Martin breaks lap record to claim pole for MotoGP opener


Pramac Ducati MotoGP rider Jorge Martin broke the Qatar lap record in the opening qualifying of the 2024 season after a feisty battle for pole.

Martin bettered the existing track benchmark – set by Pecco Bagnaia in the preceding pre-season test – with his very first attempt in Q2, posting a 1m50.789s.

It looked like it would be a long shot for rivals to reach, but some came close – although Martin himself was also on pace to improve on his final attempt when a yellow flag for a Brad Binder crash negated his lap.

Further down the order, Marc Marquez will line up sixth for his long-awaited Ducati debut, while Pedro Acosta was eighth in his first-ever qualifying.

Due to a revision to the schedule as a result of Friday evening rain, qualifying took place following an extended 45-minute session that determined 10 of the 12 Q2 spots – with Marquez and Binder just narrowly squeezing in.

VR46 Ducati’s Fabio Di Giannantonio was Martin’s closest rival after those initial Q2 runs, but it was ultimately Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro and Ducati’s Enea Bastianini who posed the sternest challenge, both lapping within a tenth.

Binder, despite his crash, salvaged a fourth place, while reigning champion Pecco Bagnaia was left to rue a minor corner exit error on his fastest lap as he ended up fifth.

Marquez tucked in behind Bastianini for his fastest lap, and even looked like threatening for pole – 0.034s up on Martin after three sectors – but ran out of steam for an eventual sixth place.

Di Giannantonio was shuffled down to seventh after failing to improve on his second run.

Debutant Acosta in eighth was followed by Alex Marquez (Gresini Ducati), Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) and Jack Miller (KTM), Miller having fought through Q1 after a late crash in pre-qualifying practice.

Also coming through Q1, as its pace-setter, was Raul Fernandez for the new Trackhouse Aprilia team. Fernandez then crashed in Q2 and was 12th, despite being just 0.732s off pole.

Johann Zarco seemed to play his cards perfectly in Q1 and was oh-so-close to giving Honda an unlikely Q2 presence after tucking in behind Trackhouse’s Miguel Oliveira for his fastest lap.

But LCR rider Zarco was ultimately thwarted by Miller by just 0.011s – despite Fernandez having a big moment right in front of Miller on the latter’s final lap.

Oliveira will join Zarco on the fifth row, which will be completed by VR46 Ducati rider Marco Bezzecchi.

The Italian, who has had his difficulties adapting to the 2023 Ducati he’s been handed this year, missed out on a direct spot in Q2 in practice despite running in good friend Pecco Bagnaia’s tow – and was then outmatched in Q1, nearly four tenths off advancing.

Fabio Quartararo was the lead Yamaha in a lowly 16th, with team-mate Alex Rins in 20th for his Yamaha debut, his Q1 seemingly compromised by what looked like a late technical issue.

A tucked-front crash at the final corner left Honda’s Joan Mir only 17th. Team-mate Luca Marini (on pole in Qatar last year as part of VR46 Ducati) had become the first MotoGP rider to crash in a race weekend in 2024 earlier in practice, and was ultimately nine tenths down on Mir in 21st.

He was just narrowly ahead of last-placed Franco Morbidelli, the Pramac Ducati man still playing catch-up after a road bike crash wrote off his entire pre-season.





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