Luca Marini denied Gresini Racing a dream 1-2 on the grid for the Qatar MotoGP after snatching pole position by a slender margin from Fabio di Giannantonio at the Lusail International Circuit.
The Mooney VR46 Racing rider swept to the top of the timesheets with his final time attack in the closing moments of the session the prove quickest of the three riders to dip below 1m 52secs around the floodlit circuit.
HIs efforts were enough to assure him of a second MotoGP pole position to follow on from taking pole in Indonesia, in so doing preventing di Giannantonio an identical feat.
Indeed, di Giannantonio - still without a ride for the 2024 MotoGP season - looked on course to complement his surprise Italian MotoGP pole position at Mugello last year with a timely return to the front of the grid after twice setting lap record-breaking benchmarks during Q2.
With Alex Marquez slotting into second place behind him as the seconds ticked down, it appeared Gresini Racing would be heading for a triumphant result on its return to Qatar 18 months after Enea Bastianini gave the freshly independent satellite Ducati outfit a stunning victory at the 2023 season opener.
However, its 1-2 dreams would be spoiled by Marini, whose 1m 51.762secs lap was good enough to surpass di Giannantonio’s time by less than a tenth.
Despite missing out on a first 1-2, di Giannantonio and Marquez completed an all-GP22 front row as Ducati filled each of the top six positions.
As for the title contenders, they were again closely matched, though it was Pecco Bagnaia that would get the better of Jorge Martin in fourth and fifth respectively, while Johann Zarco - who like Alex Marquez progressed from Q1 - completes row two in sixth.
Benefitting from again using Bagnaia as his close reference, Marc Marquez hauled his Honda to seventh on the grid, ahead of Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales and satellite RNF Racing counterpart Raul Fernandez, the Spaniard unable to translate his timesheet topping efforts on Friday, even if ninth remains a career-best qualifying performance.
Aleix Espargaro rounds out the top ten but risks a penalty or potentially worse after being involved in a fracas with Franco Morbidelli in the preceding FP2 session. The Spaniard, unhappy with being baulked by the Yamaha rider, slapped Morbidelli on the helmet as they remonstrated on the exit of the corner, an incident that is currently under investigation by stewards.
A disappointing session for KTM, Brad Binder could only manage 11th on the factory RC16, while Augusto Fernandez on the sister GasGas Tech3 bike brought up the rear in Q2 with 12th.
Failing to make the cut in Q1, Marco Bezzecchi - who along with di Giannantonio and Raul Fernandez - made his MotoGP debut in Qatar last year will start 13th, while Fabio Quartararo was the best of the Yamaha contingent in 14th having topped the timesheets shortly before in FP2.
Qatar MotoGP, Lusail International Circuit - Qualifying Results
|2023 Qatar MotoGP - Lusail International Circuit - Qualifying Results - Round 19 of 20|
|1||Luca Marini||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||1m 51.762|
|2||Fabio di Giannantonio||🇮🇹||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||1m 51.829|
|3||Alex Marquez||🇪🇦||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati GP22||1m 51.898|
|4||Francesco Bagnaia||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||1m 52.036|
|5||Jorge Martin||🇪🇦||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||1m 52.058|
|6||Johann Zarco||🇨🇵||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati GP23||1m 52.101|
|7||Marc Marquez||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||1m 52.103|
|8||Maverick Vinales||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 52.175|
|9||Raul Fernandez||🇪🇦||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 52.348|
|10||Aleix Espargaro||🇪🇦||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 52.466|
|11||Brad Binder||🇿🇦||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||1m 52.729|
|12||Augusto Fernandez||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||1m 52.784|
|13||Marco Bezzecchi||🇮🇹||Mooney VR46 Racing||Ducati GP22||1m 52.504|
|14||Fabio Quartararo||🇨🇵||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||1m 52.524|
|15||Enea Bastianini||🇮🇹||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati GP23||1m 52.828|
|16||Jack Miller||🇦🇺||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM RC16||1m 52.889|
|17||Miguel Oliveira||🇵🇹||CryptoData RNF Racing||Aprilia RS-GP||1m 53.099|
|18||Franco Morbidelli||🇮🇹||Monster Energy Yamaha||Yamaha M1||1m 53.143|
|19||Pol Espargaro||🇪🇦||GasGas Factory Racing Tech3||KTM RC16||1m 53.362|
|20||Joan Mir||🇪🇦||Repsol Honda Team||Honda RC213V||1m 53.570|
|21||Iker Lecuona||🇪🇦||LCR Honda Castrol||Honda RC213V||1m 53.838|
|22||Takaaki Nakagami||🇯🇵||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda RC213V||1m 54.360|