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MotoGP Jerez: Poleman Pedrosa leads Honda front-row whitewash

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa has taken his first pole position since Sepang in 2015, edging out reigning MotoGP champion and team-mate Marc Marquez by 0.049s while Britain’s Cal Crutchlow made it an all-Honda front row, finishing less than two-tenths behind his factory stablemates.

Pedrosa and Marquez left pitlane in formation for their final run with only three minute left to run. Pedrosa took the lead and crossed the line with a 1’38.249 then backed out of the next lap while Marquez continued. He was substantially faster in the first half of the lap but the lead narrowed through sector three and then the smallest mistake at turn 12 turned a 0.070s advantage into a 0.049s deficit.

It is Pedrosa’s frist front row since Barcelona last year and the tiny Spaniard is equal to Marquez’ pace using the hard front Michelin. Pedrosa’s style and weight mean he will not stress the front so much and he should have more tyre left at the end of tomorrow’s race.

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“This was probably one of the best poles of my career because it was a really hard battle. It was a strategic end of the session with Marc there right behind me, so for a moment I wasn’t sure if I should push or not. There was no choice anyway, so I just went for it. I’m very happy because our main target for the GP was to be on the front row,” said Pedrosa.

“The feeling was really good, and it has been good all weekend, so I told myself, Okay, let’s try it. It has been a while since I’ve led in qualifying; I’ve struggled a lot last season so I’m very happy with today. Thanks to the team for the hard work, and I’m also happy for Honda. It looks like we’re doing really well so let’s focus for tomorrow and do the best we can.”

Crutchlow was up in the first three sectors of his lap but lost top-spot through the final sector. His 1’38.453 was enough for the front row but he said in parc ferme that there was not enough time being spent on setup at grands prix and too much being a test mule for Honda. He also had to get off his LCR Honda on the slowing down lap after being stung by an insect.

Movistar Yamaha wunderkind Maverick Vinales ended at the top of row two with a 1’38.667 set on his first run of the session and he ended just 0.067s ahead of Ecstar Suzuki Andrea Iannone. The Italian had to come through qualifying one but set a storming 1’38.744, also in his first run.

Monster Yamaha’s Johann Zarco was next along, using a soft front Michelin to set his 1’38.861 which was enough to hold nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi at bay. The Doctor was off the boil in qualifying two and will start from the head of row three.

Next to him is Jorge Lorenzo, starting off the front row at Jerez for the first time in his MotoGP career. The three-time champion was the final rider inside the 1’39s bracket and has Jonas Folger, on the second Monster Yamaha, alongside. Jack Miller completed the top ten after crashing at the end of the session.

Scott Redding finished 11th and will be dreading high track temperatures tomorrow as he is still having problems with rear-wheel spin, which gets worse the hotter it is. Aleix Espargaro crashed after setting a time good enough for 12th place.

Andrea Dovizioso’s Jerez nightmare continues as he finished in 13th, one behind Danilo Petrucci’s satellite GP17. Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith flew in formation on the big-bang KTMs to end in 15th and 16th. Sam Lowes’ qualifying one started badly as his Aprilia developed a fuelling issue in pitlane and he missed crucial laps.

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