Marco Bezzecchi scored a confidence-boosting fourth MotoGP World Championship pole position of the season ahead of the inaugural Indian MotoGP at the Buddh International Circuit.
The Italian won out in a back-and-forth dice with fellow Ducati rider and title rival Jorge Martin, the pair swapping the top spot multiple times before Bezzecchi got the nod with a 1m 43.947secs lap.
Indeed, it was a close run thing between the pair - who lead the chase to overall points’ leader Pecco Bagnaia - as they posted new benchmarks for the other to try and beat.
However, while the money might have been on Martin to produce one of his signature rapid fast single laps at the final time of asking, it was Bezzecchi edging him out on the year-old GP22 by just +0.043s.
To his credit, Martin came into qualifying having suffered a fast crash on the run into Turn 8 towards the end of the preceding FP2 session, while he also fluffed his final sector on a lap good enough to undercut Bezzecchi’s.
Nonetheless, with Bagnaia completing an all-Ducati front row in third, the stage is set for the top three riders in the overall standings to resume battle after their Misano tug-of-war a fortnight ago.
Though his momentum for pole position faded towards the end of the session, Luca Marini made it a top four lockout for Ducati as he heads up row two, where he will be joined - perhaps surprisingly - by both Repsol Hondas, Joan Mir leading Marc Marquez.
A huge upturn in form for Mir, who has struggled to even get close to a Q2 spot prior to making it through automatically on Friday afternoon, the 2020 MotoGP World Champion backed it up with a stellar run to fifth place, just ahead of team-mate Marquez.
Like Martin, Pramac Ducati team-mate Johann Zarco was on the ground during FP2 but would go on to recover to seventh on the grid, just ahead of fellow Frenchman Fabio Quartararo, while three Aprilias - Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaro and Q1 qualifier Raul Fernandez - line astern in ninth, tenth and 11th.
Q2 ran with only 11 riders after Alex Marquez - who was supposed to join Fernandez in progressing from Q1 - was taken to the medical centre after hurting his chest in a heavy thump during the final seconds of the first qualifying session.
Ironically, Marquez’s incident did its bit to both assure his passage to Q2 - even if he couldn’t make the most of it - and deploy yellow flags long enough to prevent other riders from challenging him.
As such, KTM faces an uphill task in both the Sprint and Main races with Brad Binder and Jack Miller winding up 14th and 16th respectively.
|2023 Indian MotoGP | Buddh International Circuit, India | Qualifying Results | Round 13 of 20|
|1||Marco Bezzecchi||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||1m 43.947|
|2||Jorge Martin||🇪🇦||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||1m 43.990|
|3||Pecco Bagnaia||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||1m 44.203|
|4||Luca Marini||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||1m 44.215|
|5||Joan Mir||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||1m 44.454|
|6||Marc Marquez||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||1m 44.469|
|7||Johann Zarco||🇨🇵||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||1m 44.515|
|8||Fabio Quartararo||🇨🇵||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||1m 44.724|
|9||Maverick Vinales||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 44.741|
|10||Aleix Espargaro||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 44.750|
|11||Raul Fernandez||🇪🇦||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 45.194|
|12||Alex Marquez||🇪🇦||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||No Time|
|13||Fabio di Giannantonio||🇮🇹||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||1m 44.529|
|14||Brad Binder||🇿🇦||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||1m 44.651|
|15||Takaaki Nakagami||🇯🇵||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||1m 44.735|
|16||Jack Miller||🇦🇺||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||1m 45.030|
|17||Franco Morbidelli||🇮🇹||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||1m 45.037|
|18||Augusto Fernandez||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||1m 45.066|
|19||Miguel Oliveira||🇵🇹||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 45.375|
|20||Pol Espargaro||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||1m 45.452|
|21||Stefan Bradl||🇩🇪||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||1m 45.517|
|22||Michele Pirro||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||1m 46.147|