WASHINGTON: Two-time defending world champion Marc Marquez was denied his sixth consecutive pole position at the MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas after race stewards imposed a three-place grid penalty Saturday.
The 25-year-old Spaniard has won from the pole in all five races at the 20-corner circuit in Austin, Texas, and had kept his perfect qualifying record intact with a fast lap of 2mins 3.658secs ahead of Sunday’s third race of the season, bouncing back quickly after a crash to do so.
But it was MotoGP’s Twitter account that broke the bad news for the Honda rider.
“FIM Stewards: @marcmarquez93 has been given a three place grid penalty for slow riding on the racing line and disturbing another rider. He will start from 4th on the grid for tomorrow’s Americas GP,” the tweet said.
Spain’s Maverick Vinales, who placed second in qualifying, came across a slower-moving Marquez on the first fast lap of his second run and Vinales was forced to abandon his lap, causing the violation.
Vinales will now start from the pole on his Yamaha after qualifying in 2:04.064.
Marquez, a six-time world champion across all categories, won his first series title at the 2013 race and has dominated at the track ever since.
In Saturday’s qualifying session, Marquez crashed in turn 13, skidding out as the tried to make the right turn, but returned on a backup Honda and turned the top lap of the weekend.
“Here in Austin is a good surface for me. I did a good lap time,” Marquez said before the penalty was announced. “All the fans enjoyed it because I crashed, I come back out in the second bike and I win the pole.”
Vinales was confident he could challenge Marquez in the race even before the penalty was announced.
“We have a good rhythm,” Vinales said. “I think tomorrow we can be fighting hard for the race. We’re going to push hard for it tomorrow.”
Italy’s Andrea Iannone was third, .551 of a second behind Marquez on his Suzuki to edge French Yamaha rider Johann Zarco for the last front-row spot by .001 of a second.
“It was one of the targets for us to be on the front row,” Iannone said. “We can improve, not a lot, but it’s most important. Tomorrow will be a difficult race. I think it’s going to be a difficult battle.”
Now Iannone will move to the middle of row one with the outside spot taken by Zarco.
That puts Marquez on the next row along with Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, who was was fifth on 2:04.229.
Italy’s Rossi and Marquez battled at the Argentina Grand Prix two weeks ago when Marquez was issued a 30-second penalty for clashing with the Rossi on a risky passing move. Rossi said later he was “scared” to have Marquez on the grid, saying he is a safety risk to other riders.