Following an extremely difficult final Free Practice session for some riders, Marc Marquez did enough to claim pole in his home MotoGP race at the modified Circuit de Barcelona, Catalunya.
Difficult final practice session
Lots of riders endured issues, including current Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha), who spent a lot of time in and out of the pits trying to deal with an issue.
He had to swap bikes on several occasions as he seemed to struggle considerably to reach previous lap times set in FP3. Lorenzo finished fourteenth fastest in the session after lapping almost two seconds slower than his previous times and the Spaniard did not look happy with the performance of the M1.
Unfortunately for Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati), who has recently returned after severely damaging his right hand, he crashed midway through the final practice session at turn five. Petrucci lost the front of his Ducati as he was braking on the left-handed corner; fortunately he appeared unhurt and did not seem to have done any more damage to the previously injured hand. In what was a slight worry, he had to change his leathers after he ran back to the pits following a slide into the gravel behind his bike which disintegrated and buried itself. Later on in the session Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista also crashed at the same turn.
Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales was thrown up high out of his seat with less than six minutes to go, and not long after, Andrea Iannone (Ducati) experienced the same after bumps in the road on a left handed corner caused a big wobble for the Ducati which he was also able to rescue.
Despite being the fastest man out on the track, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) still appeared to be struggling to stop the bike again as he approached corners. The Spaniard was fastest in FP3, however his time of 1:45.194 was almost half a second slower than his fastest time in that session.
Qualifying one – last chance to make it into top ten
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) had his work cut out after only finishing twelfth in FP3 and so in order to have a chance to start from the first four rows on the grid ahead of the seventh round; he had to finish within the top two during the first Qualifying session. Both he and his teammate Iannone appeared to be struggling and found themselves behind the non-factory Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati riders Scott Redding and Petrucci who finished seventh and eighth in FP3. Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Aleix Espargaro also had to try and turn things around as he was not performing as well as his teammate who was fastest in FP3 whereas Aleix finished just fourteenth.
A brief pit-stop at the end of the short qualifying session was the last chance for riders to perfect settings before their final attempts. Spanish rider Hector Barbera (Avintia Ducati) led with a time of 1:45.028 making it harder for the factory riders.
Just over four minutes remained as the riders made their way back out to the track and Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) blatantly waited for another rider to follow around the track, choosing to tow Dovizioso who knew what Hernandez’ plan was.
Bradley Smith (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha), Aleix and Dovizioso all tried to beat Barbera, however he remained strong and improved on his own time to make it harder for the others in pursuit. Barbera’s time was now 1:44.494 and he had secured the top spot ahead of Dovizioso who was just 0.162 seconds slower than him.
Aleix decided against a final attempt to improve even though he would have been able to complete another lap as he had crossed the line before the chequered flag went out, but he had to settle for starting from the front of the fifth row in the end.
The Spanish determined to claim pole at home GP
Fifteen minutes remained to determine the final grid positions of the MotoGP class ahead of the seventh round in Barcelona. Six Spanish riders were hungry to place as high as possible to leave them with a better chance of standing on the podium listening to the national anthem of the crowd on Sunday. Vinales was last out of the pits as Petrucci became the first one to start a flying lap.
Marquez pulled it out of the bag with an extraordinary lap time of 1:43.589 at the very end of the session that was almost half a second faster than anyone else. This time came after his first lap during the session was the first time below 1:44 minutes since the track layout was altered.
Marquez definitely meant business from the start as he went under Barbera heading into a chicane, forcing his fellow Spaniard off the road before returning to the pits after his first lap in an attempt to improve his time.
Yamahas struggling with track modifications
Despite the Yamahas struggling in the final sector of the track following the modifications that followed the tragic death of Moto2 rider #39 Luis Salom the previous day, Lorenzo managed to salvage second position on the grid. The 2015 MotoGP Champion finished ahead of Dani Pedrosa who completes a Spanish front row of the grid ahead of the seventh round in Spain.
After being the man to beat in the first qualifying session and having his first contending flying lap destroyed by pole position man Marquez, Barbera went on to claim an amazing fourth place on the grid as the fastest Ducati and the highest placed independent rider.
He originally placed second but was pushed down the grid and will be joined on the second row by Valentino Rossi and Vinales who finished sixth. A fantastic finish to the session for Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) means he begins the third row ahead of Ducati riders Iannone and Petrucci, with Dovizioso, Redding and Pol Espargaro making up the fourth row.
Aleix Espargaro was fifteenth ahead of Smith and Michele Pirro who is replacing injured Loris Baz aboard his Avintia Ducati in fifteenth. Hernandez starts from the front of the sixth row ahead of his teammate Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP) and Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) as the fastest Aprilia, while Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Jack Miller and Tito Rabat will start from the back row ahead of Bautista who completes the grid.