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The Battle Begins: Marquez Tops Qualifying at Sachsenring

Sachsenring hasn’t been too kind to our riders this weekend, as the MotoGP weekend kicked off with a crash-strewn practice session and a nail-biting, wobbly qualifying. Jorge Lorenzo will not be racing tomorrow and Dani Pedrosa’s participation is still in doubt. The championship contender now awaits a green signal from the medical team.

The brilliant front row line-up: Marc Marquez, Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi. Image courtesy Yamaha Racing Team (for editorial use only)

The brilliant front row line-up: Marc Marquez, Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi. Image courtesy Yamaha Racing Team (for editorial use only)

It became obvious from the get-go today that the Qualifying would have a few surprises in store. I rarely go into the sessions with a nervous, butterfly-ridden feeling. But that’s just how it was as I settled down to watch the sessions.

Marc Marquez was in top form, determined and smooth as ever, surviving a couple of scary wobbles to take 1st position. In doing so, he came oh-so-close to Casey Stoner’s stunner 2008-laptime, with 1’21.311 seconds. The rookie has now taken his third pole this season, after Texas and Le Mans.

Cal Crutchlow showed grit as he battled pain to take 2nd position during Qualifying at Sachsenring. Image courtesy Yamaha Racing Team (for editorial use only)

Cal Crutchlow showed grit as he battled pain to take 2nd position during Qualifying at Sachsenring. Image courtesy Yamaha Racing Team (for editorial use only)

Meanwhile, our very own honey badger Cal Crutchlow demonstrated his infamous grit and Iron Man impersonation taking a 2nd position. It couldn’t have been easy. Oh No, it couldn’t. Friday’s practice sessions saw him have two huge, extremely scary crashes. There were no broken bones (thank God for that!), but he did suffer friction burns on his forearm and a couple of smaller injuries in his right hand. But hey, we don’t call him honey badger for nothing. He took charge of the qualifying session, setting competitive laptimes, fast enough to nudge Valentino Rossi down to the 3rd spot on the grid. Those factory teams should be watching really close.

Valentino Rossi took 3rd place on the grid at Sachsenring. Image courtesy Yamaha Racing Team (for editorial use only)

Valentino Rossi took 3rd place on the grid at Sachsenring. Image courtesy Yamaha Racing Team (for editorial use only)

The sunshine though peeked through Delhi’s rain-laden cloudy skies as Vale steamed through the Sachsenring circuit to take 3rd spot – the first time he has been in front row since 2010. How is that for a stunner qualifying session? He challenged Marquez and Crutchlow every step of the way, setting awesome laptimes. And we all know how uncomfortable Vale is with the new qualifying set-up. I don’t want to jinx him or anything, but I do know I am echoing what everyone is wondering: has the tide turned in the Rossi camp? It is too early to tell. After all, there are a lot of riders with huge stakes, and they are pushing every step of the way. But for now, the cheeky Vale smile is in place; you know the kind that leaves you with a grin as well.

Sachsenring will be Valentino Rossi's first front-row start since 2010. Image curtesy Yamaha Racing Team (for editorial use only)

Sachsenring will be Valentino Rossi’s first front-row start since 2010. Image curtesy Yamaha Racing Team (for editorial use only)

Rossi said in a press release, “I’m very happy, from one side not a lot because the first position was very close, but the target was to come back to the front row and I was able to. I was able to do it in a good way because I did a good lap riding well and also my gap to pole position is very close, which is very important.”

He added, “For Jorge, it is a great pity because he made a small mistake and unfortunately landed on the wrong shoulder. After what he did in Assen, he was very close to a superhero. It’s a pity also for his championship, but now I think he’s made the right choice to take some quiet time to recover. For him, the Championship will be hard, but still not impossible before the end.”

Nicky Hayden took 6th spot during qualifying at Sachsenring

Nicky Hayden took 6th spot during qualifying at Sachsenring

But here’s the stunner of the day: Aleix Espargaro. Remember that brilliant practice session 3 on Friday? It was replicated, and then some during Qualifying today. The Power Electronics Aspar CRT rider took a brilliant 5th position. How’s that for an awesome surprise? The Spanish rider took his first second row at the grid. Stefan Bradl though, tried to repeat his 2012 performance, crashed during the qualifying session and then tried once again to find a place in the first row. He could only manage a 4th place. Nicky Hayden followed at 6th spot.

Meanwhile, the Yamaha team sent out a press release stating that Jorge Lorenzo has undergone a successful surgery in Barcelona. A new plate with 11 screws has been placed in his collarbone during an operation that lasted 2 hours. The team is still unsure whether Lorenzo will race at Laguna Seca next week.

Dani Pedrosa made it back to the circuit after extensive medical checks. He has suffered a collarbone injury and a medical team will review his fitness levels tomorrow morning, if he wants to participate.

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