Aleix Espargaro rode his Aprilia into pole position for the Catalonia MotoGP after a “crazy” lap in a track record time in Saturday’s qualifying for the ninth round of the world championship.
The Spaniard will be joined on the front row on Sunday by Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia, who won last week in Italy, and the Yamaha of world champion Fabio Quartararo.
Espargaro lies eight points adrift of Quartararo in the standings and will have high hopes of lifting his local race after emerging fastest in practice.
In the third session he blitzed to a new lap record of 1min 38.771 at the circuit outside Barcelona in scorching conditions with track temperature hitting 55 degrees celsius.
And then he promptly broke his own mark shortly after in qualifying with a time of 01:38.742, to deny Bagnaia by 0.031sec.
“I did a totally crazy lap, slipping around everywhere and in truth I didn’t really appreciate this lap, I was on the limit on each bend,” said the pole-sitter.
This was the 32-year-old’s fourth career pole and second of 2022.
Quartararo approaches Sunday’s race with optimism, saying: “I still have a card to play”.
Ducatis dominate the second row with Prima Primac’s Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin either side of Gresini Racing’s Fabio di Giannantonio.
Starting towards the rear of the grid after qualifying 21st is Stefan Bradl called up to replace Honda’s Marc Marquez.
The six-time world champion underwent surgery on his right arm in the United States with doctors declaring on Friday the operation was a success.
Marquez will remain in America for a few days before returning to Spain to continue his recovery. He is expected to miss the rest of the 2022 season.
Alex Marquez, his brother, was also absent from qualifying after falling hard in fourth practice with the Honda-LCR rider taken to the medical centre