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.

Photo: HRC

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • smiler

    I really want to get excited but when you look a the race, it again was three different races. Factory bikes in tier one with another Spanish podium, Rossi hanging on gaining 4th. Satelite teams in the second tier and third tier made up of CRT’s. Some occasions surprises move a CRT or 2 into tier 2 etc. But 7 of the 19 bikes were over a minute behind the top man.

    Marquez will win this title and the next. Rossi will not win another title. The series will remain as three different races. With a dominent racer for the next few years like Rossi, Doohan, Rainey, Roberts & Ago. With a couple of years gap to find the next one.

    The Factories will not let their satelite bikes be slower than the factories. Whatever the rules, the non MSRA bikes will never be as quick as the satelite teams.

    In WSBK today,three manufacturers in the top five. Five different nations riders in the top 5. 13 bikes within 50 seconds of the top bike. lap times similar to the top end of CRT bikes.

  • Shawn

    The thing that struck me about this race was Rossi. I’ve been watching him languish away around 4th place all season, and even though he keeps making refinements to his setup, he never really seems to break out of his 4th place rut. Personally, I don’t think he’s ever going to be a championship contender again. I think it’s reached a point where he’s still a GOOD racer, but he doesn’t have that *thing* that makes him the Top Dog again.

    Look at how Marquez dispatched him mid-race. Valentino was riding well, but when the time came for Marquez to get around him it was simply a matter of *bam*, he’s around and gone. Rossi simply had nothing left to show him. There was no “there” there, as they say.

    I don’t know how in the world Lorenzo manages to get these absolutely blistering starts that he does, but that seems to be the only way he can win a race – be in front by Turn 1 and stay there. That said, it seems easy enough to plot a strategy to beat him – use the superior horsepower of the Honda to beat him to Turn 1, and force Lorenzo to race a “Honda race”. Lorenzo’s approach of high cornering speeds and heavy lean angles only works in clear traffic. If you put a Honda in front of him that always keeps dropping anchor in mid-turn, the corner speed advantage of the M1 isn’t as effective. So far this season, it seems to be true every time it’s applied.

    So if I were Marquez, I’d be practicing starts until I’m ready to puke. He always sets these amazing qualifying sessions, but when the race starts he’s way back in 3rd or 4th by the time they get to the first turn..

  • damn

    Very very good race lorenzo!!!! Nobuddy had the speed you had. Marq said: to dangerous to catch jorge. Realy good yamaha brought the seamless gearbox. Normaly jorge’s tyres would fade on the end and honda’s tyres last longer. Last time jorge won due to hard battle with marq on his (as shawn said) superieur power honda. So shawn dont give us your crap!!!!! So shawn whats more important? A superieur powered honda all race long or the 1 time start from jorge.?