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Marquez Equals Stoner With Fifth Phillip Island Pole In A Row

Sunday PR Strip

Repsol Honda rider joined by two Yamahas on the front row after a qualifying session for the brave Down Under

Phillip Island is a place for the brave in any weather, with some of the fastest corners on the calendar. In qualifying for the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix that was even more true, as cool and windy conditions - and the threat of rain - made it a who dares wins and newly-crowned Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) played his cards to perfection, pushing early and then managing the risk to take his fifth pole in a row at the track. That equals Australian and MotoGP™ Legend Casey Stoner, who was the last man to take five in a row at the fabled circuit. Can Marquez add another win tomorrow to start to threaten Stoner's victory count?

Standing in his way is some tough opposition. Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) starts second and has shown top pace all weekend, with French fighter Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) completing the front row. But when asked in the Press Conference who was the biggest threat for the win, the hot pick was in fact the man who heads up Row 2 - Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar).

The 'Maniac' has been on top of or close to the top of the timesheets all weekend and looks a key threat on race day. Iannone had taken provisional pole part-way through the session but he was then quickly ousted by Zarco as P1 chopped and changed. Marquez then slotted into third, 0.037 back. The Champion didn’t stay there for long though and he shot to P1 by a stunning 0.506 to raise the bar, setting a personal and session best lap time that would prove to be crucial. Why? As most of the riders pitted for fresh rubber, the heavens opened again.

The rain didn't stick around but it hampered anyone in the quest to dramatically lower laptimes. Home hero Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) – in typical Miller fashion – had other ideas as he set orange sectors, but was ultimately unable to improve after a huge moment coming onto the Gardner Straight. Viñales then raised eyebrows by going quickest in the first split...but then couldn’t hook up the final sector in the difficult conditions either.

That was therefore that and an enthralling session ended with Marquez, Viñales and Zarco on that front row, with Iannone missing out by just 0.007 seconds. Fellow Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Alex Rins will start from P5, with Miller grabbing P6 in front of his home fans. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) will aim to challenge for a podium from seventh on the grid as he leads an all-Italian third row, with the 'Doctor' having been on the podium in the premier class at Phillip Island 15 times out of 18. As always, not a bad record...

He's joined on the row by Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) who was top Ducati, and Friday's standout performer is joined by Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in P9 after 'DesmoDovi' took his worst qualifying result of the season.

Despite a huge Turn 1 crash in FP3, Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) earns his best Saturday afternoon result of the season and is top rookie in P10, joined on the fourth row by Q1 graduates Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Alvaro Bautista (Ducati Team), also a crasher.

The title is done, the pressure is off and Phillip Island creates some of the greatest racing in the world. The front row think it will be another incredible Island battle, so don't miss out - tune in from 16:00 local time (GMT +11) for the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. 

MotoGP Qualifying Results: 1. Marc Marquez (SPA) HONDA 1'29.199  2. Maverick Viñales (SPA) YAMAHA +0.310
First Independent Team Rider: 3. Johann Zarco (FRA) YAMAHA +0.506

Moto2™: Pasini on pole as Bagnaia and Oliveira plummet

Serial frontrunner Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) took pole number three of the season at the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, more than two tenths clear of Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) despite a late crash at Turn 4. Schrötter's P2 was complimented by teammate Xavi Vierge locking out the front row as Dynavolt Intact GP had a superb session Down Under - and title rivals Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) seemed to drop off the radar.

Championship leader Bagnaia has claimed three poles in the last five races and faces his first match point in the title fight at Phillip Island, but he could only manage P16 and endured his worst qualifying of the season. Title rival Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo), however, also had one of his worst of the year and had to settle for P20 - setting up an intriguing Sunday Down Under...

Beyond the front row they'll have to catch there are more than a few further complications, too. Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) had his best qualifying of the season to sit on provisional pole for some time before getting pushed down to the head of the second row, and he's joined by podium finisher at the venue last season Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo)....Oliveira's teammate. Fabio Quartararo (MB Conveyors - Speed Up) completes Row 2 to add another seriously fast rival to the mix.

