Pecco Bagnaia showed his class by regaining his focus in time to secure a satisfying pole position for the 2023 MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas, denying Alex Rins a shock pole position at Circuit of The Americas.
The defending champion turned it on when it mattered to smash the COTA lap record with a scintillating 2m 01.892secs effort, almost 0.3secs below the previous marker and the first-ever sub-2m 02secs MotoGP time.
In a session peppered with several tumbles in the fight for pole, LCR Honda’s Rins came very close to an upset as he dodged various yellow flags to surge to the head of the timesheets in the closing stages.
However, Rins’ own lap record-breaking 2m 02.052secs time wasn’t enough to repel a flying Bagnaia in the closing stages, the Ducati Corse rider demonstrated his title-winning quality by bouncing back from an on-track squabble with Ducati stablemate Alex Marquez.
The pair were tied at the top of the timesheets with identical times after their first runs - Bagnaia ahead by virtue of having a quicker second-best time - prompting Marquez to employ the tactics of his absent brother Marc, by attempting to leave the pit-lane behind his rival and use a tow.
While Bagnaia was wise to this and repeatedly attempted to slow on his out-lap to shake the Gresini bike, Marquez continued to track him round as they began their laps.
A farcical episode that benefited neither - with both pulling out of their lap early on - Bagnaia was nonetheless able to refocus for a second run, going on to get around round to grab pole.
Marquez, on the other, hand was one of several riders to end up on the floor, the Argentina pole sitter slipping off at Turn 15. Even so, his earlier Q2 effort was still enough for fourth, just behind Luca Marini, who secured a front row start on the VR46 Ducati in third.
His team-mate and championship leader Marco Bezzecchi shrugged off his Q1 path to grab his best starting position of the year in fifth place, the Italian joined by Aleix Espargaro on the second row as the top Aprilia rider.
A late charge by Fabio Quartararo got him up to seventh place, the Yamaha rider - who struggled in the opening two events after starting in the mid-pack - better placed to make an impression.
Maverick Vinales gets away in eighth position, ahead of Johann Zarco, who couldn’t make the most of his one remaining set of new tyres having been forced to reach Q2 via Q1.
Elsewhere, there were two crashes each for both Jack Miller and Jorge Martin, leaving them tenth and 12th respectively, split by Brad Binder on the other KTM.
Miller’s fourth and fifth falls of the weekend - at T1 and T14 - came within the final two minutes, scuppering his bright hopes of a front row challenge on the RC16, as well as annoy rivals coming up on the yellow flags while on their hot laps.
It was a similarly frustrating session for pre-qualifying pole position favourite Martin after he lost the front of his Pramac Ducati at Turn 7 early on.
Struggling with illness this weekend, the ensuing rush to get back to the garage will have likely taken its toll, so while he made it back in time - running straight through the pit box and jumping straight onto his spare bike - he then crashed again shortly afterwards at Turn 2.
With Zarco and Bezzecchi surviving the Q1 test to make it through to Q2, there was disappointment for Joan Mir, the Repsol Honda rider displaced by the Pramac Ducati rider’s last gasp effort.
He will start 13th ahead of Franco Morbidelli, the Italian unable to replicate his Q2 form from Argentina last time out, while Miguel Oliveira will start his comeback race as the top RNF Aprilia rider in 15th.
Inside the top ten in P3, Fabio di Giannantonio couldn’t carry that into Q1 as one of only two Ducati riders not to start inside the Top 12.
Takaaki Nakagami gets away from 17th, ahead of Enea Bastianini’s stand-in Michele Pirro in 18th, while Raul Fernandez - who suffered a fast fall at Turn 2 with just over a minute of the session remaining - struggling in 19th.
Augusto Fernandez starts 20th as the top GasGas Tech3 representative, ahead of Stefan Bradl in 21st and Jonas Folger 22nd and last, the German crashing at Turn 11 early on in his first MotoGP Qualifying session since 2017.
MotoGP Qualifying Results - Grand Prix of The Americas | COTA
|Grand Prix of the Americas, USA MotoGP | Qualifying Results | Circuit of The Americas | Round 3 / 21|
|1||Pecco Bagnaia||ITA||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||2m 01.892|
|2||Alex RIns||ESP||LCR||Honda RC213V||2m 02.052|
|3||Luca Marini||ITA||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||2m 02.181|
|4||Alex Marquez||ESP||Gresini Racing||Ducati GP22||2m 02.242|
|5||Marco Bezzecchi||ITA||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||2m 02.268|
|6||Aleix Espargaro||ESP||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||2m 02.539|
|7||Fabio Quartararo||FRA||Monster Yamaha Racing||Yamaha M1||2m 02.749|
|8||Maverick Vinales||ESP||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||2m 02.882|
|9||Johann Zarco||FRA||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||2m 03.062|
|10||Jack Miller||AUS||KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||2m 03.084|
|11||Brad Binder||RSA||KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||2m 03.197|
|12||Jorge Martin||ESP||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||2m 03.292|
|13||Joan Mir||ESP||HRC Repsol||Honda RC213V||2m 02.743|
|14||Franco Morbidelli||ITA||Monster Yamaha Racing||Yamaha M1||2m 02.950|
|15||Miguel Oliveira||POR||RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||2m 03.065|
|16||Fabio di Giannantonio||ITA||Gresini Racing||Ducati GP22||2m 03.350|
|17||Takaaki Nakagami||JPN||LCR||Honda RC213V||2m 03.403|
|18||Michele Pirro||ITA||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||2m 03.452|
|19||Raul Fernandez||ESP||RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||2m 03.527|
|20||Augusto Fernandez||ESP||GasGas Factory Tech 3||KTM RC16||2m 03.798|
|21||Stefan Bradl||GER||HRC Repsol||Honda RC213V||2m 03.907|
|22||Jonas Folger||GER||GasGas Factory Tech 3||KTM RC16||2m 07.597|