Marc Marquez saw pole position slip away with a late qualifying fall at Laguna Seca, but the MotoGP rookie still stands an excellent chance of extending his title advantage heading into the summer break.
Fastest during free practice, Marquez continued to lead the way during qualifying, but pushed too hard at Turn 5 and slid out, forcing him to miss the crucial closing minutes.
Fellow Honda rider Stefan Bradl then moved ahead of Marquez by just 0.017s, but the Spaniard remains favourite for the race.
“I'm very happy because the rhythm for the race is quite good. Sure I would like pole but I tried to push too much, lost the front and had the small crash,” smiled the Repsol Honda star.
“I have a good feeling with the bike, a good set-up. I think we are ready to fight for the podium and the victory. The most important is the rhythm, which is so good. I'm feeling strong.”
Marquez has never previously ridden at the challenging Laguna Seca circuit, but has been quick since first practice.
“This circuit is fun. It's a completely different track. But you need to concentrate a lot, especially during a long 32 laps in the race. There are many bumps and if you lose concentration it's easy to crash,” he warned.
Marquez, winner of his second race of the season last Sunday in Germany, is just two points ahead of team-mate Dani Pedrosa
and eleven points in front of reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo.
However Lorenzo and Pedrosa are both nursing collarbone injuries and will start sixth and seventh respectively.