Quartararo starts second, Marquez locks out the front row and Miller faces a charge back through as the grid gets poised for a classic.
Three is now a magic number for Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) on Saturdays, with a third, successive and stunning pole position at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas putting him in the perfect position to try and make the same true on Sunday. Pulling out more than three tenths at the top it makes Pecco only the second rider – after Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) – to start from pole in Texas, but he does have company from key Championship rival Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). The Frenchman is second once again to keep tabs on the Italian, with the aforementioned Sheriff of COTA, Marc Marquez, forced to settle for third – but it’s a first front row of the year as the eight-time World Champion continues his battle back to the front.
Reigning Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was down in Q1 and looking for a way out, and for much of the session it seemed he’d head through fastest. But Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) had other ideas, and the rookie Italian put in a late lunge for the top to take over. Mir remained second to move through though, denying Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP).
Andrea Dovizioso (Petronas Sprinta Racing) was stringing together a good lap late on, but the Italian then got caught behind other riders and just missed out.
Valentino Rossi (Petronas Sprinta Racing) crashed, as did Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), riders ok.
After the first runs in Q2, it was the King of COTA on to retain the throne – certainly on Saturday – with Marc Marquez ahead of the chasing pack. But there was still some left in the locker for Quartararo and for Bagnaia, and the eight-time World Champion couldn’t quite better his previous best.
Pecco, however, could. The Italian put in an absolute stunner late on, laying it all out there on his second and final attempt at the top. A whole chunk of time up for most of the lap, the Italian crossed the line to take over on provisional pole by nearly half a second ahead of Marquez. Left to go were Quartararo and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team)…
Quartararo was up initially, but for Miller the attack never came. The Australian wasn’t able to replicate his scorching form from previous sessions, and he was out of the running after running out of time. What could El Diablo do? As the timings came up later in the lap, it wasn’t going to be enough, and Marquez hadn’t put a better effort together either. So, for the first time ever, someone other than the number 93 is on pole at COTA: Bagnaia.
Bagnaia heads Quartararo as the top two once again lock out the top, now with Marquez alongside as the eight-time World Champion takes third. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing), who had been behind Marquez when the Honda rider was on for provisional pole, stayed there so he’ll now head up Row 2 – as top Independent Team rider too.
It’s an all-Independent second row, in fact, with Takaaki Nakagami’s (LCR Honda Idemitsu) good weekend continuing in fifth and Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) taking P6, back towards the sharp end following his arm pump surgery ahead of the event.
2019 COTA winner Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) pipped reigning Champion and teammate Joan Mir to P7 as the Suzuki duo head up the third row, joined by Marini as the Q1 graduate continued his impressive form in Q2, taking ninth.
Miller is tenth and raring to push back through, with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) the last of those in Q2, in P11 and P12 respectively.
That’s a wrap on Saturday, with the stage perfectly set after qualifying… the top two in the Championship and the King of COTA head up the grid, with another horsepower rodeo just around the corner. Can Marquez make it seven from eight? Can Bagnaia become the first Ducati rider since Casey Stoner to win three on the bounce? Or will Quartararo take Yamaha’s first win in Texas? Tune in at 14:00 (GMT -5) to find out.
MotoGP™ front row
1 Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 2:02.781
2 Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – +0.348
3 Marc Marquez – Repsol Honda Team – Honda – +0.428
Top Independent Team rider
4 Jorge Martin – Pramac Racing – Ducati – +0.497
Francesco Bagnaia: “We worked a lot all this weekend, we made a great step in FP4 because until FP3 I was in trouble. But in FP4 we made a great step and in qualifying I enjoyed the lap a lot because I wasn’t expecting it. On the first lap I saw I had a margin and it was possible to do another lap, then when I started the second attempt I tried to push from the first braking and everything was perfect, well the last corner I was a bit wide but everything was ok. I’m very happy, it’s very important to start from P1.”
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