With no more rain on the cards and a damp drying track, a few question marks started appearing in the riders’ minds. Whatever the question, Marc Marquez’s answer is to push harder, the Spaniard posting the first time into the 1:53s on his first flying lap, with a big twitch thrown in for good measure. The one and a second gap to the pursuers gave the world champion the confidence to test some slicks and while he was cautiously strolling around, Johann Zarco headed out on the soft-extra soft combination in the final minutes and pulled out of nowhere his second pole position of the season.
In a decent afternoon for independent riders, Danilo Petrucci was best of the rest, outpaced by three tenths of a second by Zarco, while Marquez only just held on to a front row start. The world championship leader sacrificed a second fast run with a flag-to-flag experiment in mind but kept third position from a charging Aleix Espargaro, the Aprilia man finishing only four hundredths of a second behind Marquez.
The Spaniard will be joined on the second row of the grid by Jorge Lorenzo, the second-best Ducati eight tenths down on the leader, with Dani Pedrosa sixth, another tenth down but more than what was promised on Friday.
Third row was the reward for a fantastic performance from the KTM duo, both riders making it through Q1 to deny the likes of Maverick Viñales and Cal Crutchlow. Bradley Smith qualified narrowly ahead of teammate Pol Espargaro, the two in elite company with Andrea Dovizioso in ninth place. The Italian went for the same tyre combination as the poleman to much less impressive results.
Fourth row saw two Suzukis in tenth and eleventh grid spots, Alex Rins outpacing teammate Andrea Iannone. Meanwhile, Valentino Rossi took an intriguing approach, heading out on slick tyres and gingerly going around waiting for ideal conditions. Whether that was a lack of tyres, a test for the race or wishful thinking, the plan didn’t work out and after a switch to rain tyres, the Italian qualified twelfth. Still, it could have been worse if you were called Maverick Viñales and you were hoping to keep your title charge alive from fourteenth grid position.