Fabio Quartararo has taken the first pole position of the new MotoGP season in a thrilling qualifying session at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Petronas Yamaha SRT young gun set alight the Jerez circuit earlier in the day with a new lap record in Free Practice 3, before repeating his rapid pace in qualifying in searing heat.
It marked a second straight Jerez pole for the Frenchman, over 12 months after he claimed a maiden premier class pole at the Spanish circuit.
Quartararo ousted Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) and reigning world champion Marc Marquez with his 1:36.705s best, with Francesco Bagnaia claiming a career best fourth ahead of Pramac Racing teammate Jack Miller and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol).
Miller was one of three riders to fall late in Q2, with the Australian rider joined in the Turn 11 gravel trap by factory Suzuki rider Alex Rins, who was taken to the medical centre. Seconds earlier, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) had a lowside at Turn 2.
Rins – who will miss the race due to a dislocated shoulder – set the pace in Q1 with a 1:37.063s ahead of the KTM duo of Pol Espargaro and Brad Binder, the latter of whom narrowly missing out on a maiden Q2 appearance on his MotoGP debut. Rins had a lowside at Turn 2 before setting his flyer to reach the second part of qualifying.
As riders returned for Q2, Marquez fired his Honda to P1 with a 1:37.006s on his first flyer, before Quartararo dipped into the 1:36s with a 1:36.993s.
Vinales looked to have thrown the cat among the pigeons when he shot to the top with a 1:36.844s on the second runs, and Marquez was eyeing another P1 start with a rapid time before a slow final sector consigned him to P3 once Quartararo dropped in his pole-winning time.
Bagnaia sealed fourth with his 1:36.955s, with Miller half a second down on his teammate, having thrown away a final shot at a higher grid spot.
Espargaro impressed for KTM with seventh ahead of Dovizioso and Rins, with Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha) and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) filling the fourth row.
The season-opening race will commence at 10:00pm AEST on Sunday.
Qualifying: Spanish MotoGP
|1||20||Fabio QUARTARARO||FRA||Petronas Yamaha SRT||Yamaha||1:36.705|
|2||12||Maverick VIÑALES||ESP||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||1:36.844||0.139 / 0.139|
|3||93||Marc MARQUEZ||ESP||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||1:36.862||0.157 / 0.018|
|4||63||Francesco BAGNAIA||ITA||Pramac Racing||Ducati||1:36.955||0.250 / 0.093|
|5||43||Jack MILLER||AUS||Pramac Racing||Ducati||1:37.453||0.748 / 0.498|
|6||35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||GBR||LCR Honda CASTROL||Honda||1:37.454||0.749 / 0.001|
|7||44||Pol ESPARGARO||ESP||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||1:37.493||0.788 / 0.039|
|8||04||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||1:37.535||0.830 / 0.042|
|9||42||Alex RINS||ESP||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||1:37.636||0.931 / 0.101|
|10||21||Franco MORBIDELLI||ITA||Petronas Yamaha SRT||Yamaha||1:37.674||0.969 / 0.038|
|11||46||Valentino ROSSI||ITA||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||1:37.741||1.036 / 0.067|
|12||36||Joan MIR||ESP||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||1:37.784||1.079 / 0.043|
|13||33||Brad BINDER||RSA||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||1:37.396||Q1 / Q1|
|14||9||Danilo PETRUCCI||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||1:37.423||Q1 / 0.027|
|15||30||Takaaki NAKAGAMI||JPN||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda||1:37.434||Q1 / 0.011|
|16||41||Aleix ESPARGARO||ESP||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||1:37.940||Q1 / 0.506|
|17||88||Miguel OLIVEIRA||POR||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||1:37.964||Q1 / 0.024|
|18||38||Bradley SMITH||GBR||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||1:37.966||Q1 / 0.002|
|19||53||Tito RABAT||ESP||Hublot Reale Avintia Racing||Ducati||1:38.029||Q1 / 0.063|
|20||5||Johann ZARCO||FRA||Hublot Reale Avintia Racing||Ducati||1:38.106||Q1 / 0.077|
|21||73||Alex MARQUEZ||ESP||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||1:38.256||Q1 / 0.150|
|22||27||Iker LECUONA||ESP||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||1:38.512||Q1 / 0.256|