Valentino Rossi claimed his first pole position since the 2010 French Grand Prix with a sensational late flyer at Valencia. The Yamaha rider completed a half-century of poles in the premier class after edging out Andrea Iannone in the dying seconds with Marc Marquez seeing his hopes dashed by a crash.
Iannone, back after missing the Malaysian Grand Prix through injury, showed an incredible turn of speed in Q2 with the Pramac Ducati topping the timesheets early in the session. Iannone’s opening lap of a 1:31.258 saw him two tenths ahead of Pol Espargaro’s Tech 3 Yamaha with Jorge Lorenzo slotting into second with a 1:31.412.
Rossi began his second run with a purpose, setting a 1:31.198 to usurp Iannone but the Pramac rider responded instantly by breaking into the 1:30s for the first time. Marquez had been largely anonymous in the pole position shootout, only climbing to second with two minutes remaining, but just as the world champion was embarking on a potential pole lap, the front end of his Honda washed away at turn four, ending his challenge.
Lorenzo’s last attempt failed to dislodge Iannone from pole position, the Spaniard taking second from Marquez, but Rossi produced an inspired effort to go quickest with a 1:30.843. Iannone maintained second with Dani Pedrosa salvaging a front row start for Repsol Honda by pipping Lorenzo for third.
Marquez will line up fifth with Tech 3 duo Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith sixth and seventh on near-identical times. Cal Crutchlow got the better of his Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso to qualify eighth with Stefan Bradl completing the top ten after breaking out of Q1.