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.
If you have aspirations of winning the championship, the first qualifying session of the year is your first chance to stake your claim. Qualifying is the moment you state your intentions, show everyone what you have, and what they are up against.
The rest of the year, pole position is nice, but the most important thing is to be on the front row, and get a good start. But at the first qualifying session of the year for the first race of the year, you need to send your opponents a message: This is what you are up against. This is what you face if you wish to beat me.
Champions know this. At Qatar, the champions made their presence felt, and announced their intent to the world. In MotoGP, the defending champion – and the man who starts the year as favorite – set a pace that none could follow, robbing upstart Cal Crutchlow of what would have been his first pole.
In Moto2, Pol Espargaro made a mistake, crashed, and corrected his error as soon as his bike was rebuilt, pushing hard to take pole in the dying seconds of the session. And In Moto3, Luis Salom took his first ever Grand Prix pole by putting it on the line when it mattered, seeing off all-comers in the final moments, while Maverick Viñales gritted his teeth to ride through the pain and grab 2nd on the grid.
Qualifying for the MotoGP class is to undergo a shake-up starting from next year. Instead of the current one-hour qualifying format, two sessions of 15 minutes will settle the starting grid, with the riders divided into two groups on the basis of their combined times through the three sessions of free practice.
The new system is a hybrid of the current system and the superpole format used by World Superbikes and Formula One. An intial selection will be made on the basis of the combined times of the first three sessions of free practice, with the 10 fastest riders going straight through to QP2, with the rest left to fight it out in QP1.
The 2 fastest riders in the 15-minute QP1 session will go through to QP2. The original 10 fastest from free practice will be joined by the 2 fastest from QP1 to fight it out for the top 12 grid positions in the 15-minute QP2 session. To compensate for the shortened qualifying sessions, a 30-minute-long fourth session of free practice will added before qualifying starts.
Though provisional pole went to Leon Haslam in Friday afternoon’s World Superbike qualifying practice at Monza, reigning World Champion Max Biaggi made headlines of his own by breaking the WSBK top speed record. Despite this feat, Haslam outqualified the Italian at home by just 0.019s in a final lap dash, with Eugene Laverty and Ayrton Badovini completing the provisional front row for Yamaha and BMW Motorrad Italia.
Though there will be another qualifying practice Saturday morning and the three sessions of Superpole yet to be held to determine the pole sitter for Sunday’s race, Biaggi is looking to gain back momentum lost in the debacle that was Donington Park. “We need to recover points and we have plenty of potential to be able to do so, even the Assen round showed that,” said Biaggi. He added, “Racing in Italy in front of my supporters will obviously give me a little more charge.” That charge led to the new record of 332.5 kph (206.62 mph) set by Biaggi on Friday.
Although Jorge Lorenzo may be on the pole position at Sepang where many expect that Spaniard to clinch the World Championship, the talk at the Malaysian GP right now is about Nicky Hayden. The American lead most of qualifying, and will start tomorrow second on the grid, after missing the pole spot by only a tenth of a second.
Hayden had an abysmal time last week at Motegi for the Japanese GP, and looked to be on a similar path this weekend, but the Ducati Corse team went back to a setting from testing last year, and Hayden was able to make up the rest of the distance himself.