MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2014
Repsol Honda RC213V rider Marc Marquez took his sixth pole in six races at Mugello today, reinforcing his aim for a full house of 2014 race wins in the first third of the season, and underlining the strength of Honda’s awesome 1000cc V4 MotoGP machine.
In fact, it is the 21-year-old Spaniard’s seventh successive pole – he was in the same position at the closing round of 2013 at Valencia, where he secured his rookie season World Championship to become the youngest premier-class champion in history.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) set fourth-fastest time to lead the second row, after leading free practice. Times were close: Pedrosa missed a front-row slot by just over half-a-tenth of a second, and was only three tenths slower than pole time, at a long 5.245-km circuit with a lap time of one-and-three-quarter minutes.
Marquez’s run of success has given him a commanding lead in the first part of the championship, and a sixth win would see him break yet another “youngest-ever” record in his quest for a second successive title crown.
The Italian GP, held at the scenically spectacular circuit on the flanks of the Apennine mountains, has mixed memories for the former 125cc and Moto2 champion. Last year he crashed at high speed in practice, breaking another record for falling at more than 320 km/h, and then crashed out of second place in the race, his only such non-finish of the season.
This year he has dominated the first five races, and is in a strong position to continue in the same vein in Italy.
Pedrosa, who lies second overall, has had a slightly more troubled season, with arm-pump problems requiring emergency surgery after round four in Spain. Fifth place in the next round at Le Mans was his first time off the top-three podium, after two second and two third places in the opening rounds. Two more weeks of recuperation have put Pedrosa in a stronger position for the Italian race.
The former 125cc and double 250cc champion still holds the best lap at Mugello, with Marquez’s time today a tenth of a second slower than Pedrosa’s pole last year. Pedrosa finished second in last year’s race.
Times were close through the top dozen who qualified for the elite final Q2 qualifying … all within one second of Marquez’s time.
German LCR Honda RC213V rider Stefan Bradl was the better of the satellite riders, qualified ninth on row three. The former Moto2 champion also required surgery to cure arm-pump problems after the Spanish GP, and is striving to equal or improve on his best-this-year fourth place, achieved at round two in Texas.
Spanish former 125cc champion Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini RC213V) qualified 11th, winning through from Q1 by heading the time sheets. Bautista has a special role, race-testing Japanese-made Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, made by companies with strong links to Honda.
His team-mate Scott Redding (GO&FUN Honda Gresini RCV1000R) came out top of the four riders campaigning the new production-racer Honda machines, based closely on the factory RC213V, qualifying 14th. The Briton is a class rookie, after finishing runner up in the Moto2 championship last year.
Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) qualified 16th to head the sixth row; one place ahead of former 250cc champion Hiro Aoyama (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R).
Former MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R) withdrew from the Italian GP after painful hand problems flared up again on the first day of practice. The American will have corrective surgery on Tuesday, and hopes to be fit to return to the Catalunyan GP in two weeks.
All riders missed out on the second free practice on Friday, when spots of rain made for half-wet conditions, too dangerous on either full wet of full dry tires.
The middleweight Moto2 class is exclusively Honda powered, with the organisers providing all competitors with identical race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines fitted to individual prototype chassis to ensure evenly matched and reliable racing.
With 16 riders qualifying within one second of pole time, the prospect of more of the same was clear for the Italian race.
Championship leader Esteve Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) took his fourth pole of the season, adding to his hopes of returning to winning form. The Spaniard won the first and third rounds this year in Qatar and Argentina, and was second at the in-between race in Texas; but was fourth and third at the next races while his team-mate Mika Kallio took two wins in a row to move to second overall in the points.
A sensational second place went to British grand prix rookie Sam Lowes (Speed Up Speed Up). The 2013 World Supersport champion had never seen the Mugello circuit before essaying some practice laps on a production bike, and set a lap time just over a tenth off the relative veteran Rabat’s time.
Former Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex) was third as he continues his recovery from injuries sustained in the opening round. The German racer has been on the front row twice this season, with a best finish of seventh at Qatar, where he rode with a fractured foot.
