Reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez is the rider to beat in Sunday’s Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix after claiming pole position in emphatic fashion.
The Spaniard set a blistering pace on his Repsol Honda in Saturday’s practice at Phillip Island and was quickest in all four sessions.
He took that form into qualifying and finished ahead of Italian Andrea Iannone on a Ducati and Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) in third.
“We are trying to find the best set-up but, today, we did a big improvement,” Marquez said.
“I feel well but we will see tomorrow … it looks like Jorge’s pace is not so bad and he is fighting for the title.
“He will be really strong but we will try to be there, at a minimum, on the podium and – if we can fight for the victory – we will try.”
Lorenzo is 18 points adrift of Italian teammate and MotoGP championship leader Valentino Rossi, who will start from the third row on the grid in seventh position.
Iannone and Lorenzo finished with identical qualifying times but the Italian was awarded second spot as his next-fastest qualifying time was better.
The Spaniard exchanged heated words with Iannone on the track after he took exception to the Italian slipstreaming behind him to register his quick lap.
“You try to make your own way but, this time, Andrea benefited a lot from my wheel,” Lorenzo said.
“It’s not the same to start in second position than in third because Iannone starts very well with the Ducati and there are more complications from the beginning (start in third).”
Local hope Jack Miller qualified in 15th position on his LCR Honda – surpassing his previous best mark of 16th, which he had achieved twice this season.
In warm conditions at Phillip Island, Marquez put down the quickest lap early in the second qualifying session and then bettered that mark with his second-last lap.
In two visits to the Australian circuit, Marquez is yet to register a championship point after being disqualified in 2013 and crashing out last year, but he’s in an excellent position to change that after claiming his eighth pole of the season.
It’s no mean feat given he is still not fully recovered from a training accident in the lead-up to last week’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Marquez underwent surgery after he broke a bone in his left hand in a mountain biking mishap and reported after Friday’s practice that the wound was still “open” and was causing him discomfort, although he downplayed the injury after qualifying.
In the other categories, Spaniard Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40) took pole position in Moto2, while British rider John McPhee (SAXOPRINT RGT) will start out front in the Moto3 despite not posting the quickest time.
Compatriot Dean Kent (Leopard Racing) grabbed pole position but was handed a penalty that shunted him down to seventh on the grid.