Marc Marquez topped the qualifying session for tomorrow’s San Marino Grand Prix but his cause was helped by a crash late on for his nearest challenger Pol Espargaro, ending his three-race pole streak.

The session was fiercely close throughout with Thomas Luthi taking the early lead with a 1:38.617, just two thousandths of a second quicker than Marquez. Scott Redding sneaked ahead of the pair of them at the ten minute mark but he was only 0.002s quicker himself with the front row covered by a blink of an eye.

Pol Espargaro changed that midway through the session by pulling out a relatively comfortable margin of 0.157s before going on to extend it on his next lap. Marquez was picking up pace too on his CatalunyaCaixa Suter and moved back ahead of Redding into second.

While the leaders retreated to the pits, plenty was happening elsewhere as Simone Corsi crashed his FTR at turn six, a major blow for the Italian who’d been quickest of all in morning practice. Another man who looked impressive in practice was Gino Rea but the Briton also fell at the tight left hander, adding to the frustration in the Gresini garage.

Johann Zarco was the next to explore the gravel traps, something he’d been doing on Friday, and the Frenchman would lose the front end of his JIR Motobi at turn fifteen, sending it cartwheeling towards the tyre barrier. Pol Espargaro would make an identical error five minutes from the end and to make matters worse for the Spaniard, Marquez had just pipped him for pole.

Scott Redding came close to upstaging the championship leader but failed to maintain a slight lead through the final sector, staying in third, while Takaaki Nakagami impressed to edge out Andrea Iannone and Thomas Luthi for fourth. Esteve Rabat will start from the front of the third row ahead of Ratthapark Wilairot and Mika Kallio with Bradley Smith rounding out the top ten on his Tech 3 Mistral. Gino Rea’s punishment for crashing mid-session was a place on the eighth row in 23rd.