Marquez takes shock Portugal MotoGP pole, Miller crashes

Marc Marquez has taken the Portuguese MotoGP pole position. Picture:

Marc Marquez has taken the Portuguese MotoGP pole position. Picture:

Marc Marquez has snatched pole position for the Portuguese MotoGP round after Jack Miller crashed out of qualifying.

Marquez came from Qualifying 1 and was slowest of the 12 riders who made it through to Qualifying 2 when the chequered flag came out at Portimao but then fired in a 1:37.226s on his Repsol Honda to leap to the top.

Ironically, he did so with a tow from Enea Bastianini, whose new Ducati Team team-mate Francesco Bagnaia looked to have secured pole for Round 1 of the season.

Instead, Bagnaia will start in the middle of the front row for this afternoon’s (local time) Sprint and tomorrow’s Grand Prix proper, with Jorge Martin set to line up third on his Pramac Ducati.

A day earlier, Miller had ridden his Red Bull KTM to an all time lap record 1:37.709s in practice, only to see that beaten by Marc Marquez with a 1:37.675s at the start of Q1.

The Australian hit back immediately with a 1:37.549s on his first flyer in Q2 and held sway at the end of the opening runs from Martin on a 1:37.630s and 2022 champion Francesco Bagnaia on a 1:37.705s.

As Miller started his time attack on his second run, he crashed at Turn 3, and it seemed inevitable that he would lose pole position.

It was indeed his former team-mate Bagnaia who clocked a 1:37.290s with just over two minutes to go, before Martin went second-quickest on a 1:37.454s.

That left Miller third when the chequered flag came out, but he was bumped from the front row when Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia), who also came from Q1, set a 1:37.521s.

Marquez then delivered the 1:37.226s to seize the first pole position of 2023.

Oliveira ended up fourth, from Miller, Bastianini, Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing), Marco Bezzecchi (VR46 Ducati), Luca Marini (VR46 Ducati), and Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati).

2021 champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) could only manage 11th with his time of 1:37.920s, while Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) ended up 12th after crashing on his first run at Turn 13.

Earlier, in Qualifying 1, Marc Marquez set the pace with a 1:37.675s on his sole run, putting his cue in the rack when it became apparent that his advancement was not under threat.

The battle for the other spot in the top two came went down to the wire, with Alex Marquez (Gresini Ducati) bumping Oliveira with a 1:37.970s just before the chequered flag, only for the Portuguese rider to return the favour with a 1:37.849s after it.

Alex Marquez therefore starts 13th, from Joan Mir (Repsol Honda), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM), Alex Rins (LCR Honda), Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda), Augusto Fernandez (GasGas Tech3), Raul Fernandez (RNF Aprilia), and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Ducati).

The Sprint race starts on Sunday at 02:00 AEDT.

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