until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Another title race twist in final MotoGP qualifying of 2023

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Pecco Bagnaia outpaced MotoGP title rival Jorge Martin in the final qualifying session of the 2023 season, as Aprilia rider Maverick Vinales took pole.

Bagnaia will line up second on the grid, four places ahead of Martin, who had a very untidy qualifying session - and now risks losing mathematical chances of the title already on Saturday in the sprint.

After the stress of Friday, Bagnaia immediately looked much more competitive in the pre-qualifying practice session - and backed that up with an assured performance that comfortably took him through Q1.

Outpaced by Alex Marquez in the early runs, Marquez having ridden behind him on track, Bagnaia went off-sequence with the rest of the Q1 participants, opting for an earlier start to his second run.

It enabled him to first lower the benchmark by three tenths and then find another tenth, which briefly made him the lap record holder - usurping Vinales' Friday-topping time - and ensured passage into Q2.

What followed in the pole shoot-out was only a narrow improvement for Bagnaia, who had just a single soft rear tyre to use - but it was enough to defeat Martin.

In his first run, the Pramac Ducati rider found himself stuck behind Honda's Marc Marquez, his lap seemingly compromised by the presence of the RC213V.

The roles were reversed as the elder Marquez tucked in behind Martin for the final run, but Martin struggled badly to get a coherent lap together - at one point running slightly wide and nearly making contact with Marquez as he rejoined the racing line.

Marquez eventually fell off in Martin's wheeltracks, but once free of his pursuer the Pramac man still couldn't nail all the sectors, and ultimately settled for a dejected sixth.

In the meantime, Vinales reclaimed his lap record, with a 1m28.931s - the first sub-1m29s lap at the (newly-resurfaced) Valencia circuit - that also handed the Spaniard his first pole as an Aprilia rider.

Martin's team-mate Johann Zarco moved up to third at the chequered flag, relegating Martin down to sixth. The latter will now share the second row with the KTM duo of Jack Miller and Brad Binder, with Binder having crashed in the closing stages of Q2.

VR46 Ducati rider Marco Bezzecchi was seventh, followed by the Marquez brothers - Alex ahead of Marc despite also crashing.

Fabio Di Giannantonio, one of the standouts of Friday's running, looked to struggle after a crash in pre-qualifying practice and could only place 11th - in the middle of row four between Raul Fernandez (RNF Aprilia) and the injured Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).

In the final qualifying of a rookie season in which one-lap pace has been the biggest challenge, Tech3 Gas Gas rider Augusto Fernandez was fastest of those to miss out on Q2, coming up 0.037s short of advancing at Alex Marquez's expense.

Fernandez will be joined on row five by works Ducati rider Enea Bastianini, competitive in the first sector but struggling to keep it up over the rest of the lap, and the lead Yamaha of Fabio Quartararo - who had just a single bike at his disposal in Q1 after a fast crash in the practice session that preceded it.

Luca Marini, whose Honda move is now all but official after his VR46 Ducati team confirmed he wouldn't be riding for it in 2024, was a muted 17th.

The returning Alex Rins, in his farewell LCR Honda appearance after an injury-ravaged single season with the Italian team, qualified 20th.

Only 21 riders are due to take part in the Saturday sprint, with Joan Mir having been ruled out of the weekend as a consequence of his Friday crash.

Qualifying Results

1Maverick ViñalesAprilia1m28.931s
2Francesco BagnaiaDucati1m29.054s1m29.023s
3Johann ZarcoDucati1m29.144s
4Jack MillerKTM1m29.161s
5Brad BinderKTM1m29.171s
6Jorge MartinDucati1m29.182s
7Marco BezzecchiDucati1m29.223s
8Alex MarquezDucati1m29.196s1m29.261s
9Marc MarquezHonda1m29.275s
10Raul FernandezAprilia1m29.438s
11Fabio Di GiannantonioDucati1m29.510s
12Aleix EspargaróAprilia1m29.797s
13Augusto FernandezKTM1m29.233s
14Enea BastianiniDucati1m29.389s
15Fabio QuartararoYamaha1m29.613s
16Takaaki NakagamiHonda1m29.864s
17Luca MariniDucati1m29.901s
18Pol EspargaróKTM1m29.953s
19Franco MorbidelliYamaha1m30.045s
20Alex RinsHonda1m30.257s
21Lorenzo SavadoriAprilia1m31.044s
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