JEREZ, Spain – official series release — Yamaha photo —
Valentino Rossi banished his recent qualifying demons to secure his 52nd career MotoGP pole on Saturday at Circuito de Jerez.
Jorge Lorenzo was the first out of pit lane for qualifying. Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow, who had advanced through Q1, were the only riders to head out with the hard front tire. The entire field had soft rears fitted from the start.
Straight away times were in the mid 1:39s, matching what riders had done during practice as Lorenzo seized the early lead. Both he and Andrea Iannone came into the pits to switch bikes early, the pair looking as though they would opt for a three run strategy. Lorenzo immediately returned to the pits and had the new tires fitted to his first bike.
Meanwhile Marquez had taken the lead in the session with a 1:39.064 and went back into the pits for new tires, remaining on the same bike. Times were largely unchanged as the rest of the field had also returned for their second set of Michelin tires.
With new tires on his preferred bike, Lorenzo put the hammer down straight away and set a 1:38.858 to jump into provisional pole. Hector Barbera was able to benefit from the lap as he expertly stuck in the slipstream.
Marquez tried to respond to Lorenzo’s lap but once again the final sector proved to be his downfall. Rossi began his final lap with roaring pace. All three traded fastest sectors as the checkered flag came out. Rossi was the first to cross the line, producing a 1:38.736 to push Lorenzo to second. Marquez was unable to best Rossi’s time, giving Rossi his first pole since the Dutch round in 2015.
“We worked a lot because last year we struggled during qualifying,” said Rossi. “This year, with the Michelin tires, I feel better and I already started on the front row two times, but pole position is something different, especially here in Jerez. I knew I could be competitive, but during the last races we had some problems and I made a mistake in Austin. We didn’t take the results we expected, so we have to start doing so now. For sure tomorrow will be very hard with Lorenzo and Marquez, but we are there and we can fight.”
Rossi is joined on the front row by his teammate Lorenzo and Marquez’s Repsol Honda. Andrea Dovizioso slotted his Ducati in a quiet fourth on the starting grid, with the two Team Suzuki Ecstar bikes of Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro fifth and sixth.
CREDIT: MotoGP Communications