Valencia: French whizz kid Fabio Quartararo romped to his sixth pole position of the championship at the season-closing Valencia Grand Prix on Saturday, with world champion Marc Marquez right on his tail.
Under bright blue skies, Yamaha-SRT's 20-year-old Quartararo dominated the closing stage of qualifying on the tight four kilometre Ricardo Tormo circuit after choosing the more dangerous hard tyres for the cold conditions.
Ducati have won three times at Valencia and their Australian rider Jack Miller also made the front row to give the Italian team a shot at a surprise victory on Sunday. No French rider has won a MotoGP race for 20 years, but the rookie Quartararo insisted his aim was only a seventh podium finish of the campaign on Sunday.
"The main goal tomorrow is to get a very strong first three laps, after that we'll see, the target is the podium," he said.
"For a first season to be 'Rookie of the Year' with six poles and six podiums is great, especially if you look at where we came from," Quartararo added.
Six-time top-class world champion Marquez managed a second place on the grid despite a fall in practice on Saturday morning.
"It was a good lap. In the end, we are happy with second place," said Marquez, who has won 11 of the 18 races so far this season. "For the race on Sunday, we will have to do it differently because Quartararo was very fast," added the Spaniard.
The emergence of the French rookie has spiced up the close of the 2019 season with the Yamaha man losing out on the last lap in cat-and-mouse struggles with Marquez twice.
The race will also serve as a swansong for retiring former three-time MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo, 32, whose season has been littered with accidents.
"He is a real champion. The moment he felt he can't be in the top places, he decided to stop," his teammate Marquez said.
Lorenzo's place in the Honda team may be taken by Marquez's younger brother Alex, champion of the Moto2 category this season.
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Updated Date: Nov 16, 2019 21:42:31 IST