A first ever premier class pole and an All Time Lap Record for the VR46 rider
VR46 is on top in MotoGP™ again! Rookie Marco Bezzecchi, one of Valentino Rossi’s proteges, has broken the All Time Lap Record around the Chang International Circuit to grab pole position for the OR Thailand Grand Prix. The Mooney VR46 Racing Team rider set a 1:29.671 with the chequered flag out to edge Prima Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin by just 0.021 seconds in Q2, while Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) gave his title hopes a boost by also getting himself onto the front row. World Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) qualified fourth, but fellow title contender Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) could not escape Q1.
The Bologna bullets fire again
Martin had been fastest through Free Practice and he went even quicker again on his first run in Q2 in setting a 1:29.893. Prima Pramac Racing teammate Johann Zarco held second on a 1:29.963 as the track went quiet and Quartararo was third on a 1:30.009. Bagnaia, however, was all the way back in ninth at 0.835 seconds off the pace.
‘Pecco’ went early for his second run and climbed to fourth on a 1:30.098 before jumping all the way into provisional pole when he laid down a 1:29.775 on the following lap. Martin’s hopes of snatching P1 back from his Ducati stablemate were nearly dashed when he lost the rear of his Desmosedici through Turn 5 but the Spaniard caught it just in the nick of time and stayed ‘sunny side up’. Next time through, ‘The Martinator’ was indeed back on top as he set a 1:29.692.
That was already a new All Time Lap Record and then the chequered flag came out, but Bezzecchi had not given up on pole. The 23-year-old stormed to a 1:29.671, although that was still not the end of matters! Martin was flying around the Buriram circuit again and went red in Sector 3, meaning he was on track to snatch pole position straight back. However, he could not go on with it, checking in at ‘just’ 1:29.782 – still a faster lap than all but Bezzecchi’s and Bagnaia’s best – and would have to settle for P2.
Quartararo versus the Ducatis – again
Once again, Quartararo is the lone ranger amid a flock of Ducatis. He dug deep to claim fourth with a final-lap 1:29.909, Zarco qualified fifth despite being unable to improve on his first run, while Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) managed to also get onto Row 2 with a late 1:29.988 as he seeks to keep his title hopes alive. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) slipped from fourth at the end of the first runs to seventh all-told after an apparent issue of some sort with his motorcycle.
Marc Marquez came from Q1 to take eighth with the only new soft Michelin rear tyre he had left. However, it might have been even better, the eight-time World Champion on-track to go as high as the front row before a moment through the final corner on his last lap, which turned out to be a 1:30.133. Luca Marini made it both Mooney VR46 Racing Team entries on the first three rows, ahead of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing).
A. Espargaro’s valiant effort falls short
Earlier, in Q1, Marc Marquez was quickest at the end of the first runs on a 1:30.343, with Cal Crutchlow (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) second on a 1:30.542, one position and 0.067 seconds up on Aleix Espargaro. The Aprilias had been struggling for grip all weekend but when Aleix Espargaro emerged from the pits again with a fresh soft Michelin rear slick, he grabbed his RS-GP by the scruff of the neck and somehow extracted a 1:30.202 from it to move into a provisional Q2 place.
In the final minute of the session, Marc Marquez reclaimed the ascendancy with a 1:30.038 while practically latched on to the exhaust pipe of Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) as he crossed the line, and Oliveira jumped from seventh to second with a 1:30.099. Aleix Espargaro had already returned to the pits by then and he was therefore pushed out of Q2, the Spaniard now firmly on the back foot in the title race given he will start 13th on Sunday afternoon.
Morbidelli qualified 14th, ahead of Crutchlow, and Raul Fernandez, who was back on his Tech3 KTM Factory Racing entry after a stomach ache saw him watch FP3 from the sidelines. Maverick Viñales suffered similar struggles to Aleix Espargaro as he put his Aprilia Racing machine just 17th on the grid, from Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing), Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team), Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), Tetsuta Nagashima (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team), and Danilo Petrucci (Team Suzuki Ecstar).
So, we have a first-time pole-sitter, and Bagnaia has an opportunity to claw back ground on Quartararo. After the Sunday morning Warm Up at 10:40, the battle for the Thailand GP takes place over what are sure to be 26 thrilling laps from 15:00 (GMT +7)!
1. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) – 1:29.671
2. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.021
3. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.104
4. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 0.238
5. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) + 0.292
6. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) + 0.317
7. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.435
8. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.462
9. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.543
10. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.666