Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) dominated Austrian Grand Prix qualifying at Red Bull Ring today and made history at the same time.
The dazzlingly talented 26-year-old Spaniard scored his seventh MotoGP pole position of the season and the 59th of his career, making him the most successful qualifier in 71 years of premier-class Grand Prix racing.
More importantly, today’s performance puts Marquez in the best-possible shape for tomorrow’s race, the 11th round of the 19-event 2019 season. Currently the five-times MotoGP king enjoys a 63-point lead in the championship, which in theory should allow him to take things easy. But this isn’t Marquez’s way. Red Bull Ring is the only MotoGP track where he has yet to top the podium, so he especially wants to take victory here.
For the first time Marquez qualified using HRC’s latest frame technology – a carbon-fibre-coated frame that adjusts chassis flex to improve turning performance. He also looks likely to race this frame – which he has tested on several occasions before coming here – for the first time tomorrow afternoon. It’s all part of HRC working to keep its bikes and riders ahead of the pack.
While Marquez comfortably leads the MotoGP Riders World Championship, Honda heads the Constructors World Championship, working towards a fourth consecutive title for the extraordinary RC213V. Success in this year’s championship will extend the company’s all-time record to 25 premier-class constructors crowns.
Marquez has already won six races this year. Another victory would give him his first hat-trick since Aragon, Thailand and Motegi last autumn. He is now only four victories short of Honda’s most successful premier-class rider, Mick Doohan, who won 54 500cc Grands Prix with Honda’s NSR500 during the 1990s.
Honda’s second fastest rider this afternoon was Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V), who has been riding superbly all weekend. The 27-year-old from Chiba ended qualifying sixth fastest for his first-ever second-row start in MotoGP. This was a hugely impressive performance from the former Moto2 race winner who rides a 2018-spec RC213V with which he out-qualified many rivals on the latest factory machines.
Nakagami’s team-mate Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) was looking good for a second-row start until the final moments of the Q2 session, when he slipped to ninth, to the third row, albeit only seven tenths of a second off pole position.
Last weekend at Brno the 33-year-old Briton qualified on the fourth row and finished fifth, running a pace that would have put him on the podium if he had had a better start. Tomorrow Crutchlow knows he must get a perfect start to get away with the leaders if he is to compete for his third podium result of the season.
Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) once again rides in place of Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V), who is recovering from injuries sustained at June’s Dutch round of the series. Bradl’s full-time job is HRC test rider, so he isn’t only here to compete but also to test different set-up combinations and parts to keep HRC moving forward. Bradl, who has scored points in each of his three races this year, starts tomorrow’s race from the seventh row of the grid.