Jorge Lorenzo will start Sunday’s opening round of the 2016 MotoGP season in Qatar from pole position after edging out Marc Marquez in the final stage of qualifying on Saturday.
The first qualifying session featuring the new Michelin tires was expected to shake up the grid, with Honda looking particularly weak heading into Saturday.
However, Marquez dug deep to put his bike on the front row of the grid, finishing just 0.091 seconds shy of Yamaha’s Lorenzo up front.
For Lorenzo, a fastest time of 1:54.543 was good enough for his 36th pole position in MotoGP, kicking off his title defence in the best possible fashion.
“Today it has been quite difficult to keep calm and try not to crash, because sometimes you have a good feeling with one rear tire and you put in another and you have a different feeling,” Lorenzo said.
“This is what happened on my second try: I almost crashed on the first lap, but luckily on my first try, my first lap was enough to keep the pole position.
“I expected to be a little bit faster and that everyone would come closer to the 1:54.0s, but finally this 1:54.5s was enough to be on pole.”
Lorenzo and Marquez will be joined on the front row of the grid by Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales, one of the series’ rising stars, as he finished just 0.004 seconds behind Marquez in third place.
Andrea Iannone made it four different bikes in the top four by leading Ducati’s charge, finishing ahead of Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso in fifth and sixth place respectively.
Dani Pedrosa finished half a second down on Honda teammate Marquez in seventh ahead of Hector Barbera, while Pol Espargaro and Cal Crutchlow rounded out the top 10 in qualifying.
To see the full results from MotoGP qualifying in Qatar, click here.