CHESTE, Spain: Marc Marquez tightened his grip on the MotoGP world championship on Saturday, by qualifying on pole for the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix with championship rival Andrea Dovizioso down the grid in ninth.
Holding a commanding 21-point lead in the championship standings, Honda’s Marquez can only be denied a fourth MotoGP world championship if he finishes lower than 11th and Ducati’s Dovizioso wins.
Marquez was even able to shrug off his 27th crash of the season after posting his best time of 1min 29.897sec for his eighth pole of the season.
“Today I felt really good with the bike, this morning as well as this afternoon with the used tyre,” said Marquez.
“In the qualifying the first lap was very fast.”
The Spaniard will be followed by France’s Johann Zarco and Italian Andrea Iannone on the front row of the grid.
It was a disastrous Saturday for Dovizioso’s hopes of putting pressure on Marquez as he limped onto the back of the third row.
Marquez looked in ominous form as he posted the fastest time in both practice sessions on Saturday morning. He recorded his best time early in the session.
The champion in waiting then hit the floor, as he so often has this season, after running wide at turn four, but once again escaped unharmed despite his visible frustration.
“I was disappointed because when I stop in the box I said to Santi my mechanic on turn 4 (on the) first lap I didn’t feel the tyre was ready and it was not ready.
“I lost the front, but it’s ok for tomorrow we are in pole position, this is the most important thing.”
Marquez’s time was never threatened by the chasing pack, with Zarco 0.349 seconds back in second and Iannone more than half a second back in third.
Dovizioso and Marquez’s teammates Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa start on the second row in fourth and fifth respectively alongside Michele Pirro.
Dovizioso will also need to battle past nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi (seventh) if he is to pull off an unlikely comeback for his first world title.