Saturday, 13 November 2021 21:08

Ducati armada leads at Valencia

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The rookie Martin turns it up to 11 for Bologna as Ducati and Suzuki lock out the top six and Rossi bids farewell from tenth

Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) put in a stunner at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana to take his fourth pole position of the season and Ducati's first at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo since 2010, his final push enough to depose Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) by just 0.064. It's an all-Ducati front row with Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) in third, with the factory riders suffering a crash each but once again, Bologna bringing the noise on Saturday afternoon. That's now 11 poles for the manufacturer this season, and there's been a Ducati on the front row at every single Grand Prix. They've taken 30 front row placements out of 54, to be exact.

Reigning Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) couldn't move up from P8, with the departing Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in tenth for his final dance.

Q1
As ever it went to the wire, but it was 2020 front row starter Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) who topped the session, with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) heading through alongside.

Andrea Dovizioso (Petronas Yamaha SRT) just missed the cut but showed more good progress taking P13 on the grid. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) suffered a small crash, and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) a run off.

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) ended the session last after a tough day at the office, but behind him even is Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team). After such a strong Friday, the Spaniard had a monster highside in FP3 and headed to hospital for check ups. No major injuries were found, but the team confirmed the number 44 would sit out the rest of Saturday.

Q2
The first true benchmark came from Miller. The Australian put in a 1:30.325 to top the timesheets, with Bagnaia slotting into second and Mir third. Incredibly, Martin then did exactly the same time as Miller, although the Spaniard took over in second as his second best was a little off the Australian's.

As the second runs began though, Bagnaia came out swinging. Already on pole six times this season, the Italian was gunning for glory at a tougher venue. He went faster and then put in a 1:30.000 exactly, showing some serious speed at a venue he's struggled at in the past.

Still, it wasn't over. After a low drama tip off for Bagnaia at Turn 2 interrupted laps for some behind the Italian, red sectors appeared once again - this time from Martin. The rookie was flying and just under a hundredth up on Bagnaia into the final sector. Could he hold onto it? Over the line, he could... setting a 1:29.936 to just pip Pecco to pole. Miller was also on a fast one and even further up, but the Australian then crashed out - rider ok - and that was all she wrote. Martin faces down the fight for Rookie of the Year from the best place possible: pole.

The Grid

Martin's pole is his fourth of the season after a stunning premier class debut, and he heads the grid at the venue where he took his first Grand Prix win in Moto3™. It's an all-Ducati front row as Bagnaia and Miller line-up alongside for the battle of the Bologna bullets into Turn 1.

Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) may not have taken another front row, but he had another great qualifying. He said after the Algarve GP he wanted to start routinely qualifying on the front two rows, and in the pre-event Press Conference in Valencia the 2020 Champion said he wanted to se if they could replicate the quality qualifying... so that's mission accomplished in fourth. Alongside the number 36 on Row 2 are Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), to make it four Ducatis in the top five, with Rins in P6 going from Q1 to make it two Suzukis in the top six.

Binder likewise converted the chance from Q1 into a good grid position, the South African taking P7 to head the third row. He's joined by reigning Champion Quartararo as the Frenchman had another muted Saturday, out of the top six for the third race in a row.

Ninth went to Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) ahead of one of the best recent qualifying sessions for Rossi in tenth, the 'Doctor' also having gone straight through to Q2. Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), who also went straight through, is P11, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) taking P12.

That's an interesting grid to round out the season. A Ducati front-row lock out, Mir with a lot less work to do on Sunday and Rins too, and of course, a farewell for the 'Doctor'... Valencia promises much and will likely deliver even more, s tune in for the final race of the season, and of an era, at 14:00 (GMT +1). History guaranteed!

MotoGP™ front row
1 Jorge Martin - Pramac Racing - Ducati - 1'29.936
2 Francesco Bagnaia - Ducati Lenovo Team - Ducati - +0.064
3 Jack Miller - Ducati Lenovo Team - Ducati - +0.389 ...

Jorge Martin: "I knew I could do it, before qualifying I was really confident. But the target was the front row, here it's so important to be on the front row because it's difficult to overtake. The first lap was good but I knew with some mistakes, and I could improve. On the second tyre was perfect, I felt a lot of speed from the beginning, improved the weak points and was fully focused. For sure still with some margin but on the limit. Really happy about my performance, the base isn't bad. It's a pity that in FP4 we tried to hard tyre but I think it's not the race tyre. I hope the medium works well at the end of the race but I think we can battle for the podium for sure."

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