More, from a press release issued by Dorna:
Crash, fire… pole?! Alex Marquez denies Bezzecchi to take first MotoGP™ pole position
AM73 thunders from Q1 to pole, edging out Bezzecchi as Bagnaia completes the front row at a damp Termas de Rio Hondo
Saturday, 01 April 2023
After a barnstormer in Portugal, qualifying at the Gran Premio Michelin® de la Republica Argentina kept the adrenaline coming! This time with a damp track to contend with, it still went down to the wire and it’s Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) who takes his first premier class pole position! From a crash in Q1, a fire affecting his first bike and then a gamble on slicks with wet settings, it all came together for the number 73 in Q2 as his final push just denied Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team). Reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) made late gains to lock out the front row.
Here’s how it happened:
There were plenty of eyes on Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) as one of the biggest names in the session after a tough Friday, and the Frenchman delivered. He didn’t top the session, however, that honour went to Alex Marquez – and he was also a key protagonist for quite different reasons, well before his Q2 heroics.
After a slow-ish crash for the number 73, when the camera cut back to the slow-moving Ducati a little later, the machine was on fire. He pulled over and marshals were quick on the scene to extinguish the blaze, but as the fastest in the session he then had to reset and take to his second bike to head out into Q2. And lower his heart rate a little.
Some notable, unexpected struggles for two of the most proven riders in tougher conditions leave Brad Binder and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate Jack Miller down in P16 and P17, respectively, and 2020 MotoGP™ Champion Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team) was eighth of the eight riders in the session. They’ll be looking for some serious gains in both the Tissot Sprint and the Grand Prix race.
The track remained damp as the field headed out for Q2, with 12 riders ready for the battle for pole. After some first runs that saw the field split across some scrappier margins than usually seen in the close competition of MotoGP™, the final five minutes then saw the timing screens light up again.
Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) was top as the rest took aim at his laptime, and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) came close but the first to topple the Frenchman was Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™). He shot to provisional with a stunning margin in hand of more than eight tenths, but still it wasn’t done.
The next mover was Alex Marquez. He was back in business and took over in second, cutting the gap to Morbidelli down to two and a half tenths. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) went for it next, also getting ahead of Zarco but slotting into a provisional third place.
With seconds left on the clock, all eyes were left on two riders: Bezzecchi and Alex Marquez. Bezzecchi was on an absolute stormer, and as the Italian crossed the line the gap he had on provisional pole looked more likely a mistake than the truth. But it was both true and a stunning lap as the VR46 academy rider moved the goalposts by a whopping 1.929 seconds.
Getting close to record margins on provisional pole still wasn’t enough for Bezzecchi to take it, however. Alex Marquez thundered round the last few corners with those red sectors still very much showing up, and as he crossed the line that was it: his first premier class pole position, from crash to fire to fastest in the world in the space of only a few minutes.
Bezzecchi takes second ahead of reigning Champion Bagnaia, who was also a late improver, with Morbidelli heading up Row 2. Viñales starts fifth, with Zarco shuffled down to sixth by the end of the session.
Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) and Aleix Espargaro complete Row 2, ahead of Quartararo as he faces another two showdowns from a tougher grid position. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) completed the Q2 runners!
After that rollercoaster qualifying, we’re certainly set up with an intriguing grid for this weekend – and the lights will go out for the first time later today. Don’t miss the Sprint at 15:00!
ALEX MARQUEZ: “I’m super happy. Q1 was so difficult with the wet tyres and I wasn’t convinced to be on dry, it was too wet, I made a mistake at the last corner but one when I was trying to overtake Mir and in that moment, woah… I was coming really fast, maybe I don’t go to Q2. But fortunately I did it.
“I had a problem with the bike with the fire, so it wasn’t easy when you’re in Q2 and have these conditions and just one bike! I did my best with the wet tyres, later on I went in and I said there’s no time to change the tyres! But we changed the tyres, we put the slicks in with the wet set up and it was working so I’m really happy for that. I’m looking forward to the Sprint and the race!”
MARCO BEZZECCHI: “Honestly the first lap was not very fun because the first part of the track was very wet, but I saw a small possibility and I said ‘ok, I’ll try’. Unfortunately I had an issue in the pitlane with Taka and we lost some time to change the bike, so I took the chequered flag very early but anyway with these conditions to be so fast it’s always nice, so I’m very happy.”
FRANCESCO BAGNAIA: “I was a bit scared to change to the slick tyres considering the amount of wet patches on the track, it was a bit risky. On the last lap I took a lot of risk on entry to corner 2 but in any case I’m very happy. The objective was to start on the front row, we did it so I’m happy. Let’s continue focusing on the race and if conditions are like this it could be very tricky!”