Marquez storms to 53rd career pole in Argentina, worries over rain

Termas de Río Hondo (Argentina) (AFP) –


World champion Marc Marquez stormed to his 53rd career pole position at the Argentina MotoGP on Saturday to stand just two off the all-time record of 55 held by bitter rival Valentino Rossi.

Honda rider Marquez will start Sunday's race at Termas de Rio Hondo from the front row ahead of Spanish compatriot Maverick Vinales on a Yamaha and Andrea Dovizioso, the Italian Ducati rider who won the season opener in Qatar.

Marquez's 53 elite-class poles have come from just 110 races while Rossi's 55 have been achieved from 325 outings.

He has now also taken the front-row spot five times in six races at the Argentina track.

However, he has unsettled business at Termas de Rio Hondo after last year being sanctioned for a collision with Rossi which sent the Italian crashing out of the race.

Rossi, on the second factory Yamaha and who accused Marquez of "destroying" the sport after their 2018 feud, was fourth in Saturday qualifying ahead of Australia's Jack Miller on a Ducati, last year's pole sitter, and Franco Morbidelli on a Yamaha.

Marquez was refusing to get carried away by his impressive qualifying performance with rain forecast for Sunday's race, a factor which worked spectacularly against him in 2018.

"So far, it has been a good weekend, but the most important thing will be on Sunday. I felt strong during free practice. The strategy was good, we tried things," he said.

"I tried to push because I knew that the other riders were close. We will see on Sunday -- if it rains, it will be a question mark for everyone."

Vinales said he was delighted to see his team take a big leap forward after difficulties in opening practice.

"We had problems on Friday, but have taken a step forward. I will push and be at the maximum in the first few laps and then we will see how it goes," said the Spaniard who was just 0.154sec behind Marquez.

Dovizioso was relieved to have claimed the third-fastest time having tumbled off his bike without injury in free practice earlier in the day.

"I am happy to start on the front row," he said.

Britain's Cal Crutchlow, who won last year's rain-hit race, was eighth on Saturday on a Honda just behind France's Fabio Quartararo on a Yamaha-SRT.

In the Moto2 race, Spain's Xavi Vierge qualified in the best time ahead of Germany's Marcel Schrotter and Thomas Luthi of Switzerland. Jaume Masia of Spain took pole in Moto3.

MotoGP starting grid:

Front row:

1. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 1:38.304, 2. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) at 0.154, 2. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 0.164

2nd row:

4. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha) 0.241, 5. Jack Miller (AUS.Ducati-Pramac) 0.244, 6. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha SRT) 0.582

3rd row:

7. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha SRT) 0.593, 8. Cal Crutchlow (GBR/Honda-LCR) 0.651, 9. Takaaki Nakami (JPN/Honda-LCR) 0.734

4th row:

10. Danilo Petrucci (ITA/Ducati) 0.789, 11. Pol Espargaro (ESP/KTM) 1.185, 12. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP/Honda) 1.216