Dani Pedrosa Wins MotoGP Pole Position In Spain

Championship leader Valentino Rossi will start series’ 3,000 race from third row.

Dani Pedrosa on pole at Jerez
“This was probably one of the best poles of my career because it was a really hard battle,” Dani Pedrosa said. “It was a strategic end of session with Marc [Marquez] right behind me. For a moment, I wasn’t sure if I should push or not. There was no choice, so I just went for it.”Photo: Repsol Honda

Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying Results Dani PEDROSA (26) Repsol Honda Team HONDA Marc MARQUEZ (93), Repsol Honda Team HONDA Cal CRUTCHLOW (35) LCR Honda HONDA Maverick VIÑALES (25) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA Andrea IANNONE (29) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI Johann ZARCO (5) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA Valentino ROSSI (46) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA Jorge LORENZO (99) Ducati Team DUCATI Jonas FOLGER (94) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA Jack MILLER (43) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA Scott REDDING (45) Octo Pramac Racing DUCATI Aleix ESPARGARO (41) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA Danilo PETRUCCI (9) OCTO Pramac Racing DUCATI Andrea DOVIZIOSO (4) Ducati Team DUCATI Pol ESPARGARO (44) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM Bradley SMITH (38) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM Alvaro BAUTISTA (19) Pull&Bear Aspar Team DUCATI Tito RABAT (53) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA Karel ABRAHAM (17) Pull&Bear Aspar Team DUCATI Loris BAZ (76) Reale Avintia Racing DUCATI Hector BARBERA (8) Reale Avintia Racing DUCATI Sam LOWES (22) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA Takuya TSUDA (12) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI

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Dani Pedrosa (26) ahead of Repsol Honda teammate Marc Marquez (93) at Jerez.Photo: Repsol Honda
Marc Marquez
“Normally, Jerez is a circuit where I struggle,” Marc Marquez said. “When I saw that Dani [Pedrosa] was in front, I waited for him to try to see two or three corners that, on data, he was faster than me. I understood a few things when I was behind him. The last lap was all in.”Photo: Repsol Honda

Dani Pedrosa will start Sunday's 27-lap Spanish GP at Jerez—the 3,000th world championship race—from pole position. The 31-year-old Repsol Honda rider snatched the top spot on the grid from teammate Marc Marquez in the closing moments of 15-minute final qualifying under sunny skies with the defending world champion hot on his heels.

Pedrosa has been fast all weekend, leading practice in both dry and wet conditions. He could have attempted another fast lap but instead sat up. Marquez charged on but a series of mistakes left him 0.049 seconds short at the line. Braving a succession of wasp stings on his cool-off lap, Cal Crutchlow was third-quickest, cementing an all-Honda front row.

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Decisions, decisions, decisions: “We know that the soft rear is never going to last the race,” Cal Crutchlow said. “The medium? We’re not too sure. The hard is going to last, but I don’t know if it’s fast enough. I think if anyone can make the hard work it’s going to be the Hondas.”Photo: LCR Honda

Prior to Saturday’s triumph, Pedrosa’s last pole was at Sepang in 2015. “For a year, I have been struggling in qualifying,” he said. “I really wanted to improve in this point. I was already in a good position before the final run. Marc had pole, and I could see his strategy was to be behind me. I focused on myself and managed a good lap.”

Marquez admitted he benefitted from Pedrosa’s tutorship. “I was able to follow Dani for a few laps and learned where I was struggling this weekend,” he said. “I made a mistake in the first corner and nearly crashed. After that, I lost concentration for the last braking and didn’t brake at the correct point. It looks like Dani’s weekend. He’s really strong.”

Because Pedrosa is small and Marquez can win on anything, Crutchlow is now Honda’s Chuck Yeager. That test role bit the British rider in qualifying, losing pole in the final sector of the track. “It’s good for me and my team to be given the job, but it’s hard work,” he said. “We didn’t change so much with the bike, just one thing many, many times.”

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Maverick Vinales, Movistar YamahaPhoto: Yamaha Racing

Winner of the first two races of the season, Maverick Vinales will lead the second row. “The right side of the tire is really good,” said the Movistar Yamaha rider. “But when I go on the left, we have a lot of spinning. We have to check it tonight and work really hard tomorrow in the warm-up.”

Andrea Iannone made the most of his transfer spot from Q1, ending the second session fifth, his best qualifying since Qatar, where he was on the front row. “We worked in a good direction, and today we improved a lot,” said the factory Suzuki rider. Johann Zarco, first of two Tech 3 Yamahas, completes the second row.

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Andrea Iannone, Team Suzuki EcstarPhoto: Team Suzuki
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Johann Zarco, Monster Yamaha Tech 3Photo: Monster Yamaha Tech 3

Championship leader Valentino Rossi will start seventh. The 38-year-old Italian also started seventh in Argentina earlier this season and finished second in that race. Rossi’s most recent victory was last year at Catalunya, 14 races ago. He started from pole last year at Jerez and won the race, as well. Jorge Lorenzo was second, with Marquez third.

“Today was not so bad,” Rossi said. “We worked a lot and improved the feeling with the bike. We still have to work, especially in the entry of the corner. I’m not happy with the result from qualifying; I have to start from the third row. That is always difficult, and I think that we can do better.” As we have seen so frequently, Sunday is often Rossi’s finest hour.

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Valentino Rossi, Movistar YamahaPhoto: Yamaha Racing
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Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati TeamPhoto: Ducati Team

Lorenzo will start eighth, the first time the 30-year-old Majorcan has not qualified on the front row at Jerez since joining the premier class in 2008. All of those successes, however, came on factory Yamahas. Since moving to Ducati, Lorenzo has struggled but is showing progress. This weekend, he was ninth in FP1, fourth in FP2, second in FP3, and fourth in FP4.

“My expectations in qualifying were higher than the final position,” Lorenzo admitted. “In the morning, I felt very good with the bike. But unfortunately, I didn’t feel really good with both rear tires. It looks like it was more slippery—not the same grip. I struggled so much to exit the slower corners. I couldn’t be faster than this.”

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Jonas Folger, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHAPhoto: Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA
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Jack Miller, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDSPhoto: Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS

Aleix Espargaro, aboard one of two factory Aprilias, and Jack Miller, riding a Marc VDS Honda, fell unhurt at different times in the final session. Both KTM riders, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, will start 15th and 16th, respectively. “I think these are the fastest lap times that we’ve ever done here in Jerez,” Smith said. “To do a low 1:39 is going in the right direction.”

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Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory RacingPhoto: KTM Racing

Weather projections for Sunday are for even warmer track conditions. “For sure, a few riders will pick the hard rear tire,” said Michelin’s Nicolas Goubert. “I’m pretty certain that Marc, for example, has already decided. Dani has not made his decision yet, but he usually chooses slightly softer tires compared to Marc.”

Pedrosa admitted that he has tried every tire option and will make his final decision Sunday on the starting grid. “We have to see what the track is like at race time,” he said. “For sure, we can still make some changes to the bike; maybe we will try something in the warm-up. But the biggest thing is the tire. We will see tomorrow.”