A sensational Q2 session sees the Championship leader take a huge gamble as Miller and Zarco complete the front row
In an absolutely sensational Q2 session at the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) equalled Mick Doohan’s premier class pole position record of 58 after a slick tyre gamble somehow paid off. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and Q1 graduate Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) complete the front row.
After the heavens opened again early in the afternoon, qualifying looked set to be wet and to start with, it was. But a dry line formed quickly in Q1 and after that initial 15 minutes, it was borderline whether or not the slicks would work. The 12 riders in Q2 all went out on wet tyres and set benchmark lap times, with Zarco still in the groove from Q1 to put himself top of the standings after the first banker laps – 0.5 was the Frenchman’s advantage as he and teammate Pol Espargaro, the other man to come through Q1, sat on the provisional P1 and P2. But that was just the beginning of a quite frankly ridiculous Czech GP qualifying session.
As the riders were still out on the wet tyres, Marquez and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) clashed. Rins stuck it up the inside of a slightly slower number 93 around Turn 8 and the two had slight contact, Marquez nearly crashing on the exit. The latter then went up the inside of Rins at Turn 14 and as both headed down pitlane, Rins overtook Marquez as the two were again close to coming into contact, with Marquez then gently pushing Rins away. Words and gestures were exchanged – was the beast awoken?
Then, a massive gamble. With rain in the air, Marquez and his team took the decision to go for slick tyres, but was it the correct choice? At first, it seemed no. Marquez was 2.4 off Zarco’s lap time on his first dry tyre run and at the same time, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) jumped from P10 to P2 on the wet tyres. But Marquez was on it on his second flying lap on the slicks, going a tenth under the pole lap in the first sector but then, drama. With two minutes to go there was rain in pitlane. The last sector seemed to be getting the brunt of the weather and it was a section Marquez was yet to get to, but the reigning Champion had 1.3 seconds in his pocket. Coming through the rain on slicks, Marquez somehow lost just a couple of tenths to stick in on provisional pole – a phenomenal effort.
Meanwhile, Miller was also out on slicks and having seen Marquez’ sector times, others were out there on the dry tyres too. However, no one else – baring Miller – could get the slicks to work. The Australian put his Ducati in P2 but he was over a second down on Marquez and the latter was going even quicker. The beast had well and truly been poked and Marquez was going for it. Up by 1.4 seconds, the 26-year-old was about to enter the last sector where the rain was teeming down and at this point, it was an unnecessary risk – only Miller was anywhere near Marquez’ time. But Marquez wasn’t to know and coming though the rain-soaked final sector, the seven-time World Champion proved just how good he really is: slick tyres, in the rain, maximum push, no trouble. A little wobble on the exit was followed by a relieved head nod as Marquez improved again to take pole by 2.524 seconds – astonishing.
Miller crashed going through the rain-drenched final corner but he kept his second place on the grid, that’s his best Saturday afternoon result since the 2018 San Marino GP. Zarco’s early benchmark lap earns the Frenchman his best qualifying result since taking pole in Malaysia last year, with this being KTM’s first MotoGP™ front row start. Dovizioso managed to take fourth to put himself in a decent position for the race, Espargaro lines up alongside the Italian in fifth for the second time this season, Rins will launch from sixth.
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) slammed in a late personal best time on the wet tyres to spearhead the third row of the grid in Brno, ‘The Doctor’ leads Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and teammate Maverick Viñales in eighth and ninth respectively. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) completed the Q2 results.
The Czech Adrenaline Factory certainly lived up to his name in that one. Marquez’ gamble paid off and it’s he who will line up on his 58th MotoGP pole for Sunday’s race – his biggest pole position margin in the premier class. Rain isn’t forecast for Sunday, so can anyone stop Marquez from extending his title standings lead? Miller, Dovizioso and Rins will be doing their best from the first two rows, and what can the KTM’s do from third and fifth? We’re in for a Czech cracker on Sunday so tune in for it at 14:00 local time (GMT+2).
1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) 2’02.753
2. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) +2.524
3. Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +2.598
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) +2.837
5. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +2.957
6. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki ECSTAR) +3.419
7. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +3.480
8. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) +3.704
9. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +3.873
10. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) +3.895
11. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) + 4.370
12. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 6.651