PROGRAMMING NOTE: The Red Bull Indianapolis GP will air LIVE on FOX Sports 1 on Sunday, Aug. 18 in a four-hour programming block that starts at 11 a.m. ET.
Rookie MotoGP hero Marc Marquez underlined his absolute domination of the developing Red Bull Indianapolis GP weekend on Saturday with a crushing performance to secure the pole for Sunday’s 27-lap Grand Prix.
Entering qualifying, the 20-year-old world championship leader had topped every single premier-class session of the weekend. And rather than allow any of his opponents a chance to strike back, QP only saw Marquez further his advantage with a stunning 1:37.958 lap.
That time eclipsed the old lap record (1:38.813) of his Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, by nearly a full second. It was also more than a half-second stronger than any of his rivals managed in the session, making him a solid favorite to claim his third consecutive MotoGP win tomorrow at the Brickyard.
Should Marquez win, he’d have stormed to victory in all three of the nation’s Grands Prix this season and become only the third rider in history to have won three races in one nation in a single season.
Marquez will be joined on the front row by his chief title rivals, defending champion Jorge Lorenzo (1:38.471) and Pedrosa (1:38.486), who are desperate to slow the rookie’s building momentum.
The second row will feature the on-form Cal Crutchlow (who ran second quick to Marquez in the pre-QP FP4 session), GO&FUN Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista, and American Nicky Hayden.
Hayden has a history of stepping up in front of the home crowd and today was no exception. The Kentuckian was 0.413 seconds and four grid positions better than the next best Ducati-mounted rider (Andrea Dovizioso) on the day.
While Tech3′s Bradley Smith’s seventh-placed effort was an encouraging performance for the rookie, the same cannot be said for his row-mates.
Stefan Bradl was arguably the biggest loser in QP. The German, who powered into Indy on the strength of a pole/second-place Laguna Seca weekend, had looked impressive in the lead-up to qualifying. Having ranked either second, third, or fourth in three free session ahead of GP, the LCR Honda pilot expected to contend for another front-row slot. Instead he suffered from a lack of front-end feel, falling on the low side during qualifying and ending up just eighth overall as a result. In the preceding FP4, Bradl also lost the front of his RCV twice, once making a miraculous knee save only to crash in a similar manner minutes later.
Also disappointing was Lorenzo’s teammate, Valentino Rossi, who will start from the final spot on Row 3.
Andrea Iannone was eleventh on the Pramac Ducati behind the works Ducati of Dovizioso while Texan Colin Edwards rounded out the Q2 order. However, simply making it through Q1 and into Q2 was a major victory for the Forward Racing runner, as he registered his strongest qualifying performance of the season just as paddock contract talks start to heat up.
Meanwhile, fellow Texan Ben Spies had a considerably worse day. Finally back in action and at nearly 100 percent after completing a long road to recovery, Spies suffered a nasty fall in FP3 that left him with a dislocated left shoulder. He’s been ruled unfit and will not participate in the remainder of the weekend.