Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo completed a hat-trick at Portimao on Saturday by taking pole position for the Portuguese MotoGP in dramatic style.
Ducati’s superstar Pecco Bagnaia had set blistering pace with a new all-time lap record in the dying moments of the Q2 session before the time was cruelly deleted due to a yellow flag infringement. Alex Rins and Johann Zarco join the Frenchman on Sunday’s front row with Marc Marquez continuing his impressive comeback in sixth.
Clouds darkened the Algarve Circuit as MotoGP qualifying got underway. Joan Mir setting an early 1’39.917 to lead the way in the opening stages, followed closely by the Pol Espargaro - the determined Spaniard having shaken off a rapid FP4 crash as he looked to push his Repsol Honda into the final pole shootout session. The threatening form of team-mate Marquez hovered, however, with the returning star sliding through with the fastest time so far, a 1’39.253, to head the session on his third lap, Mir improving once again to consolidate his promotion position as both Alex Marquez and Brad Binder advanced to third and fourth. Enea Bastianini sat sixth ahead of Valentino Rossi, as the pack prepared for their second runs, Danilo Petrucci Lorenzo Savadori and Iker Lecuona completing the top-10, Takaaki Nakagami retiring from the action due to his Friday injuries.
The closing two minutes saw the screens light up as the final push began, Mir continuing to strengthen his position as he shaved tenths from his times, Marquez looking to do similar as he outdid himself with three impressive reds before losing his time in the final sector. His teammate suffering a comparable fate on his final hot-lap leaving the number 44 in fourth at the flag.
Marquez and Mir advanced to battle for pole while the younger LCR seated brother was left to head row five with Espargaro and Binder for company. Bastianini maintained his dominance over Rossi and Petrucci with Lecuona outpacing Savadori for the final positions.
The final 12 returned to a cooler 32℃ track as Q2 fired up, the majority running a medium/soft tyre combination for the first stint with Jack Miller and Rins choosing the soft front - Marquez opting not to run in the opening minutes.
Zarco scuppered his Pramac machine on a blisteringly hot-lap as he hit the deck at turn 11, Quartararo back to his supreme Saturday form as he once again led the session, with a 1’39.028, at the halfway stage. Franky Morbidelli looked strong in second as Mir put his Suzuki alongside and onto the front row.
Five to go and Marquez was out, playing mind games already with fellow countryman Rins as he exited the pitlane ready to party. The Frenchman was flying once again as he scored his Yamaha into the ’38’s to secure provisional pole with another hot-lap in his back pocket. Miller came achingly close as he pushed his Ducati into second on the bubble of 1’39 with Marquez storming to third on his comeback.
The dream would soon be dashed, however as Zarco regrouped just moments after his earlier fall to set a stunning lap for second before Pecco Bagnaia blitzed the field with a 1’38.484 to take his second pole of the season. Rins took third in the dying seconds to deny the two Ducati’s behind, with Morbidelli settling for sixth as the flag flew. The drama continued as Bagnaia’s pole lap was deleted after being set under yellow flags - thanks to Miguel Oliveira crashing out of his home qualifying at turn nine. Quartararo was reinstated to pole, Rins second and Zarco back on the front row, with the Ducati hero dropping to a devastating 11th. The times now reshuffled, Miller claimed fourth from Morbidelli and Marquez, Aleix Espargaro, Luca Marini and Mir starting seventh to ninth. Oliveira headed the fourth row from a dejected Bagnaia and a frustrated Maverick Viñales completed the set in 12th.