UPDATE: Marc Marquez has been given a three-place grid penalty for slow riding on the racing line and disturbing another rider. As a result, the Spaniard has lost his sixth pole position at Circuit of The Americas and will start from fourth on the grid.
Things got pretty hot in Texas in qualifying for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, with drama first striking as reigning champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took a tumble at Turn 13 and was heading back to the garage on the back of a scooter as his rivals started to threaten his provisional pole. But the No. 93 was able to get back out and set a sixth pole position at the Circuit of The Americas – closely followed by the man who seems set to try and challenge him on Sunday, Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP).
Vinales’ front row also comes after an impressive show of race pace earlier in the day in FP4, but it wasn’t a smooth session for the rider from Roses as he came across a slower-moving Marquez on his first flying lap on his second run and was forced to abandon his lap. Nevertheless, the Spaniard took second on a final push.
There was a brief exchange between the two riders and a stewards’ inquiry followed to determine whether Marquez impeded his rival, before the Spaniard’s pole was initially confirmed, but subsequently overturned by penalty.
Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – another man who has been key competition for Marquez in practice – took third. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) will start the Americas GP from fourth as the Frenchman was forced off the front row for the first time in some time, and he has Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) for very close company, the Italian just 0.019 back. And it was just as tight for sixth and the final spot on Row 2, as Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) was only another 0.065 in arrears behind Rossi.
Championship leader Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) took seventh as he aims to keep his points lead on Sunday, and he’s just ahead of the man chasing him in the standings, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) – who’s won off the third row before.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) completes that star-studded third row. The three-time world champion is racing only a week and a bit after surgery on a broken wrist sustained in the Argentina GP, and not only gained direct entry to Q2, but took a third row start in another superhuman effort.
Q1 graduate Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), Argentina GP podium finisher Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) complete the top 12, with Espargaro having put in a stunner to come through Q1 and get KTM’s first visit to Q2 this season.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was top rookie in P13 and will be looking to strike back in the Rookie of the Year battle, with Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) and Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completing the top 15.