The World Champion stamped his authority on COTA with a record-breaking pole position as Martin starts from P12 after two crashes

Qualifying quickly came around at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, and as ever the premier class did not fail to entertain. The mind games were in full swing in Q2, but the number 1 plated Ducati of Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) held strong to set a new lap record and take pole position at the Circuit of the Americas with a stunning 2:01.892. Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) shocked the paddock as he flew the flag for Honda and secured the middle spot on the front row, with Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) lining up alongside him in P3.

And then there were two…

You could cut the tension with a knife at the Circuit of the Americas as several big hitters sat in their garages ready to compete for Q2 promotion. Only two could go through as Marco BezzecchI (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team), Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), and Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) were set to do battle in Q1.

Marco Bezzecchi and Miguel Oliveira took the initial hold of the Q1 session and put themselves 1st and 2nd in the standings. Whilst Bezzecchi held strong at the top, fast laps came in from Morbidelli and Zarco who bumped Oliveira out of the 2nd Q2 spot with Morbidelli slotting himself in 3rd.

The riders returned to the pits and it was time for a change of rubber ready for the final fight for Q2 glory. Bezzecchi was looking strong on his first flyer setting the fastest first sector but pulled out the lap halfway around the lap. The Italian didn’t manage to improve on his 2:05.253, but it was no bother for the Italian as his flyer secured him a Q2 spot.

Joan Mir put in the first punch of run 2, and with just two-thousandths of a second in it, the Repsol Honda man snatched the final Q2 spot from underneath Zarco’s nose.

The flag was out and the red sector came flooding in with hot laps coming from Zarco and Morbidelli. Zarco put in an inch-perfect lap and delivered the fastest lap of the session when the pressure was on, pushing Bezzechi down to P2. With Zarco going top this knocked Mir out of Q2 with Morbidelli and Oliveira set to start the Tissot Sprint and Grand Prix from 14th and 15th respectively.

Psychological warfare in the battle for pole

With Q1 out of the way, it was time for the battle for pole position to commence at the Circuit of The Americas. The banker laps came in and it was Bagnaia who went top, but it was nothing to shout about for the Italian as a 2:02.576 was three-tenths shy of the fastest lap from Friday.

One lap later and the red sectors began to light up the timing screens, and it was Bagnaia who moved the goalposts once again with Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) matching his lap time of a 2:02.242 just seconds after. With two-tenths to find to reach Martin’s pole record from 2022, The Martinator himself crashed out of the session with the airbags deploying on his Alpinestars suit. The punishment didn’t fit the crime for the Spaniard as the front end washed away from underneath him.

Martin rushed back to pitlane as the riders returned to their garages to prepare for one last bite at the cherry. Bagnaia went to hit the circuit first but pulled to the side of the pitlane after seeing Alex Marquez and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) shadowing the reigning champion. Despite the Italian trying to shake off his Ducati colleagues, Marquez latched onto the Ducati top dog in hope of finding the perfect tow for a chance at pole. The psychological warfare continued on the out lap as Bagnaia continued to try to shake off the Spaniard with Marquez shadowing his every move.

Time was ticking however and it was time to put the hammer down for the Ducati men. Perhaps rattled by the Marquez mind games, Bagnaia set a slow couple of sectors to then make a big mistake on his first flyer and regroup for his final chance with one minute left on the clock.

In the meantime, Alex Rins had the bit between his teeth and was focussed on the job at hand. The Spaniard nailed the final sector to set the new fastest lap of the session and knock Bagnaia down to P2.

Nothing was stopping the man in Ducati red however as the World Champion made history with the first-ever 2:01 lap of the Circuit of the Americas. Marini shadowed the factory Ducati man to continue his dream weekend and bag himself the final spot on the front row.

Martin went back out on the circuit hoping to sprinkle some of his one-lap magic but went down once again losing the front at Turn 2.

Alex Marquez also went down and out of the session, but luckily for the Gresini man he had done enough to take the 4th fastest lap of the session and put himself on the front of the second row ahead of Marco Bezzecchi and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing).

The battle from behind

The third row will be one to keep an eye on as the lights go out, as the 2021 World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) is set to start from 7th spot with Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) and Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) joining the Frenchman in the 8th and 9th.

The depth of field in MotoGP™ is as hot as ever, and with the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing men of Jack Miller and Brad Binder fronting the fourth row of the grid, the boys in orange cannot be underestimated as Miller will be looking to fight his way through the field with Binder hoping to replicated his incredible Arengtina Tissot Sprint start. With two crashes in Q2, Jorge Martin will be looking to use his strong pace to take like a hot knife through butter and battle through the pack as he lines up on the final spot of the fourth row in P12.

There’s plenty to look forward to as the attention now turns to the racing action in MotoGP™. Make sure to tune in as the story unfolds for the Tissot Sprint at 15:00 local time (GMT -5). 

Top 10:

1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – 2:01.892
2. Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) +0.160
3. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) +0.289
4. Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) +0.350
5. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) +0.376
6. Aleix Espargaró (Aprilia Racing) +0.647
7. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) +0.857
8. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) +0.990
9. Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) +1.170
10. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +1.192

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