MotoGP: Bagnaia on pole for the Catalan GP

Our championship leader has smashed the lap record at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on his way to taking pole position before this weekend’s racing. It was a session with mixed conditions and some mixed results for riders up and down the grid. Pecco Bagnaia has taken his 6th pole position of the season at the Catalan GP today. He smashed the previous lap record, laying down a storming time of 1:38.639. He will be joined on the front row by Aleix Espargaro, in 2nd, and Miguel Oliveira, in 3rd. Many had tipped Espargaro for pole this weekend, but he lost time in the latter sectors and crossed the line just 0.104s behind pole position. Oliveira, who has also looked really fast this weekend, was a frustrating 0.005s away from Espargaro in 2nd. POLE for @PeccoBagnaia! He denies the trio of Aprilias! #CatalanGP — MotoGP (@MotoGP) September 2, 2023 It was a tricky day for Marc Marquez who, despite being promoted from Q1, had to settle for 12th overall. It was thanks to a tow from Jack Miller that Marquez made it through to Q2 – however, providing that two seemed to hold back Miller who was unable to make it through to the second qualifying session, despite showing good pace this weekend so far. It was arguably a tougher day for the Yamaha team with Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo having to settle for 16th and 17th respectively. They have been well off the pace all weekend and struggling at the back of the grid. AS IT HAPPENED Qualifying 1 In the 15 minutes between FP2 and Qualifying 1, the weather changed quickly and the track went from bright sunshine to rain. The sessions therefore started with a damp track which meant riders were instantly out to set a banker lap. We had some big names in this first session, including Jack Miller, Pol Espargaro and Miguel Oliveira who have looked fast all weekend so far. It also included Luca Marini and both Yamaha riders who have struggled throughout this weekend. With 3 minutes of the session done, we had half the track enjoying bright sunshine and the other half under rainfall. These mixed conditions meant the early laps were quite slow – Marini was the first to lay down a lap time but was way off the expected pace. Quartararo, on the other hand, seemed to revel in these mixed conditions and set the first relative lap time of 1:39.878. On his next lap, he was quickly improving and beat his previous time by 0.2s. As Quartararo began his third flying lap, he went wide at turn 1. Whilst trying to keep the bike upright, we got stuck in the gravel and ended up falling in an embarrassing fashion. He was able to rejoin the field but wasn't on the same pace as the rest of the field. @FabioQ20's second run is going to be a little delayed! El Diablo ran deep into Turn 1 and tipped over! #CatalanGP — MotoGP (@MotoGP) September 2, 2023 Halfway through the session and, as everyone made their way back in to the pits, we had Oliveira and Franco Morbidelli in the top two spots and provisionally going through to Qualifying 2. As everyone came back out of to the grid for their final flying laps, Marquez was gifted a nice tow around the track by Miller. As they crossed the line, the pair were 1st and 2nd respectively. Red sectors everywhere! @marcmarquez93 latched onto the back of @jackmilleraus and it works! #CatalanGP — MotoGP (@MotoGP) September 2, 2023 However, with 2 minutes left on the clock, Oliveira bested them both to claim the top spot with a 1:38.789. As the seconds tick down, no one is able to improve on their current lap times – Marini was clearly struggling with the lack of grip, Espargaro bailed out of his final lap and Marquez went back to the pits before the session ended. With no one else able to improve, it was Oliveira and Marquez who progress to Q2. Qualifying 2 It was a quieter session this time as the weather settled down and the Spanish sunshine began to shine again. Marc Marquez was the first to cross the line and laid down a lap time of 1:40.665. As everyone else began finishing their first flying laps, he was quickly shuffled down to 8th and Aleix Espargaro was on provisional pole. The grid then shuffled around again as everyone completed their second flying laps. This time, Brad Binder took provisional pole before being beaten by Vinales. Espargaro was now in 3rd and Pecco Bagnaia in 4th. Game on! #CatalanGP — MotoGP (@MotoGP) September 2, 2023 We then had the typical lull in the middle of the session as everyone made their way back to the pits for a breather and fresh tires. There were 6 minutes on the clock when everyone came back out on to the grid. We now had Espargaro, Bagnaia and Martin flying round the grid and, with 3 minutes remaining, Espargaro set the fastest lap of the day so far – a 1:38.752. He was soon bested by championship leader, Bagnaia, who smashed the current lap record with a 1:38.639. As the minutes ticked down, no one was able to get close to this time. Espargaro was shuffled down to 2nd and Oliveira slotted in to 3rd. That was how the session ended with no one able to make waves. FULL GRID 1st Pecco Bagnaia Ducati 2nd Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 3rd Miguel Oliveira CryptoDATA RNF 4th Maverick Vinales Aprilia 5th Jorge Martin Prima Pramac 6th Johann Zarco Prima Pramac 7th Alex Marquez Gresini 8th Fabio Di Giannantonio Gresini 9th Brad Binder Red Bull KTM 10th Marco Bezzecchi Mooney VR46 11th Enea Bastianini Ducati 12th Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 13th Jack Miller Red Bull KTM 14th Pol Espargaro GASGAS Tech3 15th Raul Fernandez CryptoDATA RNF 16th Franco Morbidelli Yamaha 17th Fabio Quartararo Yamaha 18th Luca Marini Mooney VR46 19th Augusto Fernandez GASGAS Tech3 20th Joan Mir Repsol Honda 21st Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda 22nd Iker Lecuona LCR Honda Feature Image Credit: MotoGP