Marc Marquez said Michele Pirro's behaviour during qualifying prompted him to back off and grab a tow behind the other Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso, for what became a record pole lap at the Italian MotoGP.

Repsol Honda's title leader had settled into a provisional third after his opening run, but believes Ducati had instructed Pirro to follow him.

"In qualifying I had the speed, but I immediately saw that Pirro was following me all the time," Marquez said. "It looks like Ducati said to Pirro [to follow me]."

Marquez admitted he couldn't be sure it was a deliberate tactic for the Ducati wild-card to shadow him, but: "It was my feeling. I went out first like always, but Pirro was there. I slowed down, Pirro was there. I just go away, Pirro go away.

"So Pirro was behind me with the first tyre, then I stopped in the box and said to [crew chief] Santi, 'okay we will change the strategy, I will follow them’.

"And that is what I did."

If Ducati had been trying to place Pirro behind Marquez it ended up backfiring spectacularly when, as the pair played a cat-and-mouse game at the start of their final run, they ended up on the same piece of track as Pirro's team-mate Dovizioso.

"I was waiting because Pirro was waiting. Pirro was waiting, waiting and I said ‘okay, now we will wait for Dovi...’"

And since Dovizioso was only twelfth fastest as the last lap began, he couldn't afford to back off even if he knew the Repsol Honda was right behind him.

"I saw Dovi was twelfth and I said 'okay, now I will follow Dovi because he needs to push to improve his lap time'," Marquez confirmed.

"We played our cards and the strategy was a good one.

"But, this strategy was created [by] them, not me. Because Pirro has been waiting for me, that created [the situation] that Dovi was there also."

Marquez judged the gap to Dovi to perfection, getting ever close to the Italian's rear wheel as the final lap progressed, being towed across the final line to snatch pole from rookie star Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) by 0.214s.

"I calculated the distance in a good way and did a good lap time," said Marquez, who was non-committal about whether he could have taken pole without the tow:

"I don't know, but the speed was there because in FP4 we found something I'd been missing all weekend. We did a big change, a completely different set-up compared with Le Mans, and I found a way to ride.

"Now I'm comfortable. We know there are a few riders faster than us, but we can be there. "

Marquez has only taken one previous MotoGP victory at Mugello, back in 2014, and describes it as his worst circuit.

"The Mugello layout has all our weakest points. And not only for our bike, but also for my riding style, Mugello is my worst circuit," he said.

Instead, it is closest championship rivals Dovizioso (ninth), Alex Rins (13th) and Valentino Rossi (18th) who are having a tough weekend.

"To me, the biggest surprise at the moment is Dovi, because normally Dovi is very fast here. But tomorrow in the race I believe that he can be on the podium, it will not be very difficult," Marquez said.

Sick earlier in the week, the reigning five-time MotoGP champion also expects to be in good physical shape for Sunday, but adds that it could be 'time to think about the championship'.

"On Thursday I was destroyed, yesterday also was difficult, but today I feel better and it looks like tomorrow will be even better again," Marquez said. "This is important but it will be a long, hard race.

"Quartararo and especially the Yamaha riders have a very good pace, the Ducati riders also, but we are all very close.

"It looks like we are suffering a little bit more than at the other circuits, but the main opponents for the championship are also not doing so good. So it's a time to take points, time to breathe and time to think about the championship."

Marquez is currently eight points clear of Dovizioso in the standings.

Meanwhile, Ducati test rider Pirro will start the race from twelfth: "Unfortunately, in Q2, the 'waiting' game with other riders made me lose a bit of focus and I wasn't able to post a really quick lap time as I made some mistakes.

"I'm sorry because, with two new soft rear tyres, I could have possibly posted a high 1:45 and start much closer to the front, but I'm also confident ahead of the race and I hope all Ducati riders can be in the mix. We all work together to be protagonists here at Mugello."

Dovizioso's team-mate Danilo Petrucci completes the front row alongside Marquez and Quartararo.

 

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