PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia (AFP) – Newly-crowned world champion Marc Marquez will start off pole position for Sunday’s Australian MotoGP as the fastest qualifier.
The Spanish Repsol Honda rider clocked one minute 28.408 seconds in Saturday qualifying to finish ahead of Ducati’s Cal Crutchlow by 0.234secs, with Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo a further eight-hundredths of a second away third.
It was the 21-year-old Spaniard’s 12th pole of the year to equal the most poles in a season, previously held by Australian Casey Stoner.
“I’m really happy to be on the pole after winning the title in Japan,” Marquez said.
“It will be a tough race tomorrow especially Yamaha (Lorenzo), they are very strong and they have a good pace.
“But I was able to ride well, I was consistent, and we are ready to fight for the victory tomorrow.”
It was Marquez’s 21st career pole as he chases his first premier class victory at the Phillip Island circuit after winning a 125cc race in 2010.
Marquez secured this year’s world title in Japan last weekend with three races remaining in the season.
Lorenzo is battling Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi for second place overall in the championship, with the trio separated by just three points.
“Everyone has struggled this weekend to get the grip with the tyres and we are half a second to one second slower than we were last year here,” Lorenzo said.
“It’s the same for everyone. It’s good, third place, my rivals Rossi and Pedrosa are behind me so I’m happy.”
Lorenzo, who won last year’s MotoGP at Phillip Island on the way to losing the world championship by four points to Marquez, is coming off back-to-back wins at Aragon and Motegi.
Pedrosa was fifth fastest in qualifying after having to go through repechage qualifying while Rossi, a nine-time world champion through the classes, was eighth.
The Italian great, 35, has finished on the podium 14 times in 17 visits to Phillip Island across all three GP classes.
The 4.448-kilometre (2.764 mile) circuit, located on the shores of the storm-tossed Bass Strait, is a season classic for the world’s top riders with its sweeping blend of seven left-handers and five right-handers.