BC-MOT--MotoGP-Austin 1st Ld-Writethru
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A bump here, a wobble there, a gust of wind. Nothing was going to keep Marc Marquez from taking the pole position yet again at a race he’s dominated the past six years.
Repsol Honda’s Spanish rider will start from the front once again as he chases a seventh consecutive victory at the MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas.
Marquez, who other riders have dubbed the “King of Texas,” easily took the top spot ahead of Italian rival Valentino Rossi of Yamaha. Marquez, 26, has won five of the last six season championships. The 40-year-old Rossi is a seven-time winner but hasn’t won a title since 2009.
LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow of Britain will be the third rider on the front row.
Marquez has never failed to capture pole position in Austin. The only blip on his record here was a penalty after the qualifying session last year that forced him start from fourth. He bolted to the lead by the end of the first lap and easily won the race.
His only challenges Saturday were the weather and the track itself.
Rain wiped out the morning practice session. By the afternoon, strong wind whipped around the track as it was still drying out.
Riders have been complaining this week about the bumpy nature of the Circuit of the Americas, which was built for Formula One cars and opened in 2012. The shifting of the clay soil underneath and asphalt has created bumps that have forced many repairs over the years.
All of which complicates a track already considered one of the most physically demanding and technically challenging courses of the season with its s-curves, tight corners and long straight with abrupt braking zones.
Marquez had to fight his way around the circuit Saturday. He had to steady his shaking motorcycle when he hit the bumps and road into a headwind on the track’s long straight while powering through some of the highest speeds of his laps.
“Today was a really windy day, it was shaking and there was still some water there,” Marquez said. “Even on the fastest lap I couldn’t be full speed. I had to be safe.”
But no other rider is as comfortable on the track as Marquez is, and no one has ever been as fast here. Marquez’ maiden victory here at 20 years old in 2013 made him the youngest winner in MotoGP
Marquez enjoys a four-point lead in the championship over Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, who won the season-opening race in Qatar and finished third in Argentina.
Dovizioso held off Marquez in a blistering finish in the desert but likely won’t get close to him Sunday as the Ducati rider will start 13th.
Rossi stands third in the championship standings with a chance to make up some ground for a title fight.
“I feel good with the bike,” Rossi said. “To be on the front row is good.”
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