Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) will start tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring from the second row of the grid following today’s thrilling qualifying session.
Marquez briefly led the 15-minute session, finally ending up fifth fastest, only three tenths of a second off pole position, his best grid position since June’s German Grand Prix.
The 28-year-old Spaniard isn’t finding life easy at this circuit because it features three high-speed straights followed by very slow corners, which demand huge braking forces that put a real strain on his right shoulder, which isn’t yet fully recovered from injuries sustained last season.
Marquez was more competitive in free practice – when riders and their technical staff concentrate on race settings – rather than focusing on one-off fast laps in qualifying. He completed the first three practice sessions in fourth, three tenths of a second off the fastest time.
Honda’s six-times MotoGP king – who has scored three runner-up results here – is confident he can battle with the lead pack tomorrow, so long as he gets a good start and everything else goes to plan.
At last weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix at the same track he finished eighth, with grip issues, which spoiled his hopes of a podium result.
Team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) missed the top ten by just 0.170 seconds. His pace in free practice was also impressive – after the first three sessions he was only six tenths of a second off the quickest lap time.
The 30-year-old Spaniard aims to get a good start from 11th place on the fourth row of the grid which will get him with a good group from the early laps. Last Sunday here he had a very challenging race at Red Bull Ring, due to a lack of adhesion, and his aim this time is to show his true potential.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) will start the race alongside Espargaro from 12th on the grid. The 29-year-old from Chiba was frustrated with his performance because he had hoped to better his tenth place in last Saturday’s qualifying.
Nakagami made a few minor errors on his first run, then switched to a hard front for his second run. One small error during that run lost him the chance of a better grid position, because lap times are so closely matched. He aims to manage his rear tyre well in the race to keep a strong place throughout the 28 laps.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) has been on superb form this weekend. In the first three practice sessions he was only eighth tenths off the pace and in today’s race-pace FP4 session he was less than half a second off the fastest lap time.
In the Q1 qualifying session the 25-year-old Spaniard fought for a top-two position, to guarantee promotion to Q2, but missed out by a tantalisingly close 0.170 seconds. The former Moto2 and Moto3 World Champion will therefore start from 14th tomorrow.
Last Sunday here he finished ninth, so his plan is to better that result tomorrow.
After tomorrow’s racing the MotoGP paddock will pack up after two weeks at Red Bull Ring and head to Silverstone, for the British GP on 29th August.