Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) produced another herculean performance at the Red Bull Ring this afternoon, riding to his 70th Grand Prix pole position across all three classes: MotoGP, Moto2 and 125cc. Tomorrow the reigning MotoGP World Champion will chase a hat-trick of victories, after taking the win at the last two rounds in Germany and the Czech Republic.
The 24-year-old Spaniard’s performance proves the effectiveness of recent work undertaken by HRC and Repsol Honda. Last August Marquez had one of his toughest races of his title-winning season here, finishing in fifth place, but diligent work by HRC engineers has improved corner-exit acceleration, which is more vital than ever at this track, which is characterised by three slow-speed corners followed by long straights. At last Monday’s Brno tests Marquez’s Repsol Honda crew worked on a variety of set-ups designed to increase performance here.
Marquez bounced back from a minor tumble during FP4 today to stamp his authority on qualifying, dominating the session from its midpoint to the chequered flag. The three-times MotoGP king and former Moto2 and 125cc World Champion is currently riding a superb season, with three wins and three further podiums already. These results have given him a vital 14-point lead in the World Championship.
Riding at arguably MotoGP’s most picturesque venue – the Red Bull Ring is nestled in a beautiful valley in the Austrian Alps – Marquez’s best time this afternoon put him 0.144 seconds ahead of second-quickest Jorge Lorenzo, with Lorenzo’s Ducati team-mate Andrea Locatelli completing the first row.
Honda’s next best rider in qualifying was Marquez’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V), who came into Q2 from Q1 to secure a third-row start, with eighth-fastest time. The former 125cc and 250cc World Champion had some issues during free practice and had to go through the Q2 qualifying process. In the end he was happy with eightth, just 0.75 seconds slower than his flying team-mate. He goes into this race with three podium finishes from his last four outings.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda RC213V) was Honda’s top independent rider this afternoon, going ninth fastest to complete the third row, following a tumble during an earlier practice session. The Briton is confident of a good ride tomorrow, so long as he can make a good start from the third row of the grid. Crutchlow is especially keen for a good result here, with his home race at Silverstone up next.
Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) was 19th this afternoon, five places ahead of his team-mate Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V). This track and its low-gear corners make wheelies a problem, and Miller and Rabat don’t yet have the aerodynamic aids recently made available to Marquez, Pedrosa and Crutchlow.