Sunday, 07 November 2021 00:40

Bagnaia beats Miller to record Portimão pole

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The Italian claims a fifth pole in a row with a new lap record, and Mir a first ever MotoGP™ top three

For a fifth time in succession, Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia is on pole position! The Italian set a new lap record at the Grande Prémio Brembo do Algarve with a 1:38.725 to beat teammate Jack Miller to the top by just 0.104. Bagnaia homes in on Casey Stoner's seven in a row for Ducati in 2007-2008, and he becomes the first Italian to take five pole in a row since Valentino Rossi from the 2003 Malaysian GP to the 2004 Spanish GP. 2020 World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), meanwhile, also had a good day at the office as he took his first ever top three in MotoGP™ qualifying. He's started from the front row before, but via a penalty for another rider.

Q1
A thrilling Q1 saw home hero Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) hoping to give the Portuguese crowd something to cheer about, but it wasn’t to be for the 2020 Portimão race winner this time around as he missed out. Ultimately, Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) left it late to snatch P1 away from Iker Lecuona (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing), and with that the Ducati and KTM duo headed into the pole position battle.

Q2
Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing), shadowing Bagnaia, struck with the first fastest lap of Q2 with a 1:39.264, but the Spaniard’s time would be beaten by both Mir and Miller soon after. The Australian’s 1:38.836 was the first new all-time lap record of the session. A Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) crash in the final sector then brought out the yellow flags, although it was newly-crowned Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) more affected, a P3 lap time cancelled.

The riders then boxed for fresh rubber as Miller sat on provisional pole from Mir and Martin, with Pecco was P4. What was in store in the final four minutes of the penultimate Q2 of 2021?

Bagnaia was the first to set a flying lap as the riders re-emerged from pitlane, and the Italian went P1 with a new lap record. The goalposts were moved by another 0.061 as the Bologna bullets went head-to-head for Portimão pole position.

Pecco then stretched his advantage to 0.111 on his next lap, and Miller could only manage to cut the gap to 0.104. Was that it done and dusted, or could Quartararo find an answer?

A red Sector 2 came in from the Frenchman but ultimately nothing came of the Champion’s lap; El Diablo forced to settle for P7 as Pecco notched up his fifth Saturday P1 in a row. Quartararo did, however, wrap up the BW M Award regardless.

There was a little spice as Mir got held up slightly by Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), but the Suzuki rider still takes his first Saturday top three... and the number 73 went to apologise.

The Grid
Behind the Ducati 1-2 and Mir in third, Rookie of the Year contender Martin returns to the circuit where he suffered his huge crash earlier in the season and takes an impressive fourth, edging out teammate Zarco by thousandths as the Frenchman nevertheless came through Q1 to grab a second row start in P5. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) took sixth, 0.333s down on pole.

Quartararo is in slightly unfamiliar territory on Row 3, the 2021 Champion cut a more muted figure back in the box after finishing 0.4 away from Pecco in Q2. Alex Marquez, despite his small Mir moment, bagged his best MotoGP™ Q2 result in P8. Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) lines up alongside Quartararo and Marquez in ninth.

Lecuona is another who has impressed this weekend and his efforts in Q1 and Q2 see the WorldSBK-bound rider start P10, just ahead of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Marini.

The penultimate race of the 2021 season is now very much on the horizon, and it’s Ducati who enjoyed Saturday the most. Can Quartararo and Yamaha claw their way back through the pack on Sunday afternoon in their pursuit of the triple crown? Tune into the premier class race at 13:00 local time (GMT), with the MotoGP™ riders heading out before Moto2™ this weekend.

MotoGP™ front row
1 Francesco Bagnaia - Ducati Lenovo Team - Ducati - 1'38.725
2 Jack Miller - Ducati Lenovo Team - Ducati - +0.104
3 Joan Mir - Team Suzuki Ecstar - Suzuki - +0.168

Top Independent Team rider
4 Jorge Martin - Pramac Racing - Ducati - +0.191 ...

Francesco Bagnaia: "I’m very, very happy. We did a really good job this weekend, we worked a lot and everything is perfect. We just have to choose the rear tyre for the race because with medium and hard we’re fast with both so we just have to choose. In qualifying from Aragon that I understood how to do the out lap; it helps me a lot to be more competitive in the time attacks so I’m very happy. For tomorrow I think the possibility to win is there, we just have to choose the correct tyre and I think fight will be with Fabio, he’s the one with really good pace. It’ll be nice! I’m very happy!"

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