PHILLIP ISLAND (AFP) - Marc Marquez swept to a record-equalling pole position on Saturday for this weekend's Australian MotoGP a week after clinching back-to-back world titles.
Any suggestion that the pressure was off and the young Spanish rider was taking it easy heading into Phillip Island after celebrating the championship with three races left in the season was scotched by another masterful display.
The 21-year-old Repsol Honda rider clocked 1min 28.408sec to finish ahead of Ducati's Cal Crutchlow by 0.234sec, with Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo a further eight-hundredths of a second behind in third.
It was Marquez's 12th pole of the year, equalling the record of most poles in a season held by Australians Mick Doohan and Casey Stoner.
Should Marquez win Sunday's Australian MotoGP it will be his 12th victory in 16 races this season, which will equal Doohan's feat in his 1997 world championship season with the same Repsol Honda team.
"It will be nice to achieve that here because it's Australia, his (Doohan's) country. It would be nice to do," the Spaniard said.
"I will try to take the risk to win the race.
"The records are always important, especially when people compare you with legends."
Marquez recovered after Lorenzo topped the lap charts in Friday's opening practice, but he believes the Yamahas may have the superior race pace.
"We improved a lot today after being a bit too far off the pace yesterday," he said.
"We expect a hard-fought race tomorrow. Above all, it will be difficult to stop both Jorge and Valentino (Rossi), who seem to have the fastest race pace.
"But I was able to ride well, I was consistent, and we are ready to fight for the victory tomorrow."
It was Marquez's 21st career pole in MotoGP as he chases his first premier class victory at the Phillip Island circuit after winning the 125cc race in 2010.
Lorenzo is battling Marquez's Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa and Rossi for second place overall in the championship, with the trio separated by just three points.
"Everyone has struggled this weekend to get the grip with the tyres and we are half a second to one second slower than we were last year here," he said.
"It's the same for everyone. It's good, third place, my rivals Rossi and Pedrosa are behind me so I'm happy.
"It was most important to stay in the first row, so my rivals finished in the second and third row, it's a good position for us."
Lorenzo, who won last year's MotoGP at Phillip Island on the way to losing the world championship by four points to Marquez, is coming off back-to-back wins at Aragon and Motegi.
Pedrosa was fifth fastest on Saturday after having to go through repechage qualifying while Rossi, a nine-time world champion through the classes, was eighth and will start on the third row of the grid.
The Italian great, 35, who is riding in his 250th premier class race this weekend, has finished on the podium 14 times in 17 visits to Phillip Island across all three classes.
Briton Crutchlow's second place in qualifying gives him his first front-row start of the season.