A 1: 52.772 – the fastest two-wheeled lap of all time on the Losail International Circuit. It’s a time owned by Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) after MotoGP Q2 at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar. In his first qualifying in works red, the Italian storms into first pole position in the premier class. Bagnaia beats second place Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) by 0.266 seconds while fellow Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Viñales takes third as qualifying starts with an almighty bang in 2021.
Reigning World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) took part in qualifying about 20 minutes before his scheduled start before the hellish Q2 session began. The number 36 had to compete at the season opener in the first quarter. And for me it wasn’t a walk in the park – far from it. Two rookies in the form of Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) and Enea Bastianini (Esponsorama Racing) took turns leading the session, with Mir returning to first place with just 0.005 seconds on his best lap of the weekend.
After setting two red sectors, Martin fell uninjured on his last lap, Bastianini could not improve. Out of nowhere, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was the man to watch out for, and the Japanese star grabbed first place on his final flyer in the first quarter to move Bastianini from a second place promotion. The 0.005 deficit on Me turned out to be the difference. I pushed my way through the skin of his teeth into the second quarter, and Bastianini and Martin announced themselves in the first-class scene in the first 15 minutes of qualifying.
So Nakagami and Mir joined the top 10 riders from free practice for the main course on Saturday: MotoGP Qualifying 2. In that session, Bagnaia took one lap to break the all-time record. The Italian put a 1: 53.273 on preparing us for a phenomenal first qualifying of the season. Although P1 time was an all-time lap record, the timing screens were illuminated with red sector times.
Bagnaia didn’t improve on his next lap, but teammate Miller did, the Aussie took first place, but Quartararo was an amazing four-tenths below in Sector 3. The Frenchman lost some time at the straight-line speed in Sector 4, but Quartararo still shot first with a 1: 53.038 – another all-time record. After the first few flight laps it was a Yamaha and Ducati Fest at the top, where Aleix Espargaro placed his Aprilia Racing Team Gresini machine in 6th place ahead of Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing). In front of these two sat Quartararo, Miller, Viñales, Bagnaia and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT). A monstrous opening set of rounds from the leaders.
Then new rubber was put in and we strapped ourselves in for the second set of Q2 barnstorming laps. Viñales was the leader on the street and the first to show us what he had left in his locker. The Spaniard made it a factory Yamaha 1-2. Attention turned to Bagnaia with Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in tow and the Ducati rider unleashed a stunning lap to return to 1st place by 0.266 seconds. Rossi’s attempt put him in 3rd place when The Doctor downgraded Viñales from the front row, but Top Gun returned the favor to his old teammates on his final lap to push Rossi down in 4th place.
The first row then remained unchallenged for the remaining seconds. Bagnaia said “we will beat the record in the second quarter” on Friday and Pecco kept his word. What an opportunity for the Italian to achieve his first pole position in the premier class, the fastest two-wheeled lap ever at the Losail International Circuit. Unreal scenes. Quartararo and Viñales were happy with their front row starts and are hoping to beat Bagnaia’s rocket at Turn 1 as The Doctor joins two of his three Yamaha colleagues in the top four. A 1: 53.114 is by far the fastest that Rossi drove in Losail, an old dog can learn new tricks.
Miller and Zarco join the 42-year-old in the second row. The two Bologna balls have been hoping for more in the second quarter as the Australian failed to improve on his first run but the middle of the second row is far from a disaster. For Zarco, the new MotoGPtop speed record holder with 362.4 km / h, his last flight lap was his best and it secured him a P6 starting position. It was a time that Morbidelli threw into the third row.
The Italian leads Row 3 and he is accompanied by Aleix Espargaro. Eighth place for the Spaniard and Aprilia is a good job, and when you put things in perspective it’s even more impressive: the top eight were all below Marc Marquez’s old lap record – including the older Espargaro. Something that you can be very proud of and that you can really build on for the Noale Camp.
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is the last member in row 3 in P9, with Mir being forced to be content with P10 – 0.910 seconds behind from pole position. Go back to work for both Suzukis on a Sunday, but if we learned one thing in 2020, never discount the GSX-RR duo on racing gear. Nakagami is the lead Honda ahead of the 2021 inaugural race, he and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) will shoot off the line in P11 and P12.
We were expecting fireworks, but wow. That was something of a new Losail lap record ever and a top speed record in an hour. It’s safe to say that MotoGP is getting off to an amazing start in the desert as the focus is now on race day. Bagnaia has done the hard work so far, but can he help Ducati hold their formidable Qatar record in 24 hours under the light? Behind him are quite a number of drivers who are more than capable of winning the Qatar GP. It will just be a must-see event.
1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) – 1: 52.772
2. Fabio Quartararo (MotoGP by Monster Energy Yamaha) + 0.266
3. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.316
4. Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.342
5. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.443
6. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.514
7. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.541
8. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.543
9. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.718
10. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.910
11. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.949
12th Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 1,158
The action of the MotoGP Qatar Main Race will take place LIVE on EUROSPORT and EUROSPORT HD on Sunday, March 28th, 2021 from 7.15pm (7:15 pm IST). The same will be broadcast live on Discovery + App.