Martin heads Marini and Aleix Espargaro, Bezzecchi and Binder pip Bagnaia as the Championship leader gets bumped down to sixth
Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) has won the first battle of the OR Thailand Grand Prix as his 1:29.287 saw him top the pile in qualifying to take the new all-time lap record. With points to be scored and Championship positions to fight for, it could be key as Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) starts down in sixth but still holds that 27-point advantage.
Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) lines up alongside Martin in the middle of the front row after a late attack for glory, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) snatching the final front row spot to back up a positive Friday from the number 41 too.
The gloves were off in Q1 as some of MotoGP™’s finest engaged in an intense time-attack battle. Red sectors came flying in as the chequered flag beckoned, with the likes of Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Raul Fernandez (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team), and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) all looking to threaten.
However, it was set to be Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and Di Giannantonio who were going to go through until a last-minute stunner from Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) saw him top the session, demoting his brother to P2 and his teammate out of a Q2 spot.
As Q2 began, Martin came out of the blocks guns blazing as he made his intentions known, setting the first benchmark and beating the all-time lap record.
As they came back into pitlane after the first runs it was the Spaniard leading the way, with Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) his closest challengers. The battle was nowhere near over, however, and it would go right to the wire.
With the second stint underway it was Bezzecchi who struck first as he bettered Martin’s time, but by just 0.008s. Bagnaia then decided it was time to join the party as he joined his title rivals in the top three too.
The red sectors came flying in once again though, and it was Martin lighting up the timing screens once again. The Spaniard had the bit firmly between his teeth as he pulled out a stunner to smash the lap record, move the goalposts by two tenths, and ultimately take pole position for the Thai GP.
With Bezzecchi and Bagnaia failing to go any quicker and hot laps coming in from all directions, naturally the order reshuffled in the final moments. Marini and Aleix Espargaro put in their flyers right at the end as they stormed onto the front row, demoting Bezzechhi to P4.
Binder was another who improved in the closing stages as the South African slotted in just behind Bezzecchi to demote Championship leader Bagnaia down another spot to P6, making it a blockbuster second row comprising three of the four riders still in mathematical contention for the crown. The other? He starts from pole.
Behind Martin, Marini and Aleix Espargaro there’s Bezzecchi, Binder and Bagnaia all raring to gain places from the off and with some serious track records of having done so.
Row 3 is headed by Alex Marquez, with the number 73 pipping Marc Marquez by just 0.022 as the duo also made it through from Q1. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) is alongside the two, with the margin back to Top Gun just 0.079 as he takes ninth. Viñales will most definitely be looking for more when the lights go out after proving second quickest on Friday.
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) will be disappointed with P10 after the Frenchman said on Friday that a good qualifying could help him push for a podium, and he heads Phillip Island winner Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) and Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) on Row 4.
Martin starts from the front once more, Bagnaia is looking to move through and the likes of Marini, Aleix Espargaro and Binder all want to stand in his way. Make sure to tune in for a pivotal Saturday showdown!
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