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Qualifying report
MotoGP Americas GP

MotoGP Americas GP: Bagnaia smashes COTA lap record for pole

Reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia claimed a first pole of the 2023 MotoGP season after smashing the lap record in qualifying for the Americas Grand Prix.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Front row in the opening two rounds, factory Ducati rider Bagnaia had so far come up short in the battle for MotoGP pole in 2023.

But a final flying lap of 2m01.892s, the first ever sub 2m02s lap of the Circuit of the Americas, secured Bagnaia top spot on the grid for this afternoon’s sprint race and Sunday’s grand prix.

It came after Bagnaia aborted his penultimate effort as tried to shake off trailing traffic in the form of Gresini Ducati’s Alex Marquez.

Bagnaia set the early pace in the pole shootout session at COTA with a 2m02.576s from Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales and the VR46 Ducati of championship leader Marco Bezzecchi – who had to come through Q1.

An improvement to a 2m02.242s on his second flying lap of the session cemented top spot for Bagnaia, but only because he had a fastest second-best lap.

Alex Marquez set an identical time to Bagnaia to sit second, and would ultimately lead to the gamesmanship at the start of both riders’ second runs as the former followed the provisional poleman out of pitlane.

Bagnaia would back out of the first flying lap on his second run having failed to find time through the first two sectors, which released Marquez.

Alex Rins, Team LCR Honda

Alex Rins, Team LCR Honda

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

But Marquez would crash on his final attempt, denying him a chance to fight for back-to-back poles and leaving him at the front of the second row in fourth.

Bagnaia was able to regroup for his final lap and fired in a sensational 2m01.892s to secure the 12th pole of his MotoGP career.

He heads LCR Honda’s Alex Rins, who stunned on the troubled RC213V to secure his first front row of the season.

Rins briefly held pole position when he completed his final lap, but the 2019 COTA race winner’s 2m02.052s ultimately kept him 0.160s outside of a maiden qualifying victory.

Luca Marini completed the front row on his VR46 Ducati from Marquez and Bezzecchi, with Aleix Espargaro securing sixth on his final lap on the factory Aprilia.

That came at the expense of a struggling Fabio Quartararo on the factory Yamaha, who will head row three in seventh from Vinales and Pramac’s Johann Zarco, who topped Q1.

KTM’s Jack Miller crashed twice in Q2 to bring his fall tally at COTA this weekend to five and will start 10th ahead of team-mate Brad Binder, with two crashes leaving last year’s Americas GP poleman Jorge Martin in 12th.

Luca Marini, VR46 Racing Team

Luca Marini, VR46 Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Factory Honda rider Joan Mir narrowly missed a spot in Q2 and will start 12th ahead of Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli and RNF Aprilia’s Miguel Oliveira.

Fabio Di Giannantonio was 16th on the second Gresini Ducati, with LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami, Ducati stand-in Michele Pirro, RNF’s Raul Fernandez – who crashed in Q1 – and Tech3 rookie Augusto Fernandez completing the top 20.

Marc Marquez’s Honda replacement Stefan Bradl will start 21st and Pol Espargaro’s Tech3 stand-in Jonas Folger 22nd.

The 10-lap sprint race will start at 9pm BST.

Full MotoGP Americas GP Qualifying results:

Cla Rider Bike Time Gap Interval
1 Italy Francesco Bagnaia Ducati 2'01.892    
2 Spain Alex Rins Honda 2'02.052 0.160 0.160
3 Italy Luca Marini Ducati 2'02.181 0.289 0.129
4 Spain Alex Marquez Ducati 2'02.242 0.350 0.061
5 Italy Marco Bezzecchi Ducati 2'02.268 0.376 0.026
6 Spain Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 2'02.539 0.647 0.271
7 France Fabio Quartararo Yamaha 2'02.749 0.857 0.210
8 Spain Maverick Viñales Aprilia 2'02.882 0.990 0.133
9 France Johann Zarco Ducati 2'03.062 1.170 0.180
10 Australia Jack Miller KTM 2'03.084 1.192 0.022
11 South Africa Brad Binder KTM 2'03.107 1.215 0.023
12 Spain Jorge Martin Ducati 2'03.292 1.400 0.185

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