Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) is the new lap-record holder at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve as the Frenchman put in a stunner to take his 11th MotoGP™ pole position. It was a dramatic qualifying at the Grande Premio 888 de Portugal.

Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) emerged as the closest challenger in second, within a tenth of Quartararo, and Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) locking out the front row as the Championship leader continues his run of fast form – this time despite a crash. The first headlines came in Q1, however. Reigning MotoGP™ Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and returning, eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) both found themselves in the session, and the fireworks didn’t quite go off but a fuse was definitely lit. Marquez followed the Suzuki throughout their first runs and the two were split by just a tenth and a half in Marquez’ favour, before the number 93 also shadowed the Suzuki rider back into pitlane, side by side. They were 1-2, Marquez-Mir.



On the next runs, a number of riders threatened but it remained the two Champions on top, with Mir improving but remaining just in arrears, this time by only 0.049. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) couldn’t quite break the Marc Marquez-Mir stranglehold, and the two sailed through as Alex Marquez, Pol Espargaro and Binder were left with 13th, 14th and 15th on the grid.


Shannons

And so Q2 began. Home hero Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the leader on the road but Aleix Espargaro’s (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) first lap was a quick one – a 1:39.452 put the Spaniard P1 initially, but not for long. The benchmark was set by Quartararo, the best of the weekend so far, as he put in a 1:39.028 on his first flying lap. Meanwhile, after setting two red sectors, Zarco then crashed unhurt at Turn 11… but crucially the Frenchman was able to ride his GP21 back to pitlane.

Meanwhile, Bagnaia went P2 to cut Quartararo’s advantage down to just 0.117s, with the latter having a snap on the entry to Turn 8. That ruined his second flying lap, and then Bagnaia’s lap got cancelled, as did Maverick Viñales’ (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) because of yellow flags waving for Zarco’s crash. Mir then slotted in behind second place Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) to provisionally sit on the front row, but there was plenty of action left to play. After waiting it out, Marc Marquez – who was yet to set a time – then emerged from pitlane alongside eighth place Rins. And once again, alongside meant alongside for the Honda and Suzuki…



Quartararo, however, emerged ready to lay down another marker. El Diablo was 0.137s under his own time through Sector 3 and coming across the line, it was a new all-time lap record for the Frenchman. Oliveira then snuck into P5, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) went P2, and Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) – after an impressive performance to go straight through to Q2 – shot up to a magical P4. The cameras panned to Rins, Marc Marquez and Quartararo next and shadowing the Suzuki, Marc Marquez climbed onto the front row. Just behind the Spaniard, Quartararo was lurking although he couldn’t improve that time round. That’s when Q2 started to make a few headlines of its own.


McLeods BikeBiz

Oliveira suddenly slid out at the bottom of the hill at Turn 9, although the Portuguese rider was ok, as Zarco bounced back from his own crash to slot into second. Morbidelli knocked Marquez onto the third row as the Italian took fifth, and Bagnaia was on a serious rampage. Three tenths up heading into the final sector, the Italian slammed in a new lap record – and then the lap got cancelled. Yellow flags were to blame, although it remained understandably contentious for the Italian after the fact. That left him in P11, and there was more heartbreak as Viñales instead ran afoul of track limits by the smallest of margins, leaving him down in P12.

And so Quartararo, who said it did feel a little different to his ten previous MotoGP™ poles after the drama and pace of Bagnaia, takes the top honours on Saturday and holds the new lap record. Rins snuck in a stunner to take second though, the Suzuki rider just 0.089s behind the Yamaha but nevertheless taking his equal best MotoGP™ qualifying result. Championship leader Zarco bounced back from his crash into a great position on the outside of the front row, likely remembering fondly the Ducati holeshot heroics in Qatar.


BMW Q2

Speaking of which, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) will spearhead Row 2, and he’s joined by Morbidelli and Marc Marquez as the former slots back into his rightful place nearer the front and… so does the latter. What can the eight-time World Champion do over race distance? Points? Top ten? Top five? Podium…?

