Valencia GP Qualifying Results
1. Jorge LORENZO (99) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA
2. Marc MARQUEZ (93), Repsol Honda Team HONDA
3. Valentino ROSSI (46) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA
4. Maverick VIÑALES (25) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI
5. Andrea DOVIZIOSO (4) Ducati Team DUCATI
6. Pol ESPARGARO (44) Monster Tech 3 YAMAHA
7. Andrea IANNONE (29) Ducati Team DUCATI
8. Dani PEDROSA (26) Repsol Honda Team HONDA
9. Aleix ESPARGARO (41) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI
10. Bradley SMITH (38) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA
11. Cal CRUTCHLOW (35) LCR Honda HONDA
12. Danilo PETRUCCI (9) OCTO Pramac Yakhnich DUCATI
13. Hector BARBERA (8) Avintia Racing DUCATI
14. Scott REDDING (45) OCTO Pramac Yakhnich DUCATI
15. Jack MILLER (43) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA
16. Loris BAZ (76) Avintia Racing DUCATI
17. Stefan BRADL (6) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA
18. Alvaro BAUTISTA (19) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA
19. Eugene LAVERTY (50) Aspar Team MotoGP DUCATI
20. Mika KALLIO (36) Red Bull Factory Racing KTM
21. Tito RABAT (53) Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA
22. Yonny HERNANDEZ (68) Aspar Team MotoGP DUCATI

Jorge Lorenzo completed just three flying laps in qualifying on Saturday afternoon at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain. But each one was quicker than the last and all were under the previous record set a year ago by the Movistar Yamaha rider.

For his tremendous effort, the 29-year-old Majorcan was rewarded with pole position for Sunday’s 30-lap season finale. “Today, I was inspired,” Lorenzo told the press, his face aglow under the bright lights in the media center. “Everything I tried was working.

Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha
“I can say that in my last race with Yamaha I made a pole position,” Jorge Lorenzo said after earning pole at Valencia with a record lap. “It was my day, and I am very proud.”Photo: Andrew Wheeler/AutoMotoPhoto

“I was very motivated, very confident with the tires and tarmac, so I could reach my top level today and make three quick laps, improving two tenths each time I put in a new tire. Every time, I pushed more and more…and didn’t crash.”

Marc Marquez was the only other rider to lap the predominantly left-hand, 14-turn, 2.49-mile track in less than one minute and 30 seconds. He, too, eclipsed Lorenzo's previous record—twice, in fact—but was only able to get within 0.340 seconds of his rival's best.

Marquez’s attempt to win pole was hindered by a crash near the end of FP4. Though uninjured in the fall, Marquez damaged his primary machine and was forced to use a second for qualifying. Realizing his error, Marquez furiously kicked the tire wall.

Marquez, Repsol Honda
Marc Marquez has already won this year’s MotoGP title, his third in the premier class, but the constructor and team championships won’t be decided until Sunday afternoon.Photo: Andrew Wheeler/AutoMotoPhoto

“For some reason, I feel much better with that bike,” Marquez admitted. “It is more or less the same, but sometimes you feel a little bit better with another bike. Tomorrow, we will race with the bike that I crashed today.”

Both Lorenzo and Marquez used a two-stop strategy. “In the afternoon, conditions were perfect,” he said. “Michelin brought very good tires, like in Brno and Misano. With these tires, I feel more confident and can reach my ‘top’ as a rider.”

Marc Marquez at Valencia, Spain
“I tried really hard to be on pole, but Jorge was faster,” Marc Marquez said. “Over one lap, the Yamaha is very strong, but I am happy with my rhythm. We will see tomorrow.”Photo: Repsol Honda
The Doctor at Valencia
Valentino Rossi starts in P3.Photo: Andrew Wheeler/AutoMotoPhoto

Valentino Rossi will round out the front row of the grid on Sunday. “Yesterday was difficult,” admitted the nine-time world champion. “Today, we improved the balance of the bike, but I wasn’t strong enough. In the afternoon, we did another small improvement.

“For qualifying, I was quite strong with both tires. To be on the front row is always important, this time even more so because it is difficult to overtake at Valencia. I wanted to try to make a 1:29, but the front row is good.”

Sunday’s 20-minute warm-up session will be critical. “At this moment, Lorenzo and Marquez are faster in the pace,” Rossi said. “Also [Maverick] Viñales is very strong—stronger than me. If I want to fight for the podium, we need to improve a bit.”

Maverick Viñales starts on the second row in P4
Maverick Viñales starts on the second row in P4.Photo: Andrew Wheeler/AutoMotoPhoto

Viñales, who will join Rossi at Movistar Yamaha beginning Tuesday for the first preseason tests, qualified fourth, alongside the Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Pol Espargaro, who is headed next season to KTM.

“It’s always a bit special, as a satellite rider, to begin the Grand Prix from the second row,” Espargaro said. “We’ll enjoy the rest of today knowing that we were competitive, and I will try to have fun in my last track appearance with Yamaha.”

First Independent Team rider at Valencia is Pol Espargaro
First Independent Team rider is Pol Espargaro in P6..Photo: Andrew Wheeler/AutoMotoPhoto

Regarding Sunday’s race, Lorenzo said, “It’s one thing to make one lap with soft tires. It’s another thing to make 30 laps at a good pace, probably with another tire. We have improved the bike little by little—the bike is coming better in all the corners.

“Tire decision tomorrow will be very important. We have plenty of time to think about it. But I think we are competitive with both tires, and we will have a chance to fight for the win.”

Michelin’s Nicolas Goubert agreed. “For the front, we have two profiles, including the one for next year,” he said. “But the rear will be the most difficult choice. The soft used in qualifications can be used on some bikes but not all because wear will be too much.”

Either way, Marquez, who, after securing the title in Japan, crashed in Australia and Malaysia, knows a good launch will be critical, even from the front row. “If I lose two seconds,” he said, “it will be difficult to recover.”