Marc Marquez looks set to wrestle back control of the MotoGP championship battle after taking pole position for the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. The reigning champion emerged on top after a thrilling qualifying session while chief rival Andrea Dovizioso had a miserable afternoon, qualifying down in eleventh place.
After the highs of Motegi, Dovizioso’s fortunes began to take a nosedive during FP4 when the front end of his Ducati washed away in dramatic fashion at the MG hairpin, seemingly due to a cold tyre. The Italian’s confidence didn’t seem to recover but at least he had made it through to Q2, not something that could be said about any of the other Ducati runners, including Jorge Lorenzo who qualified sixteenth after a heavy crash of his own in FP3.
Marquez made his typical lightning start in Q2 but the Repsol Honda rider was visibly frustrated by the presence of Andrea Iannone behind him, the Suzuki rider using the slipstream to take provisional pole on his first time lap. Marc responded, breaking into the 1:28s for the first time, but the Italian was continuing to prove an annoyance, so much so that the championship leader waited for Iannone to begin his final run before emerging from his pit box.
While Marc was getting up to speed on his second set of tyres, the Yamahas came alive with Johann Zarco snatching provisional pole, only to be immediately outpaced by Maverick Vinales, but Marquez would have the last word with a 1:28.386, three tenths ahead of his compatriot, with Zarco completing the front row.
Iannone slipped to fourth with home favourite Jack Miller a superb fifth after joining the train of riders slipstreaming behind Marquez. Pol Espargaro gave KTM their highest ever grid slot in sixth, outpacing Q1 pacesetter Valentino Rossi and Friday pacesetter Aleix Espargaro, while Bradley Smith capped off an outstanding day for MotoGP’s newest factory by going from Q1 to ninth, pipping compatriot Cal Crutchlow and the disappointed Dovizioso.
2017 Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix – Qualifying
[table id=2612 /]