Qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas was one of the most exciting in momory with a thrilling climax to the session seeing MotoGP prove what makes motorcycle racing so exciting. The session saw the tension rise throughout before eventually rising to its crescendo when the chequered flag came out.
Marc Marquez claimed the 51st pole position of his career yesterday at the Circuit of the Americas but this was the most spectacular lap that we've seen from the Spanish superstar. Having suffered a mechanical failure on his number one bike Marquez was forced to sprint down pitlane and jump onto his backup bike.
"This one was different and it was so exciting on the last lap," said Marquez. "The adrenaline was 100 per-cent but the most important thing was that we got the pole and it doesn't matter how. In the last lap I was pushing 100 per-cent and like you saw there was a big moment on the kerb; I tried to open more gas and I nearly crashed and lost some tenths, but on the last lap always you push 100%. After what happened it was difficult to find the best line with my concentration but in the end the lap was really good."
Cal Crutchlow has had great pace all weekend but a "stupid mistake" on his hot lap in qualifying left the LCR Honda rider unable to better fifth on the grid. Crutchlow has a new chassis this weekend that is offering improvements in some areas but leaving him shortchanged in others. Overall however he showed front row pace and should be a challenger in the race.
Finding improvements in the first sector, particularly in the esses, will be crucial for Crutchlow in the race given that the Yamaha's around him on the grid have been so strong this weekend:
"I'm really struggling through the first section with the changes of direction, which in previous years I've had no problem with," said Crutchlow. "I feel with the package at the moment we're giving up too much there, but our setting is not perfect and with the limited amount of time we've had on the bike I don't think we are doing too bad but we definitely can improve and we need to for tomorrow."
Speaking about the changes that he's felt with his new chassis Crutchlow said:
"If we do one thing it tends to compromise the other so we need to have a dry warm-up if we can and work again, but I don't think it will be dry at all. I can feel it [benefit of new chassis in corner entry] but we're also losing in other areas; the new chassis is definitely positive in some areas but I'm losing where I would've gained with the old chassis. The new chassis is better but I haven't had enough time on it."
Lining up alongside Crutchlow on the second row will be Scott Redding after a much improved setting on the Marc VDS bike gave him the confidence needed to be able to push much harder with an improved front end feel.
Redding and crew chief Chris Pike have made the bike much stiffer this week and now are feeling the benefits of making the suspension stiffer and stiffer. Having been running around in circles trying to set the bike up similarly to the Repsol Honda Redding is now forging his own path.
"It changed the handling massively in Qatar we were in a position that we didn't know how to improve and in the race we tried to go stiffer and it wasn't a negative so we thought that it might be a good way to go with this bike. We've carried on with that direction and it's gotten better and better with this bike.
"I think that if we can go top eight it'll be really good and from our qualifying time it looks like we should do more. The race is always different and last year we destroyed the tyre and with the weather forecast it's a tough call for tomorrow."
The Yamaha's impressed in qualifying with Jorge Lorenzo on the front row but he is still feeling under the weather after suffering bronchitis this week.
"For one lap it was not so bad, I could give a maximum effort to ride this lap time. I was really satisfied with this time and position, I didn't expect to make the top five. Let's see what the weather is like tomorrow. Personally I prefer a dry race, but a wet race would be better for my physical condition. I am very happy that the Yamaha is becoming better in this track. We didn't have a lot of time, so we don't exactly know what our pace is like. I feel so-so at the moment. The antibiotics are doing their job, but I need to be in a perfect condition for tomorrow."
Valentino Rossi was pleased with the progress made by Yamaha compared to 12 months ago and he's looking forward to another strong race but following up his Qatar win with another victory looks to be beyond him at the moment.
"I’m happy because we improved the bike a lot in braking compared to last year," said Rossi. "Also the seamless help us a lot and also the setting. This is the main issue. I think that on paper this is one of the tracks where we suffer more, so we are not so far. But for sure it will be a difficult race."
Bradley Smith had shown great speed all weekend but a technical problem, "it felt like a misfire in the bottom of the rev range," left him only able to qualify tenth fastest. The end result is that despite a strong weekend Smith will face an uphill task in the race. In Qatar he struggled to pass the Ducati of Yonny Hernandez, the Columbian was very strong on the brakes, and with Petrucci ninth on the grid Smith could be forced to follow the Pramac rider until the Ducati eats its tyres.
"We've been in the top six all weekend, having the pace, being as close as we have been to the factory bikes. Overall everything seems to be working well here, I was confident from the word go. I was doing exactly the same in Qatar as well, but the dodgy tyre limited us to doing something more. The good thing is that here, the batch of tyres seems to be better. Seems to be working good, I think that the new tyres this year are helping Yamaha go faster, be more competitive. The rear tyre really seems to help us. I'm not exactly sure what's different, I just know that it's a better compound for us, it's actually working. Before, every time I came here, I thought I was going to highside on entry, it was just too hard for us and we couldn't make it work."
Eugene Laverty had a much stronger qualifying performance with the Aspar rider ending the session as the fastest Open Honda, and ahead of the Repsol Honda of Hiroshi Aoyama. Laverty had struggled with electronics problems on Friday but with the team having been able to recalibrate their settings of their electronics.
"We had yesterday's information so we could adjust everything accordingly so it's OK," said Laverty. "We were able to adjust accordingly today because we had a reference to work off. The bike felt good but I'm still getting the most from the bike here because the other guys have done two years here and I've only done a couple of dry sessions. I made a good step on the last run with my riding style and it's good to be the top Open Honda on a track that I don't know too well.
Laverty is aiming for the points today but with so little running in the wet the weather will be key for him. In the dry he has improved his riding style but in either conditions Laverty is confident that he has the pace to finish in the top 15.
"The target is to get into the points but it's going to be difficult and it'll all depend on the weather. If it's wet I like the feel of the tyres in the wet and the bike gives good feedback and now that we've got a reference to work off from the wet we have a info and if we have a wet race we should be able to go into it a bit closer. The wet session was the first session and now I know the track a bit better so I should be on the right path."