(CNN) -- Marc Marquez barely held off the legendary Valentino Rossi in a nail-biting conclusion to the opening race of the 2014 MotoGP season in Qatar but judging by his performances this weekend the second race won't be as close.
Marquez, the reigning world champion from Spain, finished well ahead of the pack Saturday in qualifying for the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, setting a record lap time and beating Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa by 0.289 seconds.
He was the fastest rider in practice yesterday, too.
"All weekend it has been going so well, but Sunday is the most important," Marquez told MotoGP's website. "We will have to push very hard the whole race.
"It will be an important start to the race when the tires are new, we can make a difference there before they start to slide. I'm happy with the base we have and we'll try to fight for the victory. I'm sure we'll be fighting with Pedrosa, he is our strongest rival."
Germany's Stefan Bradl starts third for LCR Honda, while two-time MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo and Rossi, his fellow Yamaha racer, begin fifth and sixth, respectively.
"The progression from the first practice on Friday is very big, we were two seconds behind and now half a second," said Lorenzo. "Anyway, as I thought, it's going to be a hard race tomorrow.
"Our goal is to fight for fourth or third position. I think it would be a good result because here our competitors are really strong so we need to make the best result we can. To finish on the podium would be a good thing."