Aleix Espargaro qualifies seventh for the second consecutive race in a row, another great job done by the Spaniard on the Aprilia. Marini recovered from a rapid FP4 crash to claim his best MotoGP™ qualifying result in P8 and get a good reward for his much quicker weekend so far, and the rookie lines up ahead of Mir on the third row. Worth remembering, however, that the reigning World Champion has take more than half of his MotoGP™ podiums from outside the first two rows…


MNA Q2

In tenth it’s not a repeat Portugal pole position for Oliveira after his crash, but he was perfectly ok and will be raring to go on Sunday afternoon from P10. Bagnaia slots into P11, ahead of Viñales in P12. Both will have a point to prove as the lights go out, and after the stunning starts from Oliveira and Bagnaia we’ve seen so far in 2021, they’ll be aiming to hit quick. Viñales, meanwhile, will likley be more of a pace man based on the form book… but could very much still threaten as Yamaha seem to have made some strides at the Algarve on take two. Viñales’ best lap had been quicker than pole…

Finally, there was some bad news for Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin on Saturday morning. Following a huge crash in FP3, the Spaniard was declared unfit and has a fractured foot and finger. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him back on track soon.

Fabio Quartararo: “First of all, it’s pole but it doesn’t feel like usual, we saw Bagnaia was extremely fast on one lap! I’m more happy about FP3 and FP4. The main goal was the front row and we achieved it, and of course pole position. It feels really good but it’s a shame because on the last lap I had a big shake out the last corner and we could have improved the laptime but I’m feeling happy, I know the pace I can have and that one is for my team.”


MotoGP™ front row (Full Results Here)
1 Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – 1:38.862
2 Alex Rins – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – +0.089
3 Johann Zarco* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – +0.129


Moto2 Saturday
Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) has made it three from three in 2021 as the Championship leader took pole once more for the Grande Premio 888 de Portugal. It was close though, with Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) just 0.023 off as the 2020 winner at the track remains the man closest on the chase. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) went from Q1 to P3 as he completes the front row.

In Q1, Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) came out on top, the Thai rider moving through along with Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team), Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) and Xavi Vierge. Jorge Navarro (Lightech Speed Up) crashed, as did Lorenzo Baldassarri (MV Agusta Forward Racing), riders ok but the former especially losing out as he didn’t set a time. Nevertheless, the clock rolled on and Q2 began.

Lowes was the early leader in Q2 as the first laps of the second part of qualifying were fired in, but Gardner soon took after after setting a 1:43.032. However, the fight between Gardner and Lowes had already begun. The British rider was back on top by 0.114s after two flying laps, but the number 22 had a hairy moment heading into the tight Turn 5 left-hander on his third flyer. Responding, Gardner improved his lap time to lie just 0.006s behind Lowes.

Q1 graduate Vierge was in P3 already, having shown some impressive pace in the early stages of Q2, and the Spaniard was ahead of two rookies in the form of Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Albert Arenas. The reigning Moto3™ World Champion was shuffled down to P7 rather rapidly though as Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) moved to P5 and P6 respectively.


Avon Cobra Chrome

Another great lap from Lowes came in next and his advantage over Gardner grew to 0.023s – not a lot – but the Brit was then down at Turn 11, ending his session a little early. No one could better him regardless, although Gardner runs him closest in P2 once again and the top two in the title fight so far line up side by side. Vierge joins them on the front row.

Ogura takes fourth and that’s the Japanese rookie’s best Moto2™ qualifying performance, just 0.220s down on Lowes and showing his Doha GP speed was no flash in the pan. Bezzecchi and Augusto Fernandez join Ogura on Row 2, which is Augusto Fernandez’s best Saturday result of the year. Arenas is another rookie to bag his best Moto2™ qualifying in P7, the Spaniard beating one of the pre-qualifying favourites in Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) by just 0.010s. The American is P8 on the grid, just ahead of Aron Canet (Solunion Aspar Team) and a seemingly disappointed 10th fastest Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo). The rookie sensation, who won in Moto3™ at the track last year in some style, will be hoping to shoot through to the podium fight on Sunday.

