Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) scored his first front-row start of 2021 with a stellar effort during qualifying at the Grand Prix of the Americas.
Not since last year’s Spanish Grand Prix has the six-time MotoGP World Champion started from the front row, and third place in today’s 15-minute Q2 shootout was just reward for a strong weekend of work, both on track and in the garage.
Marquez returned from a nine-month layoff through injury at April’s Portuguese GP, since when he has often struggled to get maximum performance from his machine during one-off qualifying laps. His right arm and shoulder are still not at 100%, which makes it difficult for him to be aggressive the bike when new, soft tires are fitted.
The 28-year-old Spaniard was just four tenths off pole position and believes he has a good chance of fighting for victory tomorrow. His pace in FP4 was formidable, and his record at this track is nothing short of magnificent: Marquez has won on six of his past seven visits to COTA, which features an anti-clockwise layout.
So far this year his record at anti-clockwise MotoGP tracks has been excellent – he won June’s German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring and finished a close second in last month’s Aragon GP.
However, COTA is proving extra challenging this weekend. The track has become very bumpy since MotoGP last visited in April 2019, transforming the layout into something of a rodeo ride and requiring immense physical input from riders.
It is testament to the strength of the RC213V in such tricky conditions Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) was able to qualify an excellent fifth quickest. The 29-year-old from Chiba was 0.511s off pole position and only 0.083s away from securing a place on the front row.
Nakagami has shown strong form all weekend, with his pace in FP3 particularly impressive. There is a chance the two-time Grand Prix winner could match, or improve upon, his best result of the season, which was a fourth place at Jerez back in May.
Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) had a frustrating day, complicated by a low-speed tumble at Turn 12 in FP4. The 2013 Moto2 World Champion ended qualifying in 12th place, after misjudging the time remaining to complete the out-lap of his second run in qualifying. Thus he was unable to take advantage of his second tire and place further forward on the grid, but the 30-year-old Spaniard still holds hopes of a top-six finish tomorrow.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) found positives in his 15th place after a tough start to the weekend. The two-time World Champion crashed in FP2 and couldn’t find a comfortable setting in this morning’s FP3 session. But thanks to the stellar efforts of his LCR team, some useful set-up changes helped him feel more at home aboard his RC213V in FP4 and his target is a top-ten finish.
Tomorrow’s race will be MotoGP’s sixth in two months, so riders and teams will be looking forward to a two-week break before racing resumes at Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Misano on 23rd October.