Freshly-crowned MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez took full advantage of a drying Phillip Island to make the decisive early switch to slick tyres which rewarded the Spaniard with pole position for the Australian Grand Prix. Q1 graduate Cal Crutchlow used his vast experience to guide his LCR Honda to second on the grid with Pol Espargaro completing the front row.
Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales were the big causalities from Q1 with the Italian making an unusual late gamble with a wet front and an intermediate rear. Nevertheless, the gamble failed and the Yamaha rider will now start the Australian Grand Prix from P15 on the grid in his worst qualifying since Aragon 2011 with the unlucky Vinales putting his Suzuki P13 on the grid.
The track was dry for the start of Q2 but with rain forcasted to hit half way through the session, pressure was on for all of the riders to choose the right tyres so they could put in one fast lap. All the riders went out on intermediate tyres but after just one out lap, Marquez, Jack Miller and Danilo Petrucci returned instantly to the pits to switch to slick tyres with the rest of the field staying out hoping to put in a banker lap.
It was ultimately a cracking decision from the Repsol Honda rider as he stormed to the top of the timesheets with a 1:32.239s. Marquez constantly chipped away at his pole time, eventually lowering it to a 1:30.189s to comfortably secure his seventh pole position of the season and prove why he is a worthy World Champion.
Crutchlow in the end finished almost eight tenths down on the Cervera man but the Q1 star will be perhaps rueing not going with slick tyres but instead opting for the slick rear and intermediate front. The LCR man will be inspired by this performance as it gives him a great chance of taking another race victory.
Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro completed the front row in third after the Spaniard also made a late change to slick tyres and benefited from the slipstream of unaware brother Aleix who’s improved time at the chequered flag gifted the front row to his brother with the Suzuki man qualifying fourth.
There was heartbreak for home rider Jack Miller who was on the provisional front row after he was one of the earliest riders to opt for the slick tyre. However the gallant Australian was dropped to fifth in the dying seconds by the Espargaros. Danilo Petrucci locked out Row 2 in sixth position giving the Italian the upper hand heading into Sunday’s race over teammate Scott Redding as the two battle for a ride on the GP17 next year.
Nicky Hayden qualified a superb seventh on the Repsol Honda as the “Kentucky Kid” is standing in for the injured Dani Pedrosa who is still recovering from the injury he sustained in Motegi last weekend. Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider Stefan Bradl gave the team their best qualifying of the year in eighth ahead of factory Ducati riders Andrea Dovizioso and Hector Barbera who rounded out the top ten.
Scott Redding will start from P11 ahead of Q1 graduate and Five time World Champion Jorge Lorenzo who couldn’t make any sort of impact on the second session on slick tyres, finishing up more than six seconds wide of pole.
MotoGP begins on Sunday at 06:00 BST and with all the big rivals spread throughout the grid plus the predicted showers, the 2016 Australian Grand Prix could be a classic.
2016 Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix (Qualifying Classification)
|1||93. Marc MARQUEZ||Honda||Repsol Honda Team||1:30.189||Q2|
|2||35. Cal CRUTCHLOW||Honda||LCR Honda||1:30.981||Q2|
|3||44. Pol ESPARGARO||Yamaha||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||1:31.107||Q2|
|4||41. Aleix ESPARGARO||Suzuki||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||1:31.673||Q2|
|5||73. Jack MILLER||Honda||EG 0,0 Marc VDS||1:31.754||Q2|
|6||9. Danilo PETRUCCI||Ducati||Octo Pramac Yakhnich||1:32.420||Q2|
|7||69. Nicky HAYDEN||Honda||Repsol Honda Team||1:32.944||Q2|
|8||6. Stefan BRADL||Aprilia||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||1:33.015||Q2|
|9||4. Andrea DOVIZIOSO||Ducati||Ducati Team||1:33.090||Q2|
|10||8. Hector BARBERA||Ducati||Ducati Team||1:33.914||Q2|
|11||45. Scott REDDING||Ducati||Octo Pramac Yakhnich||1:34.682||Q2|
|12||99. Jorge LORENZO||Yamaha||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||1:36.840||Q2|
|13||25. Maverick VINALES||Suzuki||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||1:40.744||Q1|
|14||38. Bradley SMITH||Yamaha||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||1:41.129||Q1|
|15||46. Valentino ROSSI||Yamaha||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||1:41.368||Q1|
|16||50. Eugene LAVERTY||Ducati||Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati Team||1:41.532||Q1|
|17||68. Yonny HERNANDEZ||Ducati||Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati Team||1:41.766||Q1|
|18||19. Alvaro BAUTISTA||Aprilia||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||1:41.850||Q1|
|19||7. Mike JONES||Ducati||Avintia Racing||1:42.261||Q1|
|20||76. Loris BAZ||Ducati||Avintia Racing||1:43.128||Q1|
|21||53. Tito RABAT||Honda||EG 0,0 Marc VDS||1:44.096||Q1|