Entertainment to the absolute maximum in Portimao as no fewer than six different riders held provisional pole throughout a brilliant Q2
With great risk often comes great reward is an adage all 12 MotoGP™ riders in Q2 were following as they tackled a patchy Algarve International Circuit with slick tyres. In a thrilling final 30 seconds that saw four riders provisionally sitting at the top of the pile, pole position, in the end, went the way of the final man to cross the line: experienced Frenchman Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing). The 31-year-old denied Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Joan Mir a debut MotoGP™ pole seconds after Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) had sneaked his way onto the front row.
It was no surprise that the early pacesetting was done by the Q1 graduates Alex Marquez (LCR Castrol Honda) and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing), as the pair put their track knowledge to brilliant use. But as the other ten riders got up to speed, and the track dried out further, the pace began to heat up. Three minutes were left when Zarco hit the top for the first time, but he was displaced just 30 seconds later by factory Suzuki’s Mir.
“It was hard for the nerves” – first reactions from Q2
With the clock now ticking down to just 90 seconds and the final flying laps being lined up, Ducati Lenovo Team’s Jack Miller joined the party. The conditions were perfect for the Australian as he eyed a first pole position since Argentina 2018 in a similar situation. Then another man who these conditions usually suit went red through the first sector.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez was flying and on course to take provisional pole at the most opportune moment before his teammate Pol Espargaro went down at the final corner bringing out the yellow flags. Marquez went fastest, with World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) going second, but both laps were swiftly cancelled due to Espargaro’s off.
Grande Prémio Tissot de Portugal: MotoGP™ Q2
It meant Miller still held pole but he was usurped, with the chequered flag now out, by Mir as he cashed in on the yellow flags being rescinded at the final corner. The 2020 World Champion’s dreams of a career-first premier class pole were dashed within seconds with Zarco’s final flying lap of 1:42.003 good enough for a first pole since last year’s German Grand Prix. No sour grapes from Mir, though, due to second place being his best-ever result in a MotoGP™ qualifying session.
Despite sitting pretty at the top of the timesheets with the chequered flag out, Miller didn’t even manage to hold on to a front row spot with Aleix Espargaro sneaking third whilst all eyes were on Zarco’s charge for pole. The Australian will be joined on row two of the grid by World Champion Fabio Quartararo, who recovered well from an early scare on a damp patch, and rookie Marco Bezzecchi, who put a big smile on the face of his trackside team owner Valentino Rossi.
Despite doing the early running, Alex Marquez and Luca Marini eventually slipped back to seventh and eighth. Marc Marquez, meanwhile, will feel he deserved more than ninth after that late lap cancellation. Pol Espargaro last corner crash saw him end up tenth on the grid ahead of a slightly underwhelming pair of KTMs in Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder. The duo have looked competitive all weekend but never looked like challenging in Q2.
If the sun shines on Sunday then it truly is anyone’s guess who will take glory in Portimao after one of the most challenging weekends in recent memory. The only thing that is guaranteed is drama. Don’t miss lights out for Round 5 of the MotoGP™ World Championship at 13:00 local time (GMT+1).
MotoGP Q2 Top 10:
1. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) – 1:42.003
2. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.195
3. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) + 0.232
4. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.500
5. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.713
6. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.713
7. Alex Marquez (LCR Castrol Honda) + 0.900
8. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 1.176
9. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 1.572
10. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 1.829