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MotoGP Americas GP

Bagnaia expects Alex Marquez to be “a great rival” in COTA MotoGP sprint race

Reigning MotoGP world champion Francesco Bagnaia expects Alex Marquez to be “a great rival” in the Americas Grand Prix sprint race after snatching COTA pole.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Bagnaia spent much of the Q2 session in Texas battling with Gresini Ducati counterpart Marquez, with the pair setting identical 2m02.242s laps with around eight minutes left on the clock.

As both began their final run, Marquez followed Bagnaia out of pitlane, which prompted the latter to stop in order to prevent the Spaniard from using him as a reference.

Bagnaia ultimately began the first lap of his second run with Marquez in tow, but backed out of it to set up a final tour that would see him produce a 2m01.892s to claim his first pole of 2023.

Marquez crashed on his last flying lap and will line up fourth, but displayed strong race pace in practice, with Bagnaia expecting the Gresini rider to be his biggest rival in this afternoon’s 10-lap sprint.

“I feel great,” Bagnaia said in parc ferme.

“We worked so well, I’m happy for what we have done. From FP3 my feeling was high, so we can be happy. 2m02.1s is a really great, great time considering the bumps and level of grip we have.

“I know the sprint race will be tough because Alex Marquez has an incredible pace, so for sure he will be a great rival.”

Alex Rins, Team LCR Honda, Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Luca Marini, VR46 Racing Team

Alex Rins, Team LCR Honda, Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Luca Marini, VR46 Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

What the rest of the Americas GP top three said

As Marquez dropped out of the pole fight in the latter stages of Q2, LCR Honda’s Alex Rins emerged as a surprise contender on the troubled RC213V.

The Spaniard briefly held a maiden MotoGP pole with a 2m02.052s before Bagnaia denied him, but noted coming into Saturday that he felt capable of being strong in qualifying as he continues to adapt to the Honda.

“I thought I had pole position till the chequered flag and saw the screen and saw Pecco was a little bit faster than me,” he said after claiming his first front row start since the 2021 Portuguese GP.

“But yesterday I already said that I was feeling quite confident, step by step I’m improving my style on the Honda and for today honestly we found something in the last sector that helped me a little bit to be faster.

“P2 for the sprint race and also for the main race is a very good position, so let’s keep going.”

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The front row was completed by Luca Marini of VR46 Ducati, who admits his Saturday was “a disaster” after crashing right at the end of FP3 prior to qualifying.

“Unfortunately, this morning was a disaster. I want to complicate everything,” Marini said.

“it looks like I don’t want to make things easier. But anyway, I came back also with the bike number one that I don’t like since Portimao.

“But here today it was not so bad, I was able to make a good lap, not perfect because in T2 I lost a lot, almost crashing again in Turn 10.

“But I’m happy because better than this today was difficult. Starting from the first row will be very important, because this season with two races it’s more important.”

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