Chantra, Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP 40), Cameron Beaubier (American Racing), Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) complete the fastest 15 in Q2.

Sam Lowes: “It was a bit different from this morning, yesterday I think the grip was down in general, the laptimes were not so fast. Today was more similar to last year, laptimes were similar. This afternoon maybe a bit of temperature and a bit of wind and the laptimes were a bit slower but I felt good. We improved the bike a lo over the weekend. It was the first time with a new tyre and low fuel in qualifying, the bike was feeling good and we could make a good rhythm. I’m happy with the work we’ve done and I’m looking forward to the race.”


Moto2™ front row: (Full Results Here)
1 Sam Lowes – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 1:42.901
2 Remy Gardner – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – +0.023
3 Xavi Vierge – Petronas Sprinta Racing – Kalex – +0.174


Moto3 Saturday
Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) put in a pretty imperious qualifying at the Grande Premio 888 de Portugal, the Italian on top after the first runs and coming over the line in the final push to secure his second Grand Prix pole position. He pulled out a tenth and a half on last year’s podium finisher Dennis Foggia as the Leopard Racing rider takes second, with Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) third quickest but set to start from pitlane – plus a five second delay – on Sunday.

In Q1 it was Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) who went quickest to lead the four graduates through, the Italian pipping Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) on his second run. Joining the two were Filip Salač (Rivacold Snipers Team) and Adrian Fernandez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), with Andi Farid Izdihar (Honda Team Asia) losing out by just 0.008.

Once Q2 began and the first runs were done, Migno was already top of the pile. The Italian has had good pace all weekend and as the grid filed back out for one final push, was very much the man to beat. Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Racing) didn’t quite make the cut as he ran out of time to make it to the line though, and a couple more key rivals for Migno’s provisional pole wouldn’t make it round either as Salač collided with Friday pacesetter Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) and both went down. The Argentinean had looked like a good bet to threaten for pole, but instead headed for a check up at the Medical Centre, rider ok.


Kawasaki Ninja 400

Meanwhile, the freight train thundered on and over the line, a few improved but only Alcoba was able to take over from Migno at the top. It didn’t last long though and Migno hit back to better his own time and snatch back pole position. Foggia splits the two, but with Alcoba to start from pitlane it will be fourth quickest Sergio Garcia (GASGAS Valresa Aspar Team) who takes the final place on the front row.

Rodrigo was fifth quickest in the end, just 0.009 off Garcia, but the Argentinean will start fourth as Alcoba leaves the grid for pitlane. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) was sixth quickest but is another with a pitlane start – his with a delay of 10 seconds – so Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) capitalises. Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing), who’s second in the standings, has had a slightly more muted weekend in Portugal so far and was next up.

Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing) put in one of his best performances of the year so far and was ninth fastest and set to move up, with Q1 graduate Sasaki tenth quickest after a significantly better Saturday than in Qatar. Speaking of Qatar… the Red Bull KTM Ajo duo of Pedro Acosta and Jaume Masia took a win apiece in the desert, but it’s not been quite the same pace yet in Portugal. Masia got the upper hand as he was 11th, and Acosta 12th although he didn’t take the fastest rookie honours this time around. However, the Spaniard did just win from pitlane, so that seems more molehill than mountain…

Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was next up ahead of Fenati, with rookie Izan Guevara (GASGAS Valresa Aspar Team) just behind the veteran Italian. Adrian Fernandez pipped Antonelli, with Salač relegated to last in Q2 after his earlier exploits saw him lose out on a second push.


Moto3™ top three: (Full Results Here)
1 Andrea Migno – Rivacold Snipers Team – Honda – 1:47.423
2 Dennis Foggia – Leopard Racing – Honda – +0.149
3 Jeremy Alcoba – Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3 – Honda – +0.279


Kawasaki Ninja 400

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