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Marquez grabs pole at Austin GP

April 12, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Marc Marquez took pole position for the Grand Prix of the Americas after dominating qualifying on Saturday at the site of his first career MotoGP victory.

Marquez grabbed his first win at the Circuit of the Americas last season on his way to winning the world championship in his rookie campaign.

The Spaniard picked up right where he left off, his Honda easily outpacing the field in practice and qualifying for Sunday’s race as he posted the fastest laps each time out.

Marquez turned in his fastest time on his final lap of seven at 2 minutes, 2.773 seconds. Teammate and countryman Dani Pedrosa was second at .289 seconds behind.

“I feel so good on the bike, (but) tomorrow is the most important,” Marquez said.

Honda owns the front of the starting grid. German Stefan Bradl of LCR Honda will start third. Bradl briefly led the opener in Qatar last month before crashing out in the ninth lap.

Marquez’s Texas victory a year ago launched a brilliant rookie season in MotoGP, as he won seven times and finished on the podium 17 times overall in winning the world championship. His pole position and victory here at age 20 made him the youngest pole sitter and winner in the history of MotoGP.

Even a broken leg in the off-season hardly seems to have slowed him down.

Marquez was injured in a training accident, but recovered in time to win in Qatar, outdueling former world champion Valentino Rossi through a thrilling finish. It was a physical struggle, however, and Marquez acknowledged he took painkillers to numb his aching leg.

Judging by his pace this week, that discomfort seems behind him now. Marquez said this week the leg has felt stronger every day.

“I drove without painkillers this week (but) tomorrow I will take painkillers before the race. Just in case,” he said.

Marquez said he expects Pedrosa, who finished second here last year, to be his main challenger. Pedrosa started in the No. 2 spot in 2013 and slipped ahead of Marquez in the elevated first turn and led for 12 laps.

“Today we did good in qualifying. We got the front row which is important on this track. The first turn is so tight,” Pedrosa said.

The rest of the field seemed resigned to concede the race to the Honda riders on a track that seems tailor-made to their engines with its fast straights and acceleration out of the hairpin turns. Other riders on the grid have struggled to explain how they can possibly keep up.

“It looks like the Hondas are strong here but behind me are the four Yamahas,” Bradl said. “If you make one mistake here. ... Physically, it’s a long race track.”

Marquez said he’ll take any advantage he can get. There will be plenty of other tracks that will favor his opponents.

“We will arrive on another track and they will be better than us,” Marquez said. “For now, we will use that advantage.”

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