Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) made some more magic at magnificent Mugello today, storming to pole position on his last lap of qualifying for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix. The 26-year-old Spaniard timed his attack to perfection, riding a stunning final lap and using the slipstream from a rival’s machine to find even more speed on the charge to the finish line.
The reigning MotoGP World Champion is leading this year’s title race and two Sundays ago at Le Mans he scored Honda’s 300th win in the premier 500cc/MotoGP class. Today’s performance was his 56th MotoGP pole position, which puts him just two poles behind Honda’s all-time greatest qualifier, Mick Doohan, who took 58 pole positions on Honda NSR500 machines during the 1990s.
Marquez finished the first three free practice sessions third fastest and worked with his crew to create a perfect strategy for the 15-minute Q2 qualifying session, run in bright sunshine at this stunningly picturesque venue.
The five-times MotoGP king changed tires midway through, waited calmly in the pits, then rode out onto the track with five minutes remaining. He chased title-rival Andrea Dovizioso through much of his final lap, closing the gap until he was right behind the Italian as they swept onto the start-finish straight, which is MotoGP’s fastest and where the cleverest riders use a slipstream to increase their speed. Marquez calculated the gap perfectly to take pole, 0.214 seconds in front of Fabio Quartararo.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) also rode an excellent session. The 33-year Briton was eighth fastest in free practice, but was ready to up his pace when it mattered most. He improved his feeling with his RC213V during free practice, so he was able to extract the maximum speed out of softer tires during qualifying, lapping Mugello just 0.560 seconds down on Marquez. Tomorrow Crutchlow will be chasing his first podium result since the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix.
His team-mate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) was similarly impressive. The 27-year-old from Chiba ended the first three practice sessions an excellent fourth fastest aboard his 2018 RC213V, right behind Marquez. In Q2 he couldn’t repeat that performance, qualifying tenth to lead the fourth row after nearly falling during his best run. But he too was fast, eighth tenths down on Marquez, and is confident of running a strong pace in the race.
Marquez’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) has taken some more steps forward with his adaptation to the RC213V this weekend. The 32-year-old Spaniard is continuing to experiment with different ergonomics, including slightly different handlebars and seat padding, as he looks to improve his feeling during heavy braking. The hard work of both rider and team aren’t reflected in the results so far, however, with Lorenzo qualifying 17th quickest. His aim tomorrow will be to get away with a fast group and use his RC213V’s impressive horsepower to help gain positions.
Tomorrow’s races take place one day before the 60th anniversary of Honda’s very first World Championship race: the 1959 Isle of Man Ultra-Lightweight TT, which took place on June 3, 1959.