2017 Austin MotoGP Qualifying Result: A Tenth Will Get You Five

Marc Marquez continued his mastery of the Circuit of the Americas Saturday with a scorching final lap of 2'02.741 to grab his fifth straight pole position as qualifying time expired at the Texas track. Maverick Vinales, who has been trading top times with Marquez the whole weekend, got pushed into second after he appeared to have the pole sealed up.

Valentino Rossi continued his steady improvement over the weekend to grab the final front-row spot on his final flying lap -- but still nearly a second slower than Marquez. Dani Pedrosa (4th) who has been quick and steady all weekend just pipped Johan Zarco (5th) at the end of the 15-minute Q2. Jorge Lorenzo (6th) made a huge jump forward on the factory Ducati with the final spot on the second row.

Andrea Dovizioso (7th), who has a miserable FP4 with two mechanical failures, leads the third row at two-tenths off teammate Lorenzo's time. Eighth-place Jonas Folger completed completed a Yamaha four-for-four with all of the manufacturer's bikes qualifying in the top 10. Cal Crutchlow crashed early in the short session but still managed a ninth-fastest time, just ahead of Scott Redding (10th).

Marquez, who has won every race he has entered at COTA, didn’t waste any time trying to establish dominance in the short session. But perhaps that's because for the first time at the Austin track, he appears to have a geniune rival in Vinales.

Straight away, Marquez jumped into the high 2’03s by his second fast lap. Then, seven minutes into the session, he turned up the wick even higher with a 2’03.042 -- the fastest MotoGP lap of the weekend at that point. 

But unlike the previous five years, someone had a response for the King of Texas. As the rest of 12-bike field fought for the remaining positions, Vinales and Marquez set their sights on pole with both riders dropping into the 2'02s -- the only two riders to do so this weekend. With time nearly expired, Vinales appeared poised to grab pole with his fastest ever lap at the track, a 2'02.871.

His only liability? Vinales did it with seconds remaining on the clock which has proven to be all Marquez needs in the Lone Star state. The World Champion responded emphatically with a final blistering 2'02.741 -- five tenths of a second from his own 2015 lap record. 


Pos. No. Rider Bike Time Diff. / Prev.
1 93 Marc MARQUEZ Honda 2'02.741    
2 25 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha 2'02.871 0.130 / 0.130
3 46 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha 2'03.673 0.932 / 0.802
4 26 Dani PEDROSA Honda 2'03.866 1.125 / 0.193
5 5 Johann ZARCO Yamaha 2'03.928 1.187 / 0.062
6 99 Jorge LORENZO Ducati 2'04.151 1.410 / 0.223
7 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati 2'04.431 1.690 / 0.280
8 94 Jonas FOLGER Yamaha 2'04.623 1.882 / 0.192
9 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda 2'04.661 1.920 / 0.038
10 45 Scott REDDING Ducati 2'04.673 1.932 / 0.012
11 29 Andrea IANNONE Suzuki 2'05.741 3.000 / 1.068
12 43 Jack MILLER Honda 2'05.970 3.229 / 0.229
13 9 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati 2'05.221 0.783 / 0.573
14 76 Loris BAZ Ducati 2'05.231 0.793 / 0.010
15 8 Hector BARBERA Ducati 2'05.541 1.103 / 0.310
16 53 Tito RABAT Honda 2'05.920 1.482 / 0.379
17 17 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati 2'05.931 1.493 / 0.011
18 38 Bradley SMITH KTM 2'06.258 1.820 / 0.327
19 19 Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati 2'06.295 1.857 / 0.037
20 22 Sam LOWES Aprilia 2'07.232 2.794 / 0.937
20 44 Pol ESPARGARO KTM 2'07.601 3.163 / 0.369
  41 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia      


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pressure from vinales + the '17 honda's recalcitrant handling = marquez throws it down the road

That was a hell of a lap from Marquez. However, Viñalez just looked like he could do fast laps all day long, while I detected an air of desperation in Marquez' riding. All the bikes were moving around as if they were in a force 10 in mid-Atlantic, but the M1 looked much more planted and wasn't bucking around nearly as much as the RCV.. 

It remains to be seen whether anyone can ride with that level of commitment for the entire race on the RCV, whereas the M1 would appear to be much less physically demanding.

For that reason alone, I doubt that Marquez will be able to hold on to Viñalez, assuming that they both get a good start.

And that leads on to Viñalez' only apparent weakness so far this year; Can he get a start that is good enough to pressure Marquez from the off? I know that Marquez was confused about his off in Argentina, but I have my suspiscions that his off and Viñalez' making the pass into 2nd were linked.

Even assuming Viñalez has a bad start and Marquez gets a good one, I suspect that Viñalez will be able to catch Marquez. Whether Marquez can put that much effort into a race long duel is yet to be seen. If that happens, and he comes away the winner, he will be a deserving winner. 

Personally, I doubt that he can do it.

There is no doubt that MM93 is a fighter and won't give up, but will that lead him into making an error of judgement? We''ll see later today.