A new all-time Lap Record sees the Aprilia rider take pole on home turf, with Bagnaia and Quartararo alongside.
Aprilia Racing’s Aleix Espargaro reset his own All Time Lap Record to claim pole position for the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, coming out on top in a three-way fight for pole in MotoGP™ Q2 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The Aprilia rider’s 1:38.742 saw him prevail by just 0.031 seconds over Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia, with World Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) also set to start from the front row on Sunday afternoon after ending Q2 less than two tenths further back.
Q1 saw Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) prevail, with the fight going right to the wire and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) snatching second, and the final spot in Q2, from rookie sensation and Mugello front row starter Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team). From there, it was on to Q2 with both Aprilias…
It was tight at the end of the first runs, with Quartararo top on a 1:39.055, Bagnaia second at just a hundredth of a second off the pace, and Aleix Espargaro only two thousandths slower again in third.
While track temperature was approaching 60 degrees Celsius, the pace was just as hot when riders came back out for their second runs. Bagnaia raised the stakes when he punched out a 1:38.787, only 0.016 seconds away from the lap record which Aleix Espargaro had achieved in FP3, before taking an excursion through the run-off area at Turn 1. The Aprilia rider then snatched provisional pole back with that 1:38.742, while Quartararo consolidated third spot with a 1:38.959.
Aleix Espargaro was still pushing on his final lap when he outbraked himself at Turn 10, and Bagnaia was also continuing to chase time. This was it as the Ducati rider continued to find the pace to challenge, but it wasn’t quite enough as he crossed the line and was forced to settle for second. Quartararo, meanwhile, secured third but two tenths off the top.
Behind three of the top four in the Championship as Aleix Espargaro heads Bagnaia and Quartararo, it’s a horde of Bologna bullets on Row 2. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) finished Q2 with a 1:39.027 to claim fourth, and he was just 0.072 seconds up on Mugello’s sensational rookie polesitter: Fabio Di Giannantonio. ‘Diggia’ impressed once more, taking another top five on the grid.
Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) was sixth-quickest courtesy of the 1:39.142 he set on his first run, likewise Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in seventh on a 1:39.145.
While 0.403 seconds separated first from seventh in qualifying, Viñales was 0.252 seconds further back in eighth spot, with Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) also making it onto Row 3. The fourth row will be headed up by Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team), from Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) and the second of Q1 graduate in Nakagami.
So where’s Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™)? The sole top five title contender out in Q1 lines up in P14, just behind Bezzecchi.
Row 5 is completed by Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who took a detour through the Turn 10 gravel trap on his final lap.
Then it’s Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in 16th, ahead of 2020 Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™). Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) missed the session after a nasty-looking crash in FP4 which saw the Spaniard taken to the medical centre for an x-ray on his left wrist, rider to be reviewed before Warm Up.
That’s a wrap on Saturday, with a title contender showdown sitting on the front row and plenty of challengers looking to move forward and join the party. Can Aleix Espargaro take a second MotoGP™ win? Will Bagnaia and Quartararo have more in the locker on race pace? We’ll find out at 14:00 (GMT +2), so don’t miss it!
MotoGP™: FRONT ROW
1 Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – Aprilia- 1’38.742
2 Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – Ducati – +0.031
3 Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) – Yamaha – +0.217
Aleix Espargaro: “I have no idea how I broke the lap record. Sincerely, it has been the most difficult lap of the whole season so far. The conditions were super, super tricky. I was talking with the team and I was not sure about going under 39, so then with the first time attack I saw many riders in 39.0, and I said, ‘You have to do 38 if you want the pole position.’ So, it was all or nothing, I did an absolutely crazy lap, sliding everywhere… Actually, I didn’t really enjoy the lap, I was on the limit in every single corner, and when I activated the rear height device on the last straight, I said, ‘You finish, you close the lap, so you are a lucky man,’ and then when I saw 8.7, P1, I was so happy. So, yep, very happy, and let’s see if this can give me some advantage for tomorrow’s race.”
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