, following an accident caused by another rider. Two weeks ago in the USA the former 125cc and 250cc World Champion fought his way through the pain barrier to finish a brave seventh. Tomorrow he will once again need painkillers to perform at his best around this challenging circuit. Pedrosa always goes well here – he won last year’s Jerez MotoGP race in dominant style.
Marquez had a favourite for pole position after topping FP1, FP2 and FP3. The 25-year-old reigning MotoGP World Champion had shown stunning pace throughout the weekend and seemed to have speed to spare. But he had one minor tumble in today’s FP4 session and another yesterday, so that finally the qualifying session didn’t quite go his way. He was on top for much of the 15 minutes but ran wide at turn six on his final run, which didn’t help his situation. Nonetheless, the six-times World Champion (four in MotoGP, one each in Moto2 and 125s) has a consistently fast pace, which will most likely make him Crutchlow’s number-one rival tomorrow. Marquez last won here in 2014.
Two of Honda’s three MotoGP rookies had storming rides in the opening Q1 session, coming very close to gaining promotion to the Q2 outing, proving once again that they are learning more and more about getting the maximum from a 250-horsepower MotoGP machine.
Former Moto2 race winner Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) will start the race from the fifth row of the grid in 14th position, just one place and 0.063 seconds ahead of reigning Moto2 World Champion Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V). The 26-year-old from Chiba and the 23-year-old Roman can look forward to a great duel tomorrow.
Thomas Luthi (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V), who started preseason testing later than his fellow rookies, qualified 18th, one row behind Nakagami and Morbidelli. The competition in MotoGP is closer than ever, with just 0.869 seconds covering the first four rows of the grid.