Espargaro on pole, Miller second in Spain

Aleix Espargaro

Aleix Espargaro claimed pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez after putting it all on the line on his final qualifying lap from Jack Miller.

Light rain before the session meant some riders went out on wet tyres initially before quickly realising that slicks were the right call, with any rain quickly dissipating and lap times soon improving.

Factory Aprilia rider Espargaro, fastest on Friday, edged out Aussie Miller (Red Bull KTM) to snatch the top spot on the RS-GP23 at his home Grand Prix.

His time of 1’37.216s put him 0.221s ahead of Miller, with Jorge Martin only a few hundredths of a second further adrift as he completed the front row on his Pramac Ducati.

Espargaro had an eventful time earlier in free practice, narrowly avoiding a cat that wandered onto the track before crashing at high speed and switching to his second machine.

Brad Binder, who progressed to Qualifying 2 after setting the second fastest time in Q1, was fourth on the Red Bull KTM ahead of Lenovo Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia and wildcard Dani Pedrosa, who sealed a second-row start on the Red Bull KTM as he competes in his first MotoGP race since 2021.

The KTM test rider went from 12th to sixth on his final lap on the RC16 as the 37-year-old continues to impress at his home GP. In a close session, the top six were separated by three-tenths of a second.

The third row was rounded out by Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia) – fastest in Saturday’s free practice – Pramac Ducati’s Johann Zarco and Luca Marini on the Gresini Ducati. Pole man Espargaro’s Aprilia team-mate Maverick Viñales was 10th.

Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo was ruled out of Q2 after ending Qualifying 1 sixth fastest. The former champion was also behind team-mate Franco Morbidelli, who was fourth, and will line up from a lowly 16th in both races this weekend.

Bagnaia and Binder went through after leading the way in Q1 from championship leader Marco Bezzecchi, who will have his work cut out on the VR46 Ducati from 13th position.

Alex Marquez, briefly on pole on the Gresini Ducati, dropped to 12th by the flag, 0.549s down on Espargaro’s time. He is joined on the fourth row by Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda), who was 11th fastest behind Viñales.

Alex Rins, victorious in Texas, will start from 18th on the LCR Honda ahead of wildcard Stefan Bradl in 19th and fellow Repsol Honda rider Joan Mir in 20th.

World Superbike rider Iker Lecuona, who has replaced the injured Marc Marquez in the Repsol Honda team this weekend, was 23rd and last.

Enea Bastianini withdrew from the Jerez round following free practice on Saturday, with the Lenovo Ducati rider still struggling as a result of the broken right shoulder he suffered in a crash in Portugal.

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