Marc Marquez denied Ducati a second successive pole position after beating Cal Crutchlow in the closing minutes of qualifying at Phillip Island. The newly-crowned world champion emerged on top after a tight session, equalling Casey Stoner’s MotoGP record with his twelfth pole position of the season.
Repsol Honda were forced into an early start to their qualifying programme with Dani Pedrosa facing the ignominy of riding in Q1. The Spaniard was a disappointing eleventh after free practice but atoned with a 1:29.097 to safely progress to the pole position shootout.
Jorge Lorenzo had been the man to beat prior to qualifying and Andrea Iannone had clearly identified him as the main threat, choosing to follow the Yamaha out of the pits in the hope of utilising the slipstream. The plan worked to perfection early on with Lorenzo setting the first benchmark time, only to be usurped immediately by the Ducati, but neither could match Marquez’s opening flyer of 1:28.850.
Pedrosa, making full use of his Q1 reprieve, snatched top spot from his teammate at the halfway mark, raising hopes that he could become the first rider ever to take pole position having taken that route to Q2. Lorenzo put paid to that with the first lap of his final run but Crutchlow threatened an even bigger surprise with a 1:28.642, catapulting him to the top of the leaderboard, but Marquez would have the final say in typical fashion with a 1:28.408, a quarter of a second quicker than the Briton.
Lorenzo will round out the front row tomorrow although the Spaniard only secured the honour of top Yamaha by 0.016s. Bradley Smith, boosted by a much improved showing in FP3, took his Tech 3 machine to an excellent fourth, coming within a whisker of putting two Brits on the front row.
Pedrosa was punted back to fifth with Aleix Espargaro pipping Iannone to the final spot on the second row. Valentino Rossi’s chances of securing second in the championship took a blow with eighth while Pol Espargaro and Andrea Dovizioso were put in the shade by their British teammates, ending the afternoon in ninth and tenth.