Spain’s Jorge Lorenzo stormed to pole position in a circuit record time for Sunday’s decisive Valencia Grand Prix to boost his chances of claiming a thirdMotoGP world championship.
Lorenzo smashed defending world champion Marc Marquez’s previous track record by over two tenths of a second to claim his fifth pole of the season in 1min 30.011sec.
Marquez and his Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa complete the front row with championship leader Valentino Rossi forced to start from the back of the grid as punishment for kicking Marquez off his bike at the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago.
However, despite not needing to register a qualifying time, Rossi still endured a tough session as he came flying off his bike into the gravel track.
Thankfully, Rossi was able to walk away from the crash as he prepares for an assault on a 10th world title in all categories of motorcycling.
Lorenzo trails Rossi by just seven points in the championship standings, meaning the Italian will need to finish second to deny his Yahama teammate if Lorenzo wins the race.
And Lorenzo hailed his qualifying lap as the best of his career as he attempts to add to the titles he won in 2010 and 2012.
“Without doubt the best lap of my life,” he said.
“I could try to repeat it 20, 25, or 30 times and it wouldn’t go so well. It was perfect.
“I am very happy, above all because it puts us in a good position for tomorrow. It is important to make a good start and try to get away from the Hondas.”
– perfect lap –
Marquez had posted the best time of the weekend on his first qualifying lap despite, by his own admission, committing a minor error.
However, he acknowledged that it would have been hard to deny Lorenzo even with a perfect lap.
“With the first tyres I made an error, even though it ended up being my best lap. It could have been even better, but looking at Jorge’s time, I’m not sure it could have been that much better.”
All eyes will be on whether Marquez is able to pursue Lorenzo after his controversial clash with Rossi a fortnight ago.
The bad blood between the two started when Rossi accused Marquez of conspiring against him to help Lorenzo land the title at the Australian Grand Prix last month.
Rossi then said Marquez had “made me lose the championship” when he was slapped with starting from the back of the grid after their clash in Sepang.
However, Marquez insisted he will be going for his sixth race victory of the season on Sunday.
“We have had a good Saturday overall in terms of the rhythm and number of laps we have done,” he said.
“We will try to be attentive to Jorge so that he doesn’t escape and then we can fight for the win towards the end of the race.”
Rossi has the unenviable task of hauling himself through the field and then hoping for a slip from Lorenzo or that the Hondas do him a favour.
The 36-year-old hasn’t landed the title since 2009, but insists he has to let his experience rule his desire to equal compatriot Giacomo Agostini’s record of eight premier category world titles.
“Unfortunately it will depend on a lot of things. There are a lot of strong riders, so my pace is very important,” he said.
“Thirty laps is a lot. I have to start well and take the right risks, but I can’t overdo it. I need to concentrate on my rhythm and then see where those in front of me are.” – Agence France-Presse