Bagnaia seizes Malaysia MotoGP pole after Martin crashes
Saturday 11th November, 2023 - 3:32pm
Francesco Bagnaia has seized the opportunity to take pole position for the Malaysian MotoGP round after Jorge Martin crashed on his final lap in Qualifying 2.
Martin looked like further upping the pressure on the championship leader when he held provisional pole position as the chequered flag came out at Sepang, but then the Pramac Racing rider crashed at Turn 4.
Bagnaia then nailed a 1:57.491s to jump from the middle of the second row to top spot, edging his title rival by 0.058s.
It will be factory Ducati Team entries bookending the front row with Enea Bastianini coming from Qualifying 1 to grab third on the starting grid, while Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez qualified 20th after a crash in the opening 15-minute stanza.
When Q2 got underway, VR46 Racing Team’s Luca Marini broke the outright lap record with a 1:57.787s on his first flying lap on his Ducati, before Martin bettered him next time around with a 1:57.549s.
With the first runs done, they were the top two, from Alex Marquez (Gresini Ducati), Bagnaia, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM), Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing), Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha), and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM) in eighth of the dozen fighting for pole position.
That was, the first runs for all except Bastianini, who was a late starter given the Michelin tyres he used up in Q1.
‘La Bestia’ set a 1:57.657s on his first lap to move into second position, before Fabio Di Giannantonio crashed his Gresini Ducati at Turn 15 and Marini hit the deck at Turn 9.
For the many riders following Bike #10, their laps were automatically cancelled due to the ensuing yellow flag but Bastianini was clear and consolidated second place when he improved slightly to a 1:57.590s on his next flyer.
The chequered flag came out and then Martin too went down, opening the door for Bagnaia to snatch pole position.
Row 2 will also be all-Ducati, with Alex Marquez fourth from Marini and VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi.
Binder was best of the rest in seventh, from Quartararo, Viñales, Miller, Di Giannantonio, and Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati).
Earlier, in Qualifying 1, Di Giannantonio was quickest and Bastianini got through, while Marc Marquez’s bid to advance never really got going.
Bastianini was quickest initially on a 1:58.169s and the first runs were brief when GasGas Tech3’s Pol Espargaro crashed at Turn 9, triggering a yellow flag which saw several laps cancelled.
When they rolled back out again, Aprilia Racing’s Aleix Espargaro moved into top spot on a 1:58.069s, bumping Monster Energy Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli out of the top two as the Italian played a cat-and-mouse track position game with Marc Marquez.
Di Giannantonio then clocked a 1:57.823s before Bastianini rebounded from fourth to second on a 1:57.911s.
Marc Marquez was trying to nip down the inside of Augusto Fernandez (GasGas Tech3) when he crashed at Turn 7 in the final minute of Q1, and was consigned to 10th for the session and 20th on the starting grid.
Aleix Espargaro is set to start 13th, from Augusto Fernandez, Morbidelli, Joan Mir (Repsol Honda), Pol Espargaro, Raul Fernandez (RNF Aprilia), Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia), Marc Marquez, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda), Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati), and Iker Lecuona (LCR Honda).
The Sprint takes place in the coming hours.