ASSEN: Spain’s Aleix Espargaro took pole position for today’s Dutch MotoGP in difficult qualifying conditions, finishing ahead of championship leader Marc Marquez.
It is the first-ever pole position for the Yamaha rider, who made his intentions clear on Thursday by setting a blistering fastest lap ever recorded at the current Assen track.
Espargaro will be aiming to deny the apparently unstoppable Marquez a record eighth victory and the chance to stretch his perfect 175-point tally so far this season.
Typically unpredictable Dutch weather struck as the second group of racers set out for qualifying under a light shower.
The changing conditions seemed to throw veteran Valentino Rossi of Italy, who is currently second in the standings, 58 points adrift of Marquez.
Rossi could only manage 12th place on the grid, meaning he’ll start in the fourth row today and face a mighty battle for a podium position.
Espargaro, who set a time of 1min 38.789sec yesterday, outpaced Marquez by a comfortable 1.405sec in the changing and difficult weather, with another Spaniard, long-time Grand Prix campaigner Dani Pedrosa, third, 1.943sec off the pace.
“I’m really happy, we have been waiting for this,” Espargaro said, but he agreed that the unpredictable weather would make for a “very difficult race” yesterday.
“I prefer it dry. (When dry) we have a very good pace,” he said.
Marquez also warned the weather could play a major role, with cloudy conditions predicted and the possibility of a few showers. “We are hoping for dry conditions because that would be better,” the reigning world champion said. “If it’s wet, it will be very, very interesting.”