AFP/ Misano Adriatico, Italy
Francesco Bagnaia gave himself a huge chance of prolonging the MotoGP title race yesterday after claiming his fourth consecutive pole position in a stunning comeback at Misano.
Ducati’s Bagnaia had topped the times in the first qualifying session for the Emilia-Romagna race to get into Q2 following a poor run in the morning’s third practice.
He then charged to a best time of one minute, 33.045 seconds to take first place on the grid, just 0.25sec ahead of his teammate Jack Miller.
The Italian, 24, is 52 points behind championship leader Fabio Quartararo with three races remaining this season and with the Yamaha rider starting Sunday’s race in 15th Bagnaia can extend their battle for at least a week.
He needs to keep the gap in the overall standings between him and Quartararo to less than 50 and will fancy his chances of doing so as he beat the Frenchman on the same circuit in the San Marino MotoGP in September.
“It’s brilliant, a fantastic day,” said Bagnaia.
“We deserved pole, we’re very quick and we will be ready tomorrow. The bike goes great here at Misano.”
It was a great afternoon for Ducati on home soil as all three front row places were claimed by the Italian team, with Luca Marini, Valentino Rossi’s half-brother who rides for the Avintia satellite team finishing third on 1:33.130.
“I kept feeling like I had a little bit more left in the tank, that I could cut a bit of my time but it wasn’t to be today,” Miller said. “It’s great to see all three Ducatis up here and hopefully we can finish like that tomorrow as well.”
A strong finish for motorcycling legend Rossi in his last ever MotoGP in Italy looks unlikely as the seven-time champion will start in 23rd position on the grid. Rossi, 42, will say ‘ciao’ to his army of local fans on Sunday as the Italian sporting icon prepares to bring down the curtain on one of the sport’s greatest careers.
Rossi has failed to set the track alight during his slow march towards retirement at the end of the season and sits 21st in the overall standings after only making the top 10 twice all season.
One of the many riders to fall on a treacherous track which alternated between wet and dry at different points, six-time champion Marc Marquez will start seventh on the grid.
Pedro Acosta could win the Moto3 title on Sunday at just 17 years old, the Spanish rookie starting fifth and needing 21 more points than Dennis Foggia - who is 15th on the grid - to claim the championship.
1. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati) 1min 33.045sec, 2. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati) 1:33.070, 3. Luca Marini (ITA/Ducati-Avintia) 1:33.130
4. Pol Espargaro (ESP/Honda) 1:33.313, 5. Miguel Oliveira (POR/KTM) 1:33.439, 6. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha) 1:33.526
7. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 1:33.850, 8. Iker Lecuona (ESP/KTM-Tech3) 1:33.893, 9. Danilo Petrucci (ITA/KTM-Tech3) 1:34.140
10. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Pramac) 1:34.687, 11. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 1:34.963, 12. Jorge Martin (ESP/Ducati-Pramac) 2:24.631
15. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha) 1:34.476
23. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 1:38.261.
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