Luca Marini will start a MotoGP race from pole position for the first time in his career after seeing off the threat from the factory Aprilias to top qualifying for the Indonesian MotoGP.
An impressive effort from Marini on his return to MotoGP action less than a month after fracturing his collarbone in an accident during the Indian MotoGP, the Italian set a new lap record having already had to come through Q1 shortly before.
He is joined on the front row by Aprilia Racing duo Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro, with Fabio Quartararo enjoying a strong Saturday morning with his run to fourth.
Elsewhere, there were mixed fortunes for the main title contenders after leader Pecco Bagnaia failed to make it out of Q1 for the first time in 29 GPs, while Jorge Martin suffered a rhythm-stuttering crash in Q2 but at least starts further up the order in sixth.
With the potent mix of high temperatures and a low grip surface around the little-used Mandalika Circuit having already wreaked havoc across all three classes this weekend, it was a cocktail that served to ramp up the tension in what is shaping up to be a pivotal round for the title contenders.
Indeed, it was Bagnaia who started the day under the most pressure after finding himself in the uncustomary position of having to fight it out for one of the two available Q2 spots via Q1.
On a weekend that has seen the Italian - arguably MotoGP’s most steadfastly strong qualifier - visibly struggle to get his factory Ducati GP23 dialled in over a single lap, Bagnaia again looked below par in Q1 amid a competitive group of rivals.
Even so, it appeared he had done enough in the closing stages when he slotted into second behind would-be pole man Marini, only to be knocked out of contention somewhat awkwardly by team-mate Enea Bastianini.
It means Bagnaia will start 13th for this weekend’s two races, his worst starting position since the 2022 Portuguese MotoGP, testing the defending champion as he attempts to hold onto his slender three-point lead over Martin in the overall standings.
Not that Martin was able to fully take advantage of his rival's malaise. Recognising a golden opportunity to drive home his recent advantage over Bagnaia, all eyes were on the Pramac Racing man to see whether he could capitalise by putting as many bikes between himself and his Ducati stablemate as possible in Q2.
However, in a scruffy session for the Spaniard, Martin suffered a clumsy fall after running off-track and slipping on the slick painted surface. Upon returning to circuit, a clearly rattled Martin strung together an imperfect lap, ultimately leaving him sixth on the grid.
Marini eyes maiden MotoGP win from maiden MotoGP pole
Instead, the fight for pole position would come down to Practice pace setters Espargaro and Vinales, plus Marini, the VR46 Ducati rider making the most of his extra track time to instantly get up to speed.
With the trio taking turns at the in front with their final time attacks, it was Marini’s name to show on top once the clock was stopped as he turned in the first-ever sub-1m 30secs lap of the Mandalika Circuit for a new record.
His first MotoGP pole position at his 52nd attempt, Marini now heads into both the Sprint Race and full-length GP with his eye on a maiden victory too.
However, he faces a strong challenge from the Aprilia pair, who remained as closely-matched as they were quick in qualifying. On this occasion, however, Vinales would get the better of Espargaro as they filled positions two and three.
With crashes for Marco Bezzecchi and Marc Marquez proving a distraction for others, Fabio Quartararo found a gap in the melee to secure one of his best starts of the year for Yamaha in fourth, while Brad Binder will get underway from a loftier than usual grid slot with fifth on the KTM.
With Martin completing the second row, Fabio di Giannantonio - on the weekend it was confirmed he would be exiting both Gresini Racing and Ducati at the end of the season to make way for Marquez - put himself in the shop window with the seventh fastest time, the Italian joined by Marquez and Bezzecchi, both of whom had remounted to get back up to eighth and ninth.
Jack Miller completed the top ten, ahead of Bastianini - who couldn’t match fellow Q1 qualifier Marini in troubling the leading positions - and Miguel Oliveira.
While Bagnaia’s failure to make it out of Q1 attracted the headlines, there was also frustration for Johann Zarco, who suffered a fast late fall to leave himself in 14th, while Honda will not want to look past Marquez’s efforts after filling the final three spots on the grid with its remaining trio.
|2023 Indonesian MotoGP | Mandalika Circuit | Qualifying Results | Round 15 of 20|
|1||Luca Marini||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||1m 29.978|
|2||Maverick Vinales||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 30.009|
|3||Aleix Espargaro||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 30.132|
|4||Fabio Quartararo||🇨🇵||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||1m 30.516|
|5||Brad Binder||🇿🇦||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||1m 30.698|
|6||Jorge Martin||🇪🇦||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||1m 30.742|
|7||Fabio di Giannantonio||🇮🇹||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||1m 30.766|
|8||Marc Marquez||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||1m 30.864|
|9||Marco Bezzecchi||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||1m 30.908|
|10||Jack Miller||🇦🇺||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||1m 30.970|
|11||Enea Bastianini||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||1m 31.061|
|12||Miguel Oliveira||🇵🇹||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 31.193|
|13||Pecco Bagnaia||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||1m 30.626|
|14||Johann Zarco||🇨🇵||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||1m 30.713|
|15||Franco Morbidelli||🇮🇹||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||1m 30.729|
|16||Pol Espargaro||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||1m 31.006|
|17||Raul Fernandez||🇪🇦||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 31.031|
|18||Augusto Fernandez||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||1m 31.034|
|19||Joan Mir||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||1m 31.143|
|20||Takaaki Nakagami||🇯🇵||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||1m 31.192|
|21||Alex Rins||🇪🇦||LCR Honda Castrol||Honda RC213V||1m 31.458|
|W||Alex Marquez||🇪🇦||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22|