Espargaro shatters lap record, Bagnaia into Q1
By Kyle White
Friday 13th October, 2023 - 8:19pm
Aleix Espargaro shattered the Mandalika MotoGP lap record in Practice as 2022 champion Francesco Bagnaia failed to secure an automatic spot in Qualifying 2 in Indonesia.
Espargaro’s Aprilia Racing team-mate, Maverick Viñales, set the first ever sub-1:31s lap to go top briefly before injured Italian Marco Bezzecchi produced a stunning lap to take over on the VR46 Ducati.
However, Espargaro had the final say as he raised the bar to a 1:30.628s on the factory RS-GP23 to lead an Aprilia one-two from Viñales.
Bagnaia, who is only three points ahead of Pramac Ducati’s Jorge Martin with six rounds of the championship left, was on target to finish inside the top 10 until he lost the rear of the Lenovo Ducati, blowing his time.
Martin – quickest in FP1 – finished fifth to seal his passage to Q2 as the Spaniard continued to outperform Bagnaia, who has been outscored by his chief rival for the past seven races in succession.
Shortly after Practice got underway in the afternoon, there were crashes for Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder and Augusto Fernandez (GasGas Tech3). Binder’s wayward KTM collected Fernandez after the South African came off at the problematic Turn 11.
Aussie Jack Miller was also caught out at Turn 11 shortly afterwards when he encountered Ducati’s Enea Bastianini on the racing line, who was moving at slow speed with his arm raised.
Viñales, prominent in FP1, moved top with a time of 1:31.351s after 10 minutes with team-mate Espargaro in second. Espargaro then took over with a 1:31.347s, which was only 0.004s up on Viñales.
Martin was in third, three tenths behind the Aprilia riders, with Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Ducati) next.
Bagnaia, who ran off the track twice in the opening half-hour, was ninth after half an hour and seven tenths down on Viñales.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez was fifth ahead of Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo, while Bezzecchi – who only arrived at Mandalika on Friday morning after fracturing his collarbone in a training accident and undergoing surgery last weekend – was holding eighth on the VR46 Ducati.
Espargaro improved his time to 1:31.088s with 13 minutes to go as the time attacks began. The Spaniard was almost half a second up on his next lap when he crashed at Turn 10.
Martin had to abandon his lap when he had a moment and lost the front in the last sector, running off the track.
Viñales set a new all-time lap record with the first sub-1:31s lap at Mandalika before Bezzecchi sensationally bettered his time with a 1:30.644s, putting him 0.209s ahead.
Espargaro was third followed by Quartararo, Martin and KTM’s Miller with eight minutes on the clock.
Bagnaia was ninth and almost one second down on Viñales as the final runs began with five minutes of the one-hour session remaining.
Lenovo Ducati’s Enea Bastianini went down at Turn 11, thwarting his chances of a Q2 spot in the final minutes.
Binder jumped to second after struggling up to that point on the KTM, while team-mate Miller crashed again, this time at Turn 1.
Espargaro then upped the ante to set another new lap record in 1:30.474s, bumping Bezzecchi back to second, with Binder third and Viñales fourth.
Bagnaia was 14th as he began his final lap with seconds left and was on course for a significant improvement.
However, he lost the rear of his Ducati and his chance was gone, meaning he will now have to participate in Qualifying 1 after ending the session in 16th.
It is the first time since Jerez in April that Bagnaia has been forced to compete in Qualifying 1.
Repsol Honda’s Joan Mir, who was following Bagnaia, crashed into the gravel.
Espargaro’s time was unmatched as the chequered flag went out, although Viñales improved to second, 0.154s behind his team-mate, with Bezzecchi third from Binder and Martin.
Marquez, who will move to Gresini Ducati in 2024, was sixth on the Repsol Honda ahead of Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia), Di Giannantonio, Miller and Quartararo, who claimed the last automatic Q2 place in 10th.
Alex Marquez has withdrawn from the remainder of the Indonesian round after ending FP1 in the morning in 20th. The Gresini Ducati rider returned this weekend after fracturing several ribs in qualifying in India.
Marquez crashed in the dying moments of FP1 before calling it quits.