Moto GP

Bagnaia clinches season’s first pole with new Qatar lap record

Former Moto2 World Champion Francesco Bagnaia yesterday grabbed the new MotoGP season’s first pole position by smashing the lap record at the iconic Losail International Circuit (LIC) ahead of today's Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar. 

The 24-year-old Italian impressed in his first outing as a Ducati rider by clocking a time of 1:52.772 seconds, the fastest-ever two-wheel lap time recorded at LIC.

For the 22-lap race today, Bagnaia will be on the front grid along side Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales, both of Yamaha. 

“I’m happy. Yesterday, I thought it was possible to reach 1m52s today and on the second attempt, when I started to attack, I saw that it was possible after the third sector, which was very close to this time back. So I am very happy,” Bagnaia said after the official qualifying under lights at LIC.

“It is my first pole position and my first race with this race, so I would like to do everything possible to finish tomorrow’s (Sunday's) race in the best possible way.

Because I think we can make a really good result,” he said with a smile. 

MotoGP icon and a crowd favourite wherever he races, Valentino Rossi clinched the fourth-fastest time to be first on the second grid. 

“I am very happy. This qualifying is a great way to start the new season with the new team,” Rossi said. “With the second set of tyres I felt very comfortable with the bike and I had very good grip.

“The lap was great and I was able to ride well, pushing without making mistakes and at the end the lap time is quite impressive, a ’53.1. Unfortunately, it was not enough to stay on the front row, but we are not so far and starting from P4 is important for the race tomorrow,” Rossi said. 

Pre-season testing star Ducati’s Jack Miller will start fifth on the grid alongside Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) in sixth place when the season’s first Grand Prix starts tonight at 8:00pm.

Lowes claims Moto2 pole

Also yesterday, British rider Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) was once again in superior form at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar as he clocked 1:58.726 to beat rookie Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) to pole position by 0.140s in the Moto2 class. Bo Bendsneyder’s (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) awesome early season form sees the Dutchman claim just his third Grand Prix front row start in P3, he finished 0.233s from Lowes’ pace.

Ahead of the opening Moto2 pole position battle commencing, four riders entered the fray from Q1. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) was the quickest as rookie Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46), Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and 2019 Moto3 World Champion Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Italtrans Racing Team) finished within a tenth of each other to get another crack at the whip in Q2.

As Q2 kicked into life, the fastest rider after the opening flying laps slammed in was Lowes. Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) made it a British 1-2 but working in tandem, Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner then took over at the top – the latter leading his rookie team-mate with a 1:59.245.


Incidentally, Lowes’ first lap time was then scrapped but soon after, his second lap then saw him fly to P1, 0.447s faster than Gardner’s best.  

Once again, Dixon made it a British 1-2 but Lowes’ lead was still considerable. Bendsneyder then catapulted himself to P2 to go 0.312s off Lowes but the latter, for a third straight lap, pulled clear of the chasing pack. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) then took over the second place baton, but the Italian was still over three tenths behind. The Red Bull KTM Ajo duo then launched themselves onto the front row, Raul Fernandez P2 and Gardner P3, but the Aussie’s lap would get cancelled.

The ever-impressive Bendsneyder demoted Bezzecchi off the front row on his final lap as Gardner then threatened Lowes’ time on his last lap. However, a crash for Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) at Turn 10 – minutes after the Spaniard and teammate Dixon collided at Turn 3 – put a halt to Gardner’s late charge. In the end though, Lowes was untouchable. The 2020 third place finisher has been in supreme form at Losail and will launch from pole, and he’ll line up alongside a rookie sensation in Raul Fernandez. The Spaniard has taken to Moto2 like a duck to water as Bendsneyder picks up his first front row start since the 2017 Moto3 Dutch GP, like as a Kalex rider springing new life into the talented Dutchman.

Earlier South African rider Darryn Binder yesterday produced a lap record time to clinch the opening pole position in the Moto3 class. 

The Petronas Sprinta Racing rider performed wonders to come through Q1 to bag the first pole position of 2021 at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar, setting a 2:04.075 – a new lap record. Reigning FIM CEV Repsol Moto3 Junior World Champion Izan Guevara (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) claimed a wonderful debut Grand Prix front row after also progressing from Q1, as the rookie lines up one place ahead of the most experienced Moto3 rider – third place John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing).

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