Marc Marquez will sleep a little easier ahead of the final race of the MotoGP season, after a dream qualifying session in Valencia moved him even closer to a fourth premier-class world title in five years.
The world champion in 2013, 2014 and 2016, Marquez came into the year’s last event as a heavy favourite to finish top of the standings again – given his 21-point lead over nearest rival Andrea Dovizioso.
Any hopes Dovizioso had of turning things round were severely dented on Saturday as he qualified ninth for the Valencia GP and Marquez took pole.
Marquez will still be nervous when he looks to wrap up the championship, yet he could hardly have asked for a better day.
“We are human and it will be more difficult to sleep. But it’s normal, I would be more nervous if Dovi was on pole and I was 10th, ninth or eighth,” said Marquez, who needs only an 11th-placed finish to be crowned champion.
“I’m really happy to be on pole during this special weekend. I’m happy with the rhythm and the feeling of the bike.
“It’s ‘Marquez style’ until [the] warm up, then maybe we need to change the strategy and adapt to the conditions tomorrow [Sunday]. But I’m feeling good with the bike, which is the most important.
“The first few laps will be more difficult because when you’re fighting for the championship you’re stiff on the bike until you get used to it. But we need to keep the same mentality. That will be the key.”
Dovizioso insisted Ducati will “try right until the very end”, but it will now take a remarkable turnaround to deny Marquez.