Half a second at Misano is a very, very long time. At a short track like this, gaps are measured in tenths, not seconds. The gap from 5th to 12th, for example, is 0.505. Yet the gap from Marc Marquez on pole to Jorge Lorenzo, the rider with the second fastest time, was 0.513 seconds. A huge difference.
Despite another one of his fast crashes in free practice, from which he keeps walking away almost unhurt, Marquez stayed calm, posted an impressive fast lap in his first run of Q2, and then followed it up by obliterating Casey Stoner’s 2011 Misano pole lap record by over two tenths of a second.
The lap was stunning – another trademark of Marquez since his switch to MotoGP – and beyond the capability of anyone to follow. The Repsol Honda man looked unstoppable during qualifying.
Not just during qualifying. There has only been one session of practice in which Marc Marquez was not fastest at Misano, and that was Q1, a session he did not participate in.
Marquez has now scored six poles in his first year, joining Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi as the only riders to have started from pole so many times in a season. He is, in case you haven’t noticed, downright impressive.
But his advantage in qualifying will not translate directly into the race. Marquez told the press conference that doing a single fast lap was not the same as running 28 laps, and looking at the riders’ projected race pace, you’d have to agree.
While Marquez was half a second faster during qualifying, his advantage in free practice was much smaller. Where Marquez was running 1’33.9s and 1’34.0s, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, and Valentino Rossi were posting laps of 1’34.1, 1’34.2 and 1’34.3.
That is still a gap of one or two tenths though. The three veterans will have their work cut out to try to stop Marquez, but there is reason to believe they may be able to do it. Jorge Lorenzo has good race pace, but his set up is still not perfect, the factory Yamaha rider still missing rear grip, according to his team manager Wilco Zeelenberg.
Valentino Rossi is looking dangerously confident, and is angling for a result in front of his home crowd. And while Dani Pedrosa had a miserable qualifying session – he used three soft rear tires in both FP4 and Q2, before finally finding one which would provide some grip – his pace early in the day was good, not far from Marquez.
The race could be intriguing, with Valentino Rossi in the role of joker. Marquez is the man to beat, and Lorenzo will need to find a small gain to be able to challenge, but he will have to watch out for his teammate.
Valentino Rossi has made clear that in front of his home crowd, he is chasing the best result possible, and will not be taking Lorenzo’s championship hopes into account. Another racetrack, and Rossi may turn helpful again, but not just a stone’s throw from his home.
Behind the top four, there is a large group all on the same pace. Alvaro Bautista once again appears to have the upper hand, and in front of his team’s sponsors and at his team’s home race, he will surely find something extra. The rest of that group should consist of LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, the factory Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso, and just maybe, Cal Crutchlow.
Dovizioso was pleased with his race pace, saying that he was hoping to fight for sixth position, and sounding quietly confident. Crutchlow, on the other hand, was much more pessimistic, his first response to reporters being “what did you come to see me for? I’m running around at the back!”
He is a little bit further forward than that, and there are signs his confidence slump could be coming to an end. Crutchlow had been flat and dispassionate during his team debriefs so far, but after qualifying at Misano, there was something of his old animated self back. It is a long way to go, but the signs there that a revival of the Englishman’s fortunes are at least on the cards.
And so Sunday at Misano looks to have plenty to offer. A battle between the top four is on the cards, with an equally intense battle behind, for the honor of 5th. In Moto2, Pol Espargaro took pole, and was clearly faster than Redding, it being the Spaniard’s turn to start ratcheting up the pressure on his teammate.
And in Moto3, Jonas Folger has pole, only his second this year, and there are a host of unfamiliar faces in the top 10. There is a lot to play for, and plenty of players with chips on the table. It could be an excellent day’s racing on Sunday.
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.