Marc Marquez is aiming for a fourth win in Australia
Phillip Island (Australia) (AFP) - Jorge Martin smashed the nine-year-old Phillip Island lap record Saturday to grab pole position for the Australian MotoGP, with world champion Fabio Quartararo coming in fifth.
In dry and partly cloudy conditions, the Spaniard ensured he will start at the front of the grid on Sunday with a blistering lap of one minute and 27.767 seconds.
It shattered the 1:27.899 mark held by Jorge Lorenzo since 2013 and, incredibly, came with the Ducati-Pramac rider having never driven the picturesque waterfront circuit before this weekend.
“It’s time to beat those records because the bikes are faster now,” said Martin.
“Yesterday I struggled a bit because I was a bit lost, it is my first time here and I had to take the measurement (of the track). But finally today I had good pace.
“I thought I could be competitive, but not this competitive. Making 1:27 is amazing. Hopefully we can fight till the end tomorrow,” he added.
Six-time world champion Marc Marquez amazingly saved a crash when he lost the front end of his Honda and spun at turn 10 on his first lap, but recovered to take second, 0.013 behind, also under Lorenzo’s time.
“I’m not a little bit happy, I’m a lot,” said Marquez, who is a three-time winner at Phillip Island and only recently back from yet another bad injury.
“The most important thing is the feeling is coming with the bike, so step by step I am feeling better.
“And physically feeling better… is a key point for me.”
World championship leader Quartararo of Yamaha finished fifth but behind fellow title contender Francesco Bagnaia, who will start third on his Ducati.
“It’s always very important to be in the front row,” said Bagnaia as he eyes a maiden world crown.
Quartararo holds a slender two-point lead in the standings over the Italian, with three grands prix left in the 20-race season.
Just 40 points separate the top five, with all mathematically in the title fight.
Among the contenders, Spain’s Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) was fourth fastest and Australian hope Jack Miller (Ducati) eighth.
But Italian Enea Bastianini (Ducati), who is 39 points adrift, could only muster 13th to put a massive dent in his slender hopes.
Miller also has work to do, but will leave Phillip Island with a corner offically named after him on Saturday.
Turn 4, the circuit’s famous hairpin, will now be known as Miller Corner in his honour.
“It’s an unreal part of the track, and so many historical moments have happened here. So I feel so fortunate to be able to claim this one,” said the Australian.
Miller is the fourth Australian rider to have part of the iconic Phillip Island layout officially named after him.
Legendary 500cc world champion Wayne Gardner, five-time title winner Mick Doohan and former world champion Casey Stoner have also been honoured.