Sprint­ing Mar­quez lands in pole po­si­tion yet again in the Austin Grand Prix

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JIM VER­TUNO

Not even a stopped bike and a “sprint” on foot could keep Marc Mar­quez off the pole at the Mo­toGP Grand Prix of the Amer­i­cas.

With barely three min­utes left in qual­i­fy­ing Satur­day, Mar­quez had to ditch his Rep­sol Honda shortly af­ter leav­ing his garage when a warn­ing light flashed.

With time run­ning out, he scaled a 1.52-me­ter (5-foot) con­crete wall, scam­pered back about 46 me­ters (50 yards) to hop on a re­place­ment bike be­fore de­liv­er­ing a blis­ter­ing fi­nal lap at the Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas to claim pole po­si­tion for the third straight year.

His fastest lap was 2 min­utes, 2.135 sec­onds and stunned the Du­cati garage. Du­cati rider An­drea Dovizioso ap­peared to be cruis­ing to the pole when Mar­quez was trot­ting through pit lane on foot.

Mar­quez dropped to sev­enth be­fore he got back on the track and ripped through each sec­tor, pick­ing up time with each split to earn his 23rd ca­reer pole po­si­tion.

Two hours later, Mar­quez said he still didn’t know if the warn­ing light was an en­gine or gear­box prob­lem. He stopped the bike to pre­serve the en­gine be­cause Mo­toGP al­lows teams to use only five in a sea­son.

But even then, he still had to run stiff-legged and stiff-armed in his protective rid­ing gear.

“The last lap was push­ing 100 per­cent,” he said. “I nearly crashed.”

Mar­quez was lucky to be so close to his garage when the prob­lem hap­pened. Had he been at the far turn, it would have been about a 3.22 kilo­me­ter (two-mile) run and too far to even bother.

Mo­vis­tar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will start third and fourth Sun­day. Rossi won the sea­son opener in Qatar.

Mar­quez has all but owned the 3-year-old Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas since it opened, and Satur­day’s events were the first time he had to over­come any drama in Austin.

In 2013, he claimed his first ca­reer pole po­si­tion and first victory here. His re­turn win last year was the sec­ond in a string of 13 vic­to­ries as he stormed to the world ti­tle.

The 22-year-old Spa­niard has ripped through ev­ery prac­tice round, qual­i­fy­ing lap and race, top­ping the leader­board ev­ery time ex­cept once. That came in Fri­day’s first prac­tice in rainy con­di­tions. And even then he was sec­ond be­hind Dovizioso.

Dovizioso was fol­low­ing Mar­quez on the fi­nal lap of qual­i­fy­ing.

Weather could play a fac­tor Sun­day. Fore­cast­ers call for a 70 per­cent chance for rain.

Lorenzo, who has been sick this week with bron­chi­tis, said it will be hard to catch Mar­quez, wet or dry.

The Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas lay­out, 5.5 kilo­me­ters (3.4 miles), fa­vors Mar­quez for his rid­ing skills and his Honda’s abil­ity to power out of the hair­pin turns and into top speed on the long straight­aways.

De­spite his dom­i­nance the last two years, Mar­quez needs a boost. A flub through in the first turn in Qatar quickly left him at the back of the pack and he set­tled for a fifth-place fin­ish.

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