German class rookie Jonas Folger (AGR Team Kalex) has claimed one pole position and one third place in his first Moto2 season, and heads the second row from Swiss star Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter) and another ex-Moto3 class rookie Luis Salom (Pons HP 40 Kalex).
Spain’s Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2 Suter) qualified seventh to lead row three. Italian Franco Morbidelli (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex) was eighth, and then Swiss former 125cc champion Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter), with Marcel Schrotter (Tech 3 Tech 3) completing the top ten.
Current championship runner up Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) was eleventh.
In Moto3, where Honda is fighting with rival manufacturers, Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda) claimed a second pole of the year, to preserve the new Honda NSF250RW’s perfect front-row record.
Rins set his time before suffering a minor spill, preventing further improvement, but he had already set a best-ever Moto3 lap for the track, giving him an advantage of better than a quarter of a second. His team-mate, fellow-Spaniard Alex Marquez, placed sixth in a hectic session, after leading free practice, at the far end of the second row.
French Honda rider Alexis Masbou (Ongetta Rivacold Honda) was one place higher, fifth-fastest, for his second successive row-two start.
The other Honda riders placed strongly in a closely-matched set of lap times, with strong title contender Efren Vazquez (SaxoPrint-RTG Honda) heading row four, tenth-fastest, and his team-mate John McPhee alongside in 11th.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia Honda) was 18th; with two one-race wild card riders – Anthony Groppi (Pos Corse FTR Honda) and Simone Mazzola (MT Racing FTR Honda) – placed 30th and 32nd respectively.
Tomorrow’s race is the sixth of 18 rounds, concluding the first third of the 2014 season. The next round is the Catalunyan GP at Montmelo outside Barcelona in two weeks.
|1||Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)||F|
|2||Andrea IANNONE (Pramac Racing)||F|
|3||Jorge LORENZO (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)||F|
|4||Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)||F|
|5||Pol ESPARGARO (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)||F|
|6||Cal CRUTCHLOW (Ducati Team)||F|
|7||Bradley SMITH (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)||F|
|8||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)||F|
|9||Stefan BRADL (LCR Honda MotoGP)||F|
|10||Valentino ROSSI (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)||F|
|11||Alvaro BAUTISTA (GO & FUN Honda Gresini)||F|
|12||Aleix ESPARGARO (NGM Forward Racing)||O|
|13||Yonny HERNANDEZ (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing)||F|
|14||Scott REDDING (GO & FUN Honda Gresini)||O|
|15||Michele PIRRO (Ducati Team)||F|
* F=Factory option, O=Open category
|1||Esteve RABAT (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|2||Sam LOWES (Speed Up)|
|3||Sandro CORTESE (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|4||Jonas FOLGER (AGR Team)|
|5||Dominique AEGERTER (Technomag carXpert)|
|6||Luis SALOM (Pons HP 40)|
|7||Jordi TORRES (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2)|
|8||Franco MORBIDELLI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|9||Thomas LUTHI (Interwetten Paddock Moto2)|
|10||Marcel SCHROTTER (Tech 3)|
|11||Mika KALLIO (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|12||Johann ZARCO (AirAsia Caterham)|
|13||Mattia PASINI (NGM Forward Racing)|
|14||Axel PONS (AGR Team)|
|15||Takaaki NAKAGAMI (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)|
|1||Alex RINS (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|2||Jack MILLER (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|3||Jakub KORNFEIL (Calvo Team)|
|4||Romano FENATI (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|5||Alexis MASBOU (Ongetta-Rivacold)|
|6||Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|7||Karel HANIKA (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|8||Juanfran GUEVARA (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3)|
|9||Brad BINDER (Ambrogio Racing)|
|10||Efren VAZQUEZ (SaxoPrint-RTG)|
|11||John MCPHEE (SaxoPrint-RTG)|
|12||Isaac VIÑALES (Calvo Team)|
|13||Niccolò ANTONELLI (Junior Team GO & FUN Moto3)|
|14||Alessandro TONUCCI (CIP)|
|15||Niklas AJO (Avant Tecno Husqvarna Ajo)|