Marc Marquez at his imperious best has taken his eighth pole position of 2015, his second in a row at Phillip Island and the 30th of his premier-class career ahead of Sunday’s 2015 Pramac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Marquez, still to score a MotoGP point in Australia, gave himself the best possible chance of breaking his duck when he dominated the 15-minute Q2 session, ending it with a time of 1:28.364 to hold off the Ducati of Andrea Iannone by just over three-tenths of a second.
“It looks like this weekend everything is going really good,” said the outgoing world champion. “Always we did the correct steps and this is the most difficult. It’s really important to manage the tyres and we will try to improve even in the warm-up.”
The only cloud on a sunny day for the 22-year-old Spaniard was on his second run, when, on his number two bike, he lost the front end at Turn 4, sat up and snatched his injured left hand away from the handlebars as the sudden movement jarred his arm.
‘The Maniac’, as Iannone likes to be known, incurred the wrath of Jorge Lorenzo by twice slotting into the Yamaha rider’s slipstream – and beating the Spaniard right at the end of the session.
Both men were credited with the same lap time of 1:26.680, but the higher grid position went to Iannone, whose second-fastest lap of 1:28.821 was quicker – just – than Lorenzo’s 1:28.839.
“I’m so happy, but it wasn’t easy for me,” said the 26-year-old Iannone, who will make his fifth front-row start of 2015. “With my bike I stayed at the limit and with the softer tyre I improved a lot. But without Jorge, for sure, I would have improved but not by this big step.”
Lorenzo, who will make his eighth consecutive front-row start, vented his feelings after the session. “As always, I tried to make a very fast three laps, each one faster than the one before,” explained the 28-yearold Spaniard.
“Andrea followed me on the last two and it was frustrating: you try to make your own way but he was able to benefit from my wheel to pass me on the grid. It’s not the same to start from third as second.”
Consolation for Lorenzo, who starts Sunday’s race 18 points adrift of his team-mate Valentino Rossi, is that ‘The Doctor’ had an off-colour session and will start from the third row after qualifying seventh.
Dani Pedrosa on the second Repsol Honda, Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda and Suzuki’s rising star Maverick Vinales will occupy the second row.
In Q1 Aussie Jack Miller made a valiant attempt to go through to Q2 for the first time in his MotoGP career but fell just short on the Open class LCR Honda. Miller posted a best lap of 1:30.104, just under half a second off the front-running pace set by the Espargaro brothers as they took the top two spots to make it through to Q2 with the top 10 finishers from the combined FP1-2-3 times.
Miller was fifth-quickest in the short session and will start from the fifth row.
It was a story of what might have been for the older Espargaro, Aleix on the ECSTAR Suzuki. He was only 0.050 slower than Pol’s Monster Tech 3 Yamaha after their first runs in Q1 and was on a flyer with seconds to go until he was held up by back-markers at Turn 10.
Aleix remained in second place and safely in Q2 – but he let the other riders know how he felt as he cruised past them again on his slow-down lap.
The riders in third to 15th places in Q1 occupy positions 13 to 25 on the starting grid, with Aussies Ant West (Ab Motoracing Honda) and Damian Cudlin (E-Motion Ioda ART) in 23rd and 25th respectively.
Cudlin’s problems especially are highlighted by the riders’ top speeds in Q1: Miller and Aleix Espargaro were both clocked at a tad over 335 km/h; Cudlin’s best was 314…
In FP4, where the times have no bearing on the qualifying procedure, Marquez was quickest for the third session running with a time of 1:29.245 on his Repsol Honda.