Motorcycle Racing

Espargaro takes home pole, Marquez only 14th

Marc Marquez, Gresini Racing

On Thursday ahead of this weekend’s sixth round of the 2024 season, Espargaro grabbed a first pole of the season with a new lap record of 1m38.190s at the end of a dramatic Q2.

Espargaro hailed the pole laps as “the best of my life”, saying: “I don’t have 100 pole position in my career, so even if it’s just one Saturday at my home GP it’s amazing to achieve the pole and especially fighting with Pecco [Bagnaia], because with the first tyre the time he proposed was amazing.

“When I came back to the garage I said, ‘oh my God, with the first tyre at 1m38.2s, we’re going to have to go 1m37s’.

“And with the second tyre I made many mistakes on the first flying lap and on the second flying lap it was probably the best lap of my life.”

For much of the session, it looked like reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia would take pole on the factory Ducati having set the best pace at the end of the first runs of Q2.

But a blistering final lap from Espargaro saw him snatch the position away by 0.031 seconds from Bagnaia, while Trackhouse Racing’s Raul Fernandez was third.

Championship leader Jorge Martin crashed his Pramac Ducati late on at Turn 2 and was left in seventh.

Failing to get out Q1 for the second round in a row, Gresini’s Marc Marquez will have to start from 14th for this weekend’s sprint and grand prix.

Marc Marquez, Gresini Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Ducati’s Enea Bastianini set the reference lap at the start of the 15-minute Q2 at 1m40.335s, though the lap record had already been bested in the preceding Q1 session by Fabio Di Giannantonio with the 1m38.208s that knocked Marquez out.

On his first flying lap, Martin put in a 1m38.401s to go 0.374s clear of the field, before Pedro Acosta bettered this with a 1m38.369s on his Tech3 GasGas.

Seconds later, Bagnaia put in a 1m38.221s with around nine minutes remaining to assume control of the session.

After a brief lull on track as the riders took on fresh rubber, Bagnaia’s pole was given a degree of comfort when Martin crashed at Turn 2 with just over two minutes to go.

The Pramac rider lost the front as he changed direction into the Turn 2 right-hander, while team-mate Franco Morbidelli slid off behind him – albeit later into the corner.

Bagnaia was unable to improve on his second run laps, while Espargaro leaped up to second on his penultimate tour before setting the best first sector of the session on his…

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