'I'm going to suffer' says returning Marquez as Quartararo grabs pole
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Portimao (Portugal) (AFP)
France's Fabio Quartararo, on a Yamaha, claimed the qualifying honours in style and on the back of a rival's misfortune in Portimao on Saturday to take pole for the Portuguese MotoGP with returning six-time world champion Marc Marquez on the second row of Sunday's grid.
Marquez has wasted no time getting back in the thick of things nine months after his crash in the Spanish Grand Prix which ruled him out of the entire 2020 season, and the first two races this year.
Despite losing precious track time with mechanical issues on his Honda the Spaniard posted the sixth fastest time after sneaking through from Q1 reserved for riders finishing outside the top 10 in practice.
After three bouts of surgery on the right arm he broke in the 2020 opener at Jerez, Marquez is understandably feeling his way on his first weekend back at 'the office'.
"I don't feel as good as I did yesterday (in first and second practice) but that's only normal," said the 28-year-old.
"The doctors and my physio are waiting for me. The big thing is that the bone isn't hurting me. It's the muscles that are struggling.
"But the big question is the race itself - 25 laps, it's really long.
"I know already that it's not going to be a walk in the park, I'm going to suffer."
Quartararo, winner of the Doha MotoGP last time out, secured the 11th pole of his career with a new lap record time of 1min 38.862sec, at the main expense of Alex Rins (Suzuki) and early championship leader Johann Zarco (Ducati-Pramac).
Marquez shares the second row with Ducati's Australian rider Jack Miller and Italian Franco Morbidelli for the Yamaha-SRT team.
Italian Francesco Bagnaia had set the quickest time but he had his lap wiped off the time sheets because of a yellow flag warning after a Miguel Oliveira crash, leaving Quartararo feeling that "it doesn't feel like pole" and Bagnaia down in 11th.
"It doesn't have the same taste as usual," Quartararo, who dominated Saturday's third and fourth practice, added.
"I feel good, I know the pace I can reach."
Fellow front row occupant Rins said: "We too have decent pace but not as much as Fabio, we'll see what we can do."
Third-placed Zarco, aiming to go one better after two successive runner-up finishes, commented: "It wasn't enough but it's good to be on the front row."
The third row is occupied by the Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro, Luca Marini, the half-brother to Valentino Rossi, and defending champion Joan Mir.
Mir is competing this weekend handicapped by a late change in his chief mechanic, absent after contracting Covid-19.
Rossi, who swapped places with Quartararo in Yamaha's satellite SRT stable, qualified in only 17th.
Honda-LCR's Japanese rider Takaaki Nakagami (Honda-LCR) skipped qualifying after his crash on Friday in practice and will determine if he is race fit on Sunday morning.
Saturday practice was marred by a sickening crash that saw Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) stretchered off the track straight to hospital for further medical checks.
The Spaniard was conscious, but with contusions to his head, right hand and right ankle and misses the rest of the weekend.
© 2021 AFP