Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) produced another magical performance at Le Mans today, making the most of the treacherous damp weather to score his 55th MotoGP pole position.
Rain fell on and off throughout the day, with track temperatures very low and little grip to be had. Marquez found this to his cost at the beginning of the FP4 session, when he slid off at slow speed. Conditions continued to change, further complicating matters for riders and teams. By the start of the first Q1 qualifying session a dry line had appeared around much of the circuit, encouraging some riders to run slicks, but by the time Marquez went out for Q2 the rain had returned, requiring rain tyres.
Marquez suspected the rain would intensify, so he seized his chance and took pole position on his second lap, pushing hard from the moment he left pit lane. He continued to force his pace, trying to go even faster, only to slide off at turn six. Indomitable as always, the 26-year-old Spaniard never even let go of his sliding bike, then hopped back on and continued riding, trying to further understand track conditions in advance of tomorrow’s race, which may take place in similarly changeable weather.
The performance was typical of the talent and resolve of the reigning MotoGP World Champion, who has won five of the last six titles aboard Honda RC213V machines.
Tomorrow Marquez and his fellow RC213V riders will aim to score Honda’s landmark 300th premier-class Grand Prix victory. Honda won its first premier-class GP at its first attempt, at Hockenheim, West Germany, on May 22, 1966, with Jim Redman riding the factory’s four-cylinder RC181 500cc machine.
The company’s 100th success with 500cc machinery was achieved by Spaniard Carlos Checa at Catalunya-Barcelona in 1996. Ten years later Nicky Hayden took Honda’s 200th victory in the premier class at Assen, on his way to winning the 2006 world title aboard his Repsol Honda Team RC211V. This year Honda is also working towards achieving its 21st premier-class riders crown and 25th constructors’ prize. Both are records.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) also rode an impressive Q2 session, coming so close to achieving his first second-row start in MotoGP. The 27-year-old from Chiba worked his way up to sixth fastest with a few minutes to go, but in the final moments of the session another rider pushed him into seventh, which means Nakagami will start the race from the head of the third row. This still counts as the former Moto2 winner’s best grid position since he graduated to the premier-class last year.
Right next to Nakagami on the grid will be Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V), who made an excellent start to the French Grand Prix, placing fourth fastest after yesterday’s first two practice sessions, less than three tenths of a second behind the fastest man. This suggests the three-times MotoGP World Champion is making progress with his RC213V, following some further ergonomic refinements to his machines.
However, Lorenzo didn’t feel so much at home in the difficult-to-judge conditions of the Q2 session. The 32-year-old Spaniard ended the outing eighth fastest, just eight thousandths of a second behind Nakagami. If tomorrow’s race is run in the dry, expect Lorenzo to show his speed on his RC213V.
Today’s rain was a bigger problem for Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V). He slid off in yesterday afternoon’s FP2 session, which left him outside the top ten. When the rain arrived this morning he was unable to improve his position in FP3, so he had to qualify in Q1, which he completed in fifth place, which means he will start tomorrow’s race from 15th on the grid, his lowliest grid position since 2017. Nevertheless, the 33-year-old Briton is a tough racer, who will do everything in his power to fight his way through the pack tomorrow afternoon.
Tomorrow’s races are the fifth round of this year’s 19-event MotoGP series, which concludes at Valencia, Spain, in November. Next stop is Mugello, for the Italian Grand Prix on June 2.