It was a breathless fight to the wire for pole position at the eyetime Motorrad Grand Prix von Osterreich, with the battle boiling down to a three-way scrap between Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) versus the Ducati Team riders of Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo.
The red sectors came thick and fast for both Borgo Panigale machines but in the end it was Marquez’ benchmark 1m23.241s left at the top of the timesheets as a target, with neither of the red machines able to quite push him off pole. Dovizioso came incredibly close – just 0.002 back – but the Italian will line up second, with Lorenzo completing that front row and just over a tenth off. That makes a tantalizing top three just a week after the trio battled it out at Brno, with many expecting a spectacular repeat on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring.
Just behind them is top Independent Team rider Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), who will be hoping he can get in the mix on race day with his Ducati GP18 after also showing good pace on Friday, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) starting alongside him. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) completes that second row, meaning the top three in the fight for top Independent start very close together, and it’s just seven points cover them in the standings. Zarco is also top Yamaha.
Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) kept his good form to take seventh after also having gained automatic graduation to Q2, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) taking the middle of a third row at a more difficult track for the Hamamatsu factory. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), on the podium last year in third, took P9 ahead of the second Suzuki of Alex Rins. Rins was one of the riders who moved through from Q1 after having not got into the top ten in FP1 before the rain interrupted further practice, along with Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team), who took P12.
Between the two men starts Maverick Vinales. The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider was only able to take eleventh at a tough track for the Iwata marque, and the result comes a week after the Spaniard started twelfth in Brno. His teammate, meanwhile, also had a tough qualifying session – and Valentino Rossi will be starting in P14. Just pipped to the top ten in FP1 by Vinales and with FP2 and FP3 affected by the weather, the Italian headed for Q1 and wasn’t quite able to move through. Moving through, though, will be something both Yamahas will be dead set on when the lights go out – with a good start crucial.
Just ahead of Rossi, Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) flies the flag for KTM after a very positive day for the Austrian factory. With his teammates sidelined through injury, the Brit did the home team proud to only just miss out on Q2 and outqualify a difficult day for the ‘Doctor’. Behind Smith in P13 and Rossi in P14, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) completes the top 15.