Marc Marquez set the weekend's fastest MotoGP lap and seized pole position Saturday at the Circuit of the Americas track near Austin, Texas. But familiar company lurks just behind the Repsol Honda rider who has taken pole position at all seven MotoGP races held at the American circuit. Valentino Rossi made the most of his penultimate lap to lock-down second place on the grid and to close to within three-tenths of a second behind the leader.
Rossi, second in the previous race in Argentina and third in the championship, has enjoyed consistently top-five lap times all weekend. The same can be said for Cal Crutchlow who finished qualifying another tenth back. Crutchlow set his fastest lap late in the session to push Jack Miller (4th) from the final spot on the front row.
But the surprise of the session belonged to KTM's Pol Espargaro. With a 2'04.472 lap, the younger of the two Espargaro brothers racing in MotoGP gave KTM is best-ever qualifying position in fifth. (KTM joined the full-time MotoGP ranks in 2017.) Maverick Vinales, second in last year's race at COTA, put his factory Yamaha on the final slot in the second row.
Alex Rins, who briefly jumped into third place near the end of qualifying, was demoted to seventh as riders saved their best laps for late. Danilo Petrucci took top Ducati honors with eighth on the grid after advancing from Q1. Satellite Yamaha teammates Fabio Quartararo (9th) and Franco Morbidelli (10th) completed the top 10. Factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso, who is second in the championship behind Marquez, didn't advance out of Q1 and will start the race on the fifth row in 13th.
While a heavy rainstorm cancelled the morning's FP3 and created mixed conditions in FP4, COTA was dry for the two MotoGP qualifying sessions. While Marquez didn't quite reach his 2018 pole lap of 2'03.658 -- or come close to his all-time circuit record of 2'02.125 -- track conditions are predicted to be ideal for Sunday's race with a race-time temperature of 23C (74F) under a clear sky.
*Riders in bold advanced from Q1