Marc Marquez will start from pole position for tomorrow’s championship showdown; while his only rival Andrea Dovizioso way back on the far end of the third row.
Marquez (Repsol Honda) set the first sub-1m 30s lap of the weekend to put himself on top, then had his second crash of the weekend (his 27th of the year) trying to improve further. Once again unhurt, he was straight on his feet, and narrowly managed to stop himself following through before aiming a kick at the front tyre that had let him down.
But Ducati rider Dovizioso, qualified ninth, was more than one second slower, even failing to match his own best time from FP3 in the morning by almost four tenths. A third row start on a track where overtaking is difficult gives him a very difficult task.
Dovizioso needs to win tomorrow, and for Marquez to finish no higher than 12th – a scenario that is looking increasingly unlikely.
Marquez’s greater difficulty will be staying out of trouble, with two hot-heads on the front row with him.
“Usually I race with two eyes,” he said. “Tomorrow I will need four eyes.”
His greatest strength was not just his fastest lap, but also his demonstration on both days of devastating race pace, running consistent laps. “To finish the race will be the most important thing.”
Top independent rider Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha) pushed through to second, claiming his fourth successive front-row start, the sixth of his rookie season. The double Moto2 champion, a feared hard charger, is more than eager to take a last chance at a first-season win. “I am not going in with the mind of nothing to lose, but with confidence,” he said.
And third fastest, Andrea “The Maniac” Iannone (Ecstar Suzuki), whose self-chosen nickname speaks for itself. Should Iannone put the Suzuki on the podium, it would deny the team the chance to return to “concession” status next year, with extra engines and free testing among the privileges.
Jorge Lorenzo had earlier been second to Marquez on the second factory Ducati, and was going faster still when he crashed at high speed. Running back to the pits he was able to go out again, but not to defend his front row, ending up fourth.
Second Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa was fifth, with Ducati wild card Michele Pirro alongside.
Valentino Rossi was seventh, ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and Dovizioso; but his Movistar Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales was unable to get through to Q2, ending up 13th. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) was also knocked out of the crucial top two spots in Q1, by the Espargaro brothers, crashing when in line to go fastest, and qualified 16th.
Pol Espargaro, through to Q2, qualified 11th, ahead of VDS Honda’s Jack Miller, but will start from pit lane because of exceeding his Red Bull KTM’s engine allocation, promoting all the riders behind him.
Alex Marquez returned to Moto2 pole for the first time since round seven in Catalunya, setting his time early on to remain narrowly out of reach of VDS Kalex team-mate and newly crowned champion Franco Morbidelli, slower by 0.065 of a second.
Mattia Pasini came through to make it an all-Kalex front row, with the Red Bull KTM riders first and second in the last two races heading row two, double winner Miguel Oliveira ahead of rookie team-mate Brad Binder.
Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Suter) completed row two; Taka Nakagami (Kalex) headed the similarly mounted Pecco Bagnaia, already crowned top rookie.
Jorge Martin smashed it for a ninth pole position of the year – though a race win has so far eluced the Del Conca Gresini Honda star.
New World Champion Joan Mir (Leopard Honda) made a bid to depose him at the end of the session, but while he moved up from ninth to second, Martin went faster again, ending up better than four tenths ahead.
Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA KTM) prevented an all-Honda front row; but the next four qualifier were Hondas, Tatsuki Suzuki ahead of Enea Bastianini and Aron Canet on row two; rookie Ayumu Sasaki seventh.