Ten days after surgery, Quartararo takes Catalan Moto GP pole
Montmeló (Spain) (AFP)
French Yamaha rider Fabio Quartararo edged world champion and hometown favourite Marc Marquez of Honda to grab pole position for the Catalunya MotoGP on Saturday, just 10 days after undergoing surgery on his arm.
It was Quartararo's second pole of the season and came after he dominated the first two free practices for Sunday's race where Marquez wants to snap a five-year winless streak in his home region.
Joining the pair on the front row is Italy's Franco Morbidelli who was promoted after Yamaha's Maverick Vinales was handed a three-place grid penalty.
Marquez, who last won at the Montmelo circuit in 2014, leads the world championship rankings ahead of this seventh GP with 115 points, Italy's Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso, who is on the second row Sunday in sixth, in second on 103.
The 20-year-old pole sitter is way off in the rankings and only had surgery on his right arm 10 days ago, opting for an operation now rather than waiting for the forthcoming summer break.
"We're on pole again, it's fantastic. I was wondering what condition I'd be in after the surgery but I love this circuit," said Quartararo, whose other pole this season came at Jerez and is bidding to end France's 20-year wait for a win in the competition.
Marquez was also pleased with his front row berth.
"We've been struggling all weekend but got things together at the right moment," he said.
"It was about time, but I'm happy with the results even if I think I should be on pole, given how good I was feeling on the bike.
"We hit our target now you'll have to watch what happens tomorrow."
French fans have been waiting for a win since 1999 when Regis Laconi won at Valencia on a Yamaha.
Vinales's decision to carry out a series of extravagant wheelies at the end of qualifying backfired when he was handed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday's race.
Yamaha rider Vinales had finished third behind Quartararo and Marquez but was penalised for impeding the French rider.
"Honestly, I don't know what to say," said Vinales after being relegated to sixth place on the grid.
"I thought I saw the chequered flag and I began to salute the crowd by doing 'wheelies'. I didn't see Fabio until too late, I didn't expect him."
Despite being unintentional and offering his apologies, the race stewards felt that Vinales was riding "irresponsibly, at slow speed on the track and impeding another rider".
This weekend, the championship celebrates 70 years since its first race, the Tourist Trophy of the Isle of Man. It was held on June 13, 1949 and won by Britain's Freddie Frith.
? 2019 AFP