Stefan Bradl became the first German ever to take a pole position in the premier class of Grand Prix racing after topping the times on Saturday at Laguna Seca. The LCR Honda took advantage of a crash in Q2 for Marc Marquez which left the overwhelming pre-session favourite powerless to prevent Bradl beating his time.
Marquez had been fastest in three of the four practice sessions which preceded qualifying although his teammate Dani Pedrosa hadn’t taken the direct route to the pole position shootout. The injury-hit Spaniard could only manage eleventh in the three timed sessions and needed to secure one of the top two spots in Q1 to progress. He did so with ease along with Randy de Puniet but the Frenchman squandered his chance of gate-crashing the top ten by crashing on his out lap, leaving him nailed down in twelfth.
Bradl was the first to make the running in Q2 but Marquez put everybody firmly in their places with a 1:21.292 on his first serious attempt. The Moto2 champion found another tenth on his second flyer to increase his lead over the rest to half a second but a slip-up five minutes later turned the session on its head.
Midway through a lap which was already a tenth faster than his own provisional pole time, Marquez lost the front end of his Honda RC213V through the fast turn five. By the time he had restarted the bike and recovered, scuffed leathers and all, back to the pits, there were only two minutes left on the clock and the 20 year old was left with a nervous wait to see if his time would be beaten.
With Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa riding handicapped, the threat to Marc was coming from the satellite Hondas as Alvaro Bautista jumped up to second, two tenths adrift. Bradl’s response looked set to move him back above the Gresini rider but a stunning final sector saw him overturn a 0.138s deficit into the tiniest of advantages. It was big enough though to secure the first pole of Stefan’s MotoGP career.
Bautista’s exploits ensured a Honda lock-out of the front row with Yamaha monopolising row two, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo starting fourth and sixth either side of Cal Crutchlow who crashed in FP4. Pedrosa battled through obvious pain to take seventh ahead of leading Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso and British rookie Bradley Smith while Nicky Hayden pipped Aleix Espargaro for the last place in the top ten.