SPEILBERG BEI KNITTELFELD: World champion Marc Marquez, riding a Honda, grabbed pole position on Saturday for the Austrian MotoGP, edging the Ducatis of Italian Andrea Dovizioso and Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo as Valentino Rossi toiled.
"What a fight! What a pole!" the Honda team tweeted
After a dominant performance a week ago in the Czech Grand Prix, the Ducatis arrived in Austria hoping to further trim the huge points lead Marquez has built with five victories in 10 races this season.
Instead, Marquez delivered a fastest lap of 1min 23.241sec in the second and final qualifying session, just two thousandths of a second faster than Dovizioso, the winner in Brno, with Lorenzo, the runner-up a week earlier, third, 0.135sec back.
"It’s the same gaining pole positions by a thousandth as by a second," Marquez said after gaining the 49th pole position of his career.
The two factory Ducatis will be alongside him on the front row, which Dovizioso said was good enough.
"The front row, that’s always the objective," said the Italian. "I am content with the time that I did, I didn’t expect it. The conditions were strange, with the rain we’ve had."
Spielberg has been a happy hunting ground for Ducati since the track returned to the MotoGP calendar in 2016.
That year, Ducati swept the top places and last season the lead changed hands twice on the final bend as Dovizioso edged Marquez to win.
"Here, it’s as if its Ducati-Land," Marquez said. "They are very fast."
This week, over the first three free practice sessions, Ducati again held the upper hand with Dovizioso fastest, Lorenzo second and Marquez only fourth, more than half a second slower than the Italian.
"They struck first in the free practice," said Marquez. "This was returning like Nadal, now we’ll see tomorrow how we take advantage, but all weekend I’ve felt good,
Marquez gained an even bigger advantage over his closest pursuer in the standings, Rossi (Yamaha). The Italian was not fast enough to make Q2 and will start from 14th on the grid on Sunday.
In Moto2, the duel between the Portuguese Miguel Oliveira (KTM) and Italian Francesco Bagnaia (Kalex), two points behind in the standings, continued to rage. Bagnaia took pole in 1:29.409 with Oliveira next to him on the grid after qualifying 0.310 slower.
In Moto3, Italian Marco Bezzecchi (KTM), who leads the standings by three points after Jorge Martin (Honda) missed last week’s Czech face following a crash in practice, came off himself on Saturday but still recorded the quickest time. Martin, racing with a broken bone in his left wrist, was second fastest.