Marc Marquez on pole for Australian MotoGP

Agence France-Presse
Marc Marquez on pole for Australian MotoGP
Defending world champion Marc Marquez claimed pole position ahead of Andrea Iannone with Valentino Rossi seventh ahead

PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia – Defending world champion Marc Marquez claimed pole position ahead of Andrea Iannone with Valentino Rossi seventh in Saturday qualifying for this weekend’s Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island.

The Repsol Honda rider, who is out of the running for this year’s world championship after breaking his left hand last month, clocked a fastest lap of one minute 28.364 seconds for his eighth pole of the season to start on the inside of the grid on Sunday, October 18.

It is the Spaniard’s 30th pole in MotoGP as he bids to win the Australian race for the first time after crashing out last year while leading off the pole and being disqualified in 2013.

“I feel well, I feel strong. I was struggling a little bit at Motegi last week,” Marquez said.

“We have a good pace for tomorrow and we are ready to fight for the podium and hopefully the victory.

“However we must wait and see what happens, because here every day is different. It can be sunny but then all of a sudden clouds can appear.

“The key will be interpreting how the track conditions are, in order to have a good race,” Marquez added.

Italian Ducati rider Iannone was a surprise second ahead of Spain’s Movistar Yamaha star Jorge Lorenzo with world championship leader Rossi starting off the third row after finishing seventh.

It was Iannone’s third front-row start of the season and he set an identical time (1:28.680) to Lorenzo, but will start from second on count back.

“It is really important in the race to start from the front because especially Marc and Jorge start really strong, but the race tomorrow is different and I hope to challenge for the podium,” Iannone said.

Marquez’s Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa was fourth quickest and will begin on the second row with Britain’s Cal Crutchlow and Spaniard Maverick Vinales.

Marquez has been on the consistently fastest bike so far this weekend, topping the time sheets in practice and qualifying, but is 86 points adrift of Rossi in the championship standings with a maximum of 75 points available.

Although Marquez has dominated so far this weekend his qualifying time was almost half a second slower than Lorenzo’s 2013 pole record (1:27.899).

(READ: Rossi, Lorenzo renew MotoGP title fight at Phillip Island)

It will be two-time MotoGP champion Lorenzo’s 13th front-row start this year, but it is his worst qualifying performance since his eighth at Assen.

“It was very important for me to be very quick for one lap, but any way third place is good because (team-mate) Valentino had some problems today to stay in front and knowing this it’s not too bad,” Lorenzo said.

It was also Rossi’s worst qualifying performance since his eighth at Indianapolis.

Rossi, who will equal the all-time record of 328 Grand Prix starts on Sunday, leads Lorenzo by 18 points in the championship and holds the edge for his eighth premier class world title.

The 36-year-old Italian is chasing his first world title since 2009.

In the other classes, Spaniard Alex Rins on a Kalex qualified for the Moto2 pole, while Britain’s Danny Kent, leading the Moto3 championship by 56 points, lost pole after a six-place penalty for riding slowly on the racing line during the qualifying session.

As a consequence Scot John McPhee claimed his first-ever Moto3 pole ahead of Miguel Oliveira and Efren Vazquez. –

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