The number 93 equals Mick Doohan’s premier class pole record with a scintillating lap of the gods.
Pole positions come and go, lap records are broken, and the paddock inevitably marches on. But every now and then, someone creates a moment that instantly gets inked into the history books, and that’s exactly what Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) did to take pole position in the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky. Slicks in mixed conditions are a recipe for gravel or glory and Marquez threaded the needle to perfection in one of the most stunning qualifying performances in history, annihilating his rivals by over two and a half seconds. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also pole number 58 for the number 93, equalling Mick Doohan’s all-time premier class record. Joining Marquez on the front row are Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), who also took the gamble on slicks, and Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who took the first front row for the Austrian factory and his first this season.
In Q1, it was also KTM’s time to shine as Zarco reigned ahead of teammate Pol Espargaro, with the two split by just 0.020 and both moving through to contest what looked like a very challenging Q2. And that it turned out to be, with Zarco again the man in the spotlight as the Frenchman took provisional pole with ten minutes remaining, ahead of Espargaro, and a dry line starting to appear on the track.
The drama came first from a fight between Marquez and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), with the two getting a little too close for comfort on track before rolling into pitlane in tandem and exchanging a few words. And that’s when the reigning Champion switched to slicks, heading back out with seven minutes left on the clock, as the rain began to return.
Meanwhile, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) had gone the opposite way, and it looked like Marquez could have made a serious mistake as the Ducati man shot up into second to split the KTMs…and the rain started to fall. But then the red sectors started to appear.
First it was a few tenths, and by the end of the lap it was over a second. At parts of the track it was pouring with rain but the number 93 kept on keeping on, eking out the advantage with utter commitment to the cause and taking over on top.
Miller was also seeing red and moved up to second behind Marquez not long after, and that was surely all she wrote? Not so as both men began another flying lap. For Miller, sadly, it came to an early end as the Australian crashed out. But he’d done enough to keep his impressive second place and once again proved a master of rolling the dice, with everything now left to one man and his slicks: Marquez. Could he improve? He didn’t need to, but the reigning Champion was on a mission.
Four tenths in sector 1 became nearly a second in sector 2, before the third sector saw the timing screens light up with a gap of almost a second and a half. The final sector was where the rain was still coming down though; all that stood between Marquez and pole number 58. That, too, was conquered, with Marquez’ final effort pulling him two and a half seconds clear of the field and a second and a half ahead of his previous best. Mission accomplished, history made.
So he heads Miller and Zarco as the Frenchman earns KTM’s first MotoGP™ front row start and his best qualifying result since taking pole in Malaysia last year, with Dovizioso putting himself in a solid position for the race in fourth. Espargaro lines up in fifth for the second time this season, with Rins ultimately set to launch from sixth.
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) slammed in a late personal best time on the wet tyres to spearhead the third row of the grid in Brno, ‘The Doctor’ leads Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), who are in eighth and ninth respectively. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) completed the Q2 runners.
The Czech Adrenaline Factory certainly lived up its name on Saturday, as Marquez swept away records and rain for premier class pole 58. But Sunday should be dry, and that’s a whole new ball game…so tune in for it at 14:00 local time (GMT+2).