Bagnaia bags 2021 pole hat-trick with COTA Q2 barnstormer
Pecco becomes the first Ducati rider since Lorenzo to claim three or more successive poles, but rival Quartararo is right there with him
Austin, Texas, USA, 3rd October, 2021 : Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) will start from pole position at the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas after setting a blistering 2:02.781 in MotoGP™ Q2. Pecco becomes the first Italian to claim three MotoGP™ poles in a row since Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in 2009, and Bagnaia will start alongside World Championship leader and rival Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) qualifies off pole position at COTA for the first time, but it’s a first front row of the season for the eight-time World Champion in third.
Marini and Mir come through Q1
Reigning World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) found himself in Q1 and in the opening 15 minutes of qualifying, the Spaniard made no mistake – but Mir wasn’t the fastest rider to go through. Rookie Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Avintia) set a 2:03.410 to sail into Q2 a tenth and a half quicker than anyone else, as we saw Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) crash unhurt.
Bagnaia stars, Miller left disappointed
A few quiet moments later, the Texas pole position battle commenced. Rookie sensation Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) set the initial 2:03.278 benchmark time while shadowing six-time COTA winner Marc Marquez. The latter then demoted Martin from P1 with a 2:03.209, with fellow HRC rider Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) climbing into provisional P3.
After the first runs, Free Practice pacesetter Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) was P8, 0.511s down on Marquez’ lap time. Quartararo and Bagnaia were sitting P5 and P6 respectively, Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) was just ahead of the title-chasing duo in P4. Fresh Michelin rubber was then slotted into the respective machines and the riders emerged from pitlane with just under five minutes to go. Who would go on to claim pole in Austin?
Pecco was giving it a proper crack. The Italian was 0.295s under Marquez’ lap halfway around COTA’s 5.5km layout, and at the third split, he was 0.4s under. Crossing the line, Bagnaia launched to provisional pole position and soon after, Quartararo slotted into P2 – 0.3s off his rival. Marc Marquez was unable to improve his lap time, the number 93 could do no better than P3, with Miller encountering issues on his second run.
Attentions turned to Quartararo though, who had crossed the line in time to get another lap under his belt. A red first sector time was followed by two personal best sectors, however, the Frenchman was unable to improve. Nevertheless, P2 for Quartararo is plenty good enough all things considered, with Bagnaia bringing his A-game to qualifying once again – that’s three Saturday P1s in a row now for the man hunting Quartararo in the Championship.
How the rest of the top 12 will line up
Martin will lead the second row from Nakagami and Zarco, with the two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders lining up P7 and P8 on Row 3 – Alex Rins beating teammate Mir by 0.075s. Marini’s P9 is his second best qualifying result of the year, a fantastic job done by the Italian in Austin so far this weekend, with a very disappointed Miller having to settle for P10. The Australian’s Q2 didn’t go to plan at all, and Miller has plenty of work to do on Sunday after showing superior pace up to this point. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) will line up P11 and P12 for the GP of The Americas.
Quartararo vs Bagnaia – don’t miss the GP of The Americas!
A crucial MotoGP™ battle awaits in Texas, one that could – and probably will – have huge bearings on the 2021 World Championship outcome.
1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – 2:02.781
2. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.348
3. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.428
4. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) + 0.497
5. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.511
6. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.598
7. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.672
8. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.747
9. Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Avintia) + 0.765
10. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.939
11. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 1.000
12. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 1.094