The stage is set for the first MotoGP Sprint Race as Marquez takes stunning last dash pole

 In MotoGP, News

The first qualifying session of 2023 will live long in the memory, with a handful of lap records and the fight for pole going right to the wire. In an almost perfect narrative arc, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) topped Q1 with a new lap record and headed into Q2, although he’d seemed on the back foot before the very final lap. Right at the flag, however, the number 93 played his cards to perfection to take the first pole position of the season, deposing reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and setting another new lap record.

Bagnaia takes second, however, and the front row is completed by Jorge Martin(Prima Pramac Racing), setting up a mouthwatering start to the first ever MotoGP™ Sprint.

Here’s how it happened:

Q1
There were 15 World Championships out on track in Q1, and it was the rider with eight of them who moved through on top. The Repsol Honda Team were once again out flying in formation and behind an impressive job from new teammate Joan Mir, Marc Marquez made it count. The number 93 flew to a new lap record, a tenth faster than what we saw on Friday, to take over at the top – and then he even gambled. After setting his 1:37.6, Marc Marquez sat in the garage to wait it out and left the rest with a clear target.

That left the tension high in the best way. There were plenty of red sectors threatening both Marc Marquez in 1st and teammate Mir in second, and Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) was the first to upset the Repsol Honda 1-2, taking over in second.

Still, it wasn’t done. The rider left holding the serious threat was then home hero Oliveira and the Portuguese rider put in a couple of red sectors on his final effort round. Could he keep it rolling? Yes in terms of making it through, but no in terms of deposing Marc Marquez. The eight-time World Champion led the graduates and kept the lap record, with Oliveira heading to Q2 behind him.

Q2
That Marc Marquez lap record lasted about 10 minutes. The previous holder had an immediate reply, with Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) smashing in a 1:37.5 straight out the blocks. Once again there was an early target for the rest to chase, but this time it wouldn’t go the distance.

The first challenge came from reigning Champion Bagnaia as the Italian shaved a tenth and a half off, setting a 1:37.290. Martin was next to give it a go, and the Spaniard set two red sectors in the middle of the lap before just losing out in the fourth. He slotted into second behind Bagnaia, shuffling Miller down to third ahead of Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) and Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team).

Deciding pole all came down to two riders. The first was Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team), who was putting in a solid lap but didn’t look to have the legs for pole. However, he also had some company: Marc Marquez. Slotted in behind the Italian and only 0.012 down part-way round, all eyes were on the eight-time World Champion. Could he finish the job?

Everything on the table, he could. Deposing Bagnaia by tucking in behind Bastianini was such a storyline, even Ducati Lenovo Team Manager Davide Tardozzi had to smile down in pitlane. And so Marc Marquez starts 2023 on pole position, staring down Turn 1 from the front not once, but twice. The MotoGP™ Sprint starts at 15:00 (GMT) later on Saturday, before the Grand Prix race on Sunday with the very same grid.

The Grid
Marc Marquez heads the front row from Bagnaia, with Martin’s lap putting him third. There was a stunning late effort from Oliveira to pip Miller right at the end, and he’ll start his home Sprint and home Grand Prix from fourth at the head of the second row.

Miller, despite losing out in the final flurry, starts fifth, with Bastianini completing that second row for the weekend.

Viñales heads Row 3 as the second Aprilia, with Mooney VR46 duo Bezzecchi and Luca Marini alongside. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), a previous polesitter at Portimao, completes the top ten.

There’s a name or two missing there, and some big ones. Fabio Quartararo(Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) was mid-top ten before getting shuffled back and back in the latter stages, unable to improve further. The 2021 Champion therefore lines up in P11, just ahead of the final rider in Q2: Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing). The number 41 suffered a minor crash, rider perfectly fine, but it dented his first qualifying of the season. Now both are on a mission to bounce back twice.

Source: motogp.com

 

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