Brno (Czech Republic), August 4: It may be a month since the last MotoGP race, but championship leader Marc Marquez took a risk to ensure he picked up exactly where he left off.
After winning at the Sachsenring in a dominant display last time out - his 10th straight triumph at that circuit - Repsol Honda's Marquez will begin Sunday's Czech Republic Grand Prix in pole position.
A daring qualifying performance in Brno saw him equal Mick Doohan's record of 58 poles, an incredible effort on slick tyres as the rain fell giving him the landmark as other riders faltered.
The Spaniard starts first for the sixth time this season, well placed to stay in control of a championship he leads by 58 points. He now eyes a 50th MotoGP win and would only be the fourth rider to reach that milestone.
Marquez did not have to gamble given his comfortable championship lead, but his move paid off as he claimed top spot by an astonishing 2.524seconds. Australian Jack Miller was also rewarded on slicks and already had second place secured before a late crash.
"After analysing the situation I took a risk that I didn't need," admitted Marquez after qualifying.
"In parc ferme some members of the team were very happy, but some of them – the important ones – were angry because I took too much risk.
"The target was the front row, not the pole position. Pole is important, but the target was already done [before attempting a final lap on slicks].
"I went out and the problem was it started to rain, a couple of spots on the visor. But the chance was there, lucky for me I got pole. But I feel much better because I didn't crash - this is most important.
"At the start I believed in the slick tyres with the changing conditions. In the end when the rain came back and the track got wetter it was difficult. Jack was on the slicks but the last lap I did is the one that if there is a next time, I will not do [again].
"Sunday looks like it will be sunny, so a normal race. With the conditions we have had, it is hard to know where everyone is but the target is the podium. Pole was by 2.5 seconds, but the distance between first and second on the grid is the same."
“I took a risk that I didn't need to... Some of the important team members were angry!” 🎙️ - @marcmarquez93— MotoGP™ 🇨🇿 (@MotoGP) 3 August 2019
Caught up in the adrenaline, Marc was keeping his team personnel on their toes! 🤣#CzechGP 🇨🇿 pic.twitter.com/UycqMohlfk
The exploits of Marquez and Miller left Johann Zarco - fastest earlier in the session when all riders set wet times - in third, his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team celebrating their first-ever front row.
That brought joy to what has been a frustrating season hitherto for the Frenchman and it was double delight for KTM with Pol Espargaro claiming fifth.
DOVI & DUCATI IN THE MIX
Andrea Dovizioso, second in the championship, qualified fourth, joining Miller as a Ducati in the mix for victory.
The Italian won this race last year and produced his best qualifying performance since he was also fourth in France back in May. In need of momentum, Dovizioso has gone three straight races without a podium, his worst run since May 2018.
Factory team-mate Danilo Petrucci starts eighth, his single-lap pace continuing to fall short – it was the eighth time this year he missed out on the front two rows.
RINS & MARQUEZ CLASH
Earlier in the session, an on-track battle between Marquez and Alex Rins resulted in the five-time world champion shoving his rival in the pit lane.
After the qualifying spat, Rins – who starts sixth - accused Marquez of lacking respect.
The Suzuki Ecstar rider is under pressure, having crashed from the lead at the Dutch TT and suffering the same fate while running second in Germany, missing out on valuable points that would have put him higher than his current fourth position in the standings.
"My position on the grid is positive, I feel that my pace can be good in the dry or the wet, so I'm ready to enjoy Sunday's race," said Rins.
RAIN DAMPENS YAMAHA MOMENTUM
Monster Energy Yamaha's Maverick Vinales arrived in the Czech Republic in fine form on the back of finishing first and second in his last two outings.
He is seeking a third straight podium for the first time in his career, but has to start from ninth after his pace in the wet fell short. He has abandoned in two of his four previous appearances at this event.
"The slicks didn't work for us," said Vinales. "I spotted the opportunity and tried to go out on them, but ultimately it was a bad decision. We should have followed our plan to go out on the medium wet tyre - our position would have been much better. "I start from P9, but normally I'm starting well and doing good first laps, so I need to keep going."
Fabio Quartararo was fastest in Friday's practice and has impressed in qualifying all season but the rookie will start 10th after finding the conditions difficult.
Perhaps Valentino Rossi offers the manufacturer's best hope. He is the top Yamaha in seventh and looking to bounce back from recording only eight points in four races before the break. The MotoGP icon is a record five-time winner of this race has three podiums in his last five appearances here.
1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda)
2. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing)
3. Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
5. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
6. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar)
7. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha)
8. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati)
9. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha)
10. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha)
11. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda)
12. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)
2018: Andrea Dovizioso
2017: Marc Marquez
2016: Cal Crutchlow
2015: Jorge Lorenzo (for Yamaha)
1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) 185
2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 127 (-58)
3. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) 121 (-64)
4. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) 101 (-84)
5. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) 85 (-100)
1. Ducati 248
2. Repsol Honda 210 (-38)
3. Monster Energy Yamaha 165 (-83)
4. Suzuki Ecstar 140 (-108)
5. Petronas Yamaha 119 (-129)
Rain was prominent in qualifying but race conditions are expected to be hot and dry, giving hope to the riders who were strong in Friday's running but struggled on Saturday (August 3).