Andrea Dovizioso takes his first Ducati pole in the CzechGP since Malaysia 2016.
‘Desmo Dovi’ made a shocking return to put in a blinding 1.54.689 lap time that even he didn’t believe to claim pole ahead of fellow Italian Valentino Rossi and championship leader Marc Marquez.
Marquez was looking comfortable in pole position during the final minute of the qualifying after putting in a 1.54.961 but Dovizioso and Rossi weren’t giving up without a fight and he was knocked down into third as Rossi narrowly edging him out with a 1.54.956 lap time to claim second.
During Parc Ferme interviews, when asked about his feelings towards tomorrow’s race, an exhausted Marquez said ‘the start of the race will be very hard (as he’s) not so comfortable on new tyres’ and ‘Dovi is very fast here, he has very good pace… and Valentino will be there‘.
Second place man and nine-time world champion Rossi described what he did differently to gain his place and how his qualifying went ‘(qualifying was) difficult with the temperature… (had to) ride on the limit.’ He also stated that a ‘Start from the front row is important (as) in the race pace, I’m not fantastic.’ A bold statement from Rossi that thousands, if not millions, of fans would argue is completely false.
Pole man Dovizioso stated he felt ‘too happy, really happy.’ He also joked that he believed the ‘split timer was wrong‘ as the lap time was ‘too fast’.
CatalanGP winner Jorge Lorenzo missed out on a front row start by a hairsbreadth of 0.023 of a second behind Marquez and will start in fourth position ahead of Cal Crutchlow in fifth. Crutchlow’s on track action may not have had everyone talking but his off-track collaboration with BT Sport definitely got the attention of many in the paddock including Valentino Rossi. Danilo Petrucci rounds out the second row in sixth.
Frenchman Johann Zarco’s impressive free practice efforts saw him make it straight through to Q2 in eighth, he qualified in sixth ahead of the Team Suzuki Ecstar’s ‘boys in blue’ Andrea Iannone in seventh and Alex Rins in ninth. Rins was able to fight off Alvero Bautista to claim a spot and move up into Q2. Dani Pedrosa ended the session in 10th position ahead of Reale Avintia Racing rider Tito Rabat in 11th and Maverick Viñales in 12th. Viñales’ disaster season draws on and on as the Spanish rider had to fight through Q1 to be given a place in Q2.
Rookie Franco Morbideli delivered an impressive 1.56.029 lap time to qualify in 13th with Alvero Bautista and Bradley Smith in 14th and 15th respectively. Bautista was battling furiously for his Q2 place but, after a late, unsalvagable fall at turn 12, he had to settle for 14th. Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider Hafizh Syahrin ended the afternoon in 16th ahead of Alma Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller who took a tumble with almost three minutes left on the clock, only managing a 17th place finish whilst Stefan Bradl ended in 18th.
Newly married Pol Espargaro took 19th place alongside Takaaki Nakagami in 20th and Suzuki test rider Sylvain Guintoli in 21st. Thomas Luthi’s pitiful season continued with a 22nd place qualifying position ahead of late-session crasher Karel Abraham in 23rd and Aleix Esparagaro in 25th. Esparagaro is still very battered and bruised after his GermanGP warm-up crash which saw him hospitalised for five days with chest injuries. The Catalan rider has put on a brave face throughout the weekend as he hopes to bring home some points.
Scott Redding and Xavier Simeon round out the pack in 26th and 27th. Redding was an earlier crasher in the afternoon session but, after some speedy driving from the marshal, he was able to get back to the pits and onto his second bike to put in a complete lap.
With a 20% chance of rain and track temperature set to soar once again, can all the riders keep a cool head or will boiling point be reached?
‘Desmo Dovi’s pole-winning lap here.
Full results here.