Following Friday’s opening pair of practice sessions, Crutchlow had been unhappy with the new fuel tank fitted to his bike, but appeared to rectify this by setting the pace in third free practice on Saturday morning. He would go on to claim his second MotoGP pole in five race weekends, following that of Assen at the end of June.
However, a second career pole looked to be heading the way of Bautista after the Gresini rider intelligently picked up Marquez’s slipstream to dip underneath Lorenzo’s 2012 qualifying record. Following a stop in the pit lane, Crutchlow would go on to beat this by over two tenths of a second thanks to his rapid time of 1’55.527.
With Bautista on the front row for the second time in three races, championship leader – and winner of the last three Grands Prix – Marquez crucially starts ahead of his closest two title contenders, with teammate and last year’s Brno winner Pedrosa only five thousandths of a second in arrears and Lorenzo a further 81 thousandths behind. The reigning World Champion expected more, though, not least after testing at Brno in the mid-season break as well as beginning the weekend as fastest rider.
Tech3’s Bradley Smith equaled his qualifying best by beating the second Yamaha Factory Racing rider Valentino Rossi to sixth place, as LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl and Ducati Team duo Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden completed the first group of ten. Energy T.I. Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone made it to the shootout for 11th place – despite a collision with an air fence early in Q1 – whereas NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards was encouraged to feature in Q2 for the second time within the space of a week, equipped with the standard MotoGP ECU software package. This left usual CRT pace-setter Aleix Espargaro third in Q1 and therefore 13th on the grid, hindered by a crash in fourth free practice which immediately preceded the qualifying session.
Returning to action to cover for the injured Ben Spies at Ignite Pramac Racing, Michele Pirro will line up 14th, as wildcard Martin Bauer backs up the grid in 25th position on an S&B Suter. Incidentally, Bauer’s Remus Racing Team makes history this weekend by becoming the first Austrian-entered outfit to compete in the premier class of Grand Prix racing.
Taking place after the Moto2 race but before that of Moto3, Sunday’s MotoGP battle commences at 1pm local time (GMT +2).