Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez may be from Spain, but he looks right at home on the new Circuit of the Americas in Texas. The rookie MotoGP rider grabbed his first premier-class pole position in Saturday’s qualifying session ahead of teammate, Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa clocked a time within one second of Marquez’s best effort, making him the only other rider to dip into the 2’03s. Defending world champion, Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha Factory Racing, rounds out the front row in third.
Pedrosa started the day off strong, coming through faster than Marquez in the morning practice session, marking the first and only time so far that a rider has been faster than #93 at CoTA. Marquez had a shock in FP3 when he lost rear grip and went flying off the bike. Luckily he suffered no serious injury and was quickly back in the mix. Lorenzo had similar grip problems and almost suffered a crash of his own, but was able to keep control long enough to regain traction.
The full host of GP riders had a fourth practice later in the afternoon, a 30 minute session that didn’t count toward qualifying but gave competitors valuable track time in preparation for Sunday. Marquez dominated FP4 as the only rider within the 2’03 range, followed by Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow in fourth and LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl in fifth.
Under the new MotoGP qualifying regulations, the top ten riders through the first three practices advance directly to Q2 to battle for pole position. The remaining riders go to Q1 and the top two get a bid for the final qualifying session. Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro posted the fastest lap in Q1 and was followed by Crutchlow’s teammate, Bradley Smith, in second.
In Q2 Marquez waited for the initial group of riders to set off before mounting his RC213V, but once on track proceeded to set his best lap time ever at the circuit. On the following lap he did even better, getting a 2’03.021. That lap would stand as the best of the day, and Marquez’s confidence was on full display as he opted to remain on track until the checkered flag rather than go in and change tires for a final fast attempt, as most other riders did.
“We are happy of course, because we took our first pole position which is important and always exciting," said Marquez. "We knew beforehand that we could fight for pole, but you never know what will happen in the session. Both Dani and Jorge are fast over a single lap, and we managed to overcome them. The important stuff starts tomorrow, because we have a long, physical race with many of changes of direction to deal with."
Pedrosa solidified his spot in second on the final lap of the day, two-tenths behind his teammate. Lorenzo trailed by over one second in third. The Mallorcan lost his chance at a final fast lap after unexpectedly pulling into pit lane in the final minutes of the session. He pushed hard to make the finish line before time ran out, but the final seconds ticked away as he approached the final turn.
Crutchlow will head up the second row from fourth, followed by Bradl in fifth and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso in sixth. Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautisa grabbed seventh and is followed by Lorenzo’s teammate, Valentino Rossi, in eighth. Bautista and Rossi are joined by Espargaro on the third row. Dovi’s teammate, Nicky Hayden, heads up Row 4 followed by Smith and Ignite Pramac Racing’s Ben Spies in 11th and 12th respectively.
NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards starts from 18th on the grid; wild card entry Blake Young of Attack Performance Racing barely made the grid and will start from 24th. The other wild card rider, Michael Barnes of GPTech, didn’t make the 107% cutoff in practice and didn’t advance to qualifying.
MotoGP Circuit of the Americas Qualifying Results 2013:
1. Marc Marquez (Honda) 2’03.021
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2’03.275
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2’04.100
4. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 2’04.267
5. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 2’04.445
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 2’04.873
7. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 2’04.942
8. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 2’05.380
9. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 2’05.389
10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2’05.568
11. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 2’06.740
12. Ben Spies (Ducati) 2’07.044
13. Andrea Iannone (Ducati) 2’06.872
14. Randy de Puniet (ART) 2’07.129
15. Hector Barbera (FTR) 2’07.717
16. Yonny Hernandez (ART) 2’07.738
17. Michael Laverty (PBM) 2’08.259
18. Colin Edwards (FTR-Kawasaki) 2’08.475
19. Claudo Corti (FTR-Kawasaki) 2’08.792
20. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda-Suter) 2’08.825
21. Hiroshi Aoyama (FTR) 2’09.062
22. Bryan Staring (FTR-Honda) 2’10.098
23. Lukas Pesek (Ioda-Suter) 2’10.507
24. Blake Young (APR) 2’10.606