Saturday in motor sport is traditionally called ‘moving day’, when the big stakes come into play – and today is no different at Phillip Island as we look forward to the qualifying shoot-out across all three World Championship classes.
He may be about to lose his title, but Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez is still king of the pole positions: he already has seven of them in 2015, and he was first on the grid here last year with a time of 1:28.408, a tad over 180 km/h for the 4.448-km journey.
“In the afternoon we worked a lot on setting the bike up for the race, because it will be held at a similar time, and I think we took a step forward,” Marquez said after topping the Friday times.
“Once again, Jorge [Lorenzo] is very fast, but we are working well, we have good pace and were able to set a good lap. What is important is that the changes we have made to the setup of the bike have allowed us to improve."
The only other man with multiple poles in 2015 is title contender Jorge Lorenzo, who has four so far and would dearly love a fifth today. Now 18 points adrift of Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi, Lorenzo needs every advantage he can get if he is to close that gap over the final three rounds.
Lorenzo has one senior class pole to his name at the Island from two years ago.
Four other MotoGP riders have one pole apiece this season. One of them is Rossi – and it may surprise you to learn that Vale has only once been on the premier class pole at Phillip Island, way back in 2003.
“My pace this afternoon was quite good and also with a used tyre I was able to do some good lap times,” Rossi said after finishing ninth-fastest on Friday.
“I was not strong enough doing a hot lap on new tyres but at the same time we tried the asymmetric front tyre that everybody used and the feeling was not so bad. We have to work a little bit on the bike, but it‘s OK.”
Ducati aces Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso have started from pole once apiece this year, at Mugello and Qatar respectively, while the only other man to interrupt the Lorenzo-Marquez dominance has been Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro at the Catalunya round.
Interesting point: the only rider in the 2015 field with more than one Island pole in the premier class is… Nicky Hayden, who is taking part in his final Australian GP before heading off to superbikes.
In Moto2 the prince of the poles has been Johann Zarco. The Ajo Motorsport Kalex man has been there seven times this year, his nearest challenger being Sam Lowes on the Speed Up with three.
Outgoing champion Tito Rabat has two for Marc VDS, as does his Spanish compatriot Alex Rins on the Yellow Pages Kalex. Another Spaniard, Xavier Simeon, is the only other pole-winner in 2015, starting from the front in Austin on his Gresini Kalex. But Rabat is the one man in that quintet to have been on pole at the Island – last year.
Title rivals Danny Kent (Leopard Racing Honda) and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Honda) have four 2015 poles each, while the only other man to have been on pole more than once is Fabio Quartararo – but the Estrella Galicia Honda rider won’t be there tomorrow. He will be pinged three grid places for ‘irresponsible riding’ in the first free practice session.