If Binder could be a factor in the tactics of the race though, so too could Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46). Bagnaia's teammate qualified seventh. He's joined on that third row by Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors) despite a crash for the Spaniard at Turn 2, with ninth fastest Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) also crashing during the session. The number 73 hit the back of Steven Odendaal (NTS RW Racing GP) at the top of Lukey Heights and sat out the rest of the session.

2018 European Moto2™ Champion Jesko Raffin (SAG Team) had a great session to get himself up into P10 in the latter stages of qualifying, showing great pace at Phillip Island once again. The Swiss rider sits ahead of Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40) in 11th, Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) in 12th and Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP40) in P13. Then, just ahead of Bagnaia, it's Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and home hero Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing).

An intense and intriguing Phillip Island Moto2™ race now awaits after an out-of-sorts qualifying for the title rivals. Can Bagnaia and Oliveira fight their way to the front, and will we see the Italian take the crown? Find out at 14:20 local time (GMT +11).

Moto2™ Race Results: 1. Mattia Pasini (ITA) KALEX 1'33.368  2. Marcel Schrötter (GER) KALEX +0.256  3. Xavi Vierge (SPA) KALEX +0.353 

How Bagnaia could win the title at Phillip Island

Francesco Bagnaia has his first match point at Phillip Island, heading into the Grand Prix he needs to outscore Oliveira by 13 points or more to be crowned Champion. So...

If he wins, he’ll be Champion if Oliveira doesn’t finish better than fifth. If he’s second, he’ll take the title if Oliveira doesn’t finish better than P9. A third place for Bagnaia means Oliveira has to finish better than 13th, and finally, a fourth for the Italian would mean the Portuguese rider would have to suffer a DNF or not score for Bagnaia to be crowned.

But remember who won last year? Race day should be a corker...

Moto3™: Martin breaks more records, Bezzecchi P15

Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) stormed to a tenth pole position of the season at the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, breaking his own qualifying record of nine poles in a Moto3™ season seat last year. The most recent rider to have previously qualified on pole more than 10 times in one season in the lightweight category is Marc Marquez, and that was back in 2010 in the 125cc class. Second place Darryn Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was 0.257 back for his maiden front row start, with Japanese rider Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) completing the front row for the second time this season. Key title contender Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) could only manage to qualify in P15 and has a fightback on his hands for Sunday.

A light shower of rain hit the Island just before the first qualifying session of the weekend got underway, but it remained light and then stopped, allowing conditions to steadily improve. That made for a classic finale and in the end, no one could match qualifying master Martin, with Binder picking up where he left off in Japan to launch from P2 and Sasaki bouncing back after a more bruising session in his home race.

Redox PruestelGP’s Jakub Kornfeil sat on provisional pole at the mid-stage of the session but the Czech rider eventually finished fourth fastest, with Motegi polesitter Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Skull Rider) having another strong Saturday afternoon in P5. Philipp Oettl (Südmetall Schedl GP Racing) completes that second row in sixth after his best QP performance since Brno.

Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) threatened the front row on numerous occasions but was left on the third by the flag, with Marcos Ramirez (Bester Capital Dubai) another rider who had been on the provisional front row before getting shuffled down to eighth. Rounding out the top ten were Dennis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Free Practice pacesetter Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0).

A big talking point was Bezzecchi only managing P15, with the Italian left with some work to do on Sunday. Currently only a point off the Championship lead held by Martin, he needs a lightning start - but has pulled it off before. Third in the Championship Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) also needs a comeback, having gone 17th fastest in qualifying despite leading the way in worse conditions in FP3.

Martin has given himself the perfect opportunity to make up for his Japanese GP crash, but can Bezzecchi fight his way forward to challenge for crucial Championship points? It’s set to be a storming Moto3™ race on the Island, so don’t miss any of the action from the slightly later local time of 13:00 (GMT +11). 

Moto3™ Race Results: 1. Jorge Martin (SPA) HONDA 1'36.591  2. Darryn Binder (RSA) KTM +0.257  3. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) HONDA +0.526
Words and images courtesy of www.motogp.com

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