* Marquez takes pole but then handed three-place penalty
* Stewards decision puts Vinales in top slot
* MotoGP leader Crutchlow starts seventh (Adds Marquez penalty)
AUSTIN, Texas, April 21 (Reuters) - Honda’s MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez was handed a three-place penalty for slow riding after taking pole for the sixth year in a row at the Grand Prix of the Americas on Saturday.
The Spaniard, who has won his last five races at the Austin track, had put in a best lap of two minutes 03.658 seconds, 0.406 quicker than compatriot Maverick Vinales on a Yamaha.
Stewards opened an investigation after Vinales was blocked by Marquez, who was getting up to speed on a spare bike following a fall into the gravel trap and had been unaware of his approach.
The penalty was imposed for slow riding and disturbing another rider’s lap.
Vinales was promoted to the top slot, ahead of Suzuki’s Italian Andrea Iannone and Tech 3 Yamaha’s French rider Johann Zarco.
Marquez, a four times world champion, has yet to win this season but will still fancy his chances from fourth place at a favourite track.
British rider Cal Crutchlow, who leads the championship after two races, qualified seventh for the non-works LCR Honda team.
Italian great Valentino Rossi, who criticised the bumpy track surface after Friday practice, qualified fifth on his Yamaha.
Marquez’s Spanish team mate Dani Pedrosa, who had surgery on a broken wrist last week after crashing in Argentina, will start ninth on the grid. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)