Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) will start tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix from the front row of the grid after qualifying a close third-fastest in this afternoon’s thrilling Q2 qualifying session.
The reigning MotoGP World Champion, who won here last year, had been a close second fastest yesterday, just 0.012 seconds behind the fastest time, and topped the FP4 session that took place immediately before qualifying. This consistent speed throughout the last two days suggests that he has a very competitive pace going into the race, which is round four of this year’s 19-race series.
The 26-year-old Spaniard rode as hard as ever in the 15-minute Q2, using a three-run strategy, but a big slide at during his final run may have blunted his challenge for pole position. Nonetheless he was delighted to fulfil his main goal: a front-row start in front of his legions of Spanish fans, a mere 0.09 seconds off pole, which was taken by Fabio Quartararo. The 20-year-old French rookie thus becomes the youngest-ever premier-class pole sitter, taking the record from Marquez, who has held it since the 2013 Americas GP. Immediately after the session Marquez graciously congratulated the youngster for his performance.
Lap times at Jerez are dramatically faster this year – following a recent resurface – with the fastest 16 riders all within last year’s pole time, established by Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V), who this afternoon was fast enough to put himself on the second row.
The 33-year-old Briton had a heavy tumble in this morning’s FP3 outing but bounced back bravely, running some super-fast lap times in Q2, less than three tenths off pole position. He may well have done better than sixth place if he hadn’t lost grip at turn three on his final run and only just managed to remain on board.
Perhaps more importantly Crutchlow was very competitive in FP4, when most riders ride their machines in race-day spec. He was third fastest in that outing, just a tenth of a second slower than Marquez, so there’s little doubt that once again he will be the podium fight tomorrow.
Marquez’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) has a fantastic record at Jerez – where he has won five Grand Prix victories across two classes – and is finally back to full strength following two injuries sustained earlier in the year. The Spaniard, who celebrates his 32nd birthday today, had a great Friday, his best lap just over a tenth off the fastest time of the day, but today has proved more challenging.
Lorenzo’s speed in free practice was enough to take him directly into the Q2 outing, where his hopes for a great performance were spoiled by a low-speed tumble at turn two. Thus Lorenzo will start his home Grand Prix from the fourth row of the grid in 11th position. However, the three-times MotoGP king will do everything in power to fight his way towards the front tomorrow.
Crutchlow’s team-mate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) will start the race from the middle of the third row after qualifying eighth fastest, between two full-factory riders. The 27-year-old from Chiba is contesting only his second season in the premier class, aboard a 2018-spec RC213V, so his performance so far is very impressive. Tomorrow the former Moto2 race winner aims for his fourth consecutive top-ten finish of 2019.
HRC test rider Stefan Bradl (Team HRC RC213V) is enjoying a superb weekend as he prepares for his first race since last November’s Valencia Grand Prix, when he substituted for the injured Crutchlow.
The 29-year-old German has ridden brilliantly throughout the two days of practice and qualifying, running just nine tenths of a second slower than the fastest pace. He completed the Q1 qualifying session fourth fastest, just a tenth of a second outside promotion to the Q2 session. Bradl is evaluating various new parts here, which he will continue testing on Monday, when all the teams stay here for an important one-day test.
This weekend’s Spanish GP is the first of 11 consecutive rounds in Europe. Next stop on the MotoGP calendar is the French GP on May 19.