Honda MotoGP rider Marc Marquez took a shock pole position in the opening qualifying session of the 2023 season at Portimao.
Marquez had to make his way through Q1 and spent most of Q2 at the very bottom of the standings, but managed to catch a tow from Ducati’s Enea Bastianini to snatch pole position from Bastianini’s team-mate Pecco Bagnaia.
The 1m37.226s was, unsurprisingly, a new lap record – after lap records had been set in testing, Friday practice and then even Q1.
I don't think Marc Márquez's Dad was quite expecting that 😅#PortugueseGP pic.twitter.com/Fr0gl3XgaQ
— MotoGP on BT Sport (@btsportmotogp) March 25, 2023
“I don’t know, I cannot explain because I don’t understand, honestly speaking,” said Marquez of his pole. “I don’t understand the situation.
“Yesterday we were struggling a lot – today it’s true that I started to ride in a better way, and the guys did an incredible job to improve small details.
“But it’s true that to do a very fast lap, with Honda at the moment we need a slipstream. It’s not the best way, it’s not the most polite way to do a laptime. But, you know, it’s one of my strongest points. If the strongest point is there, I need to take profit.”
Jack Miller, who had shocked MotoGP by topping the aforementioned Friday practice, kept the dream of a first KTM pole since 2020 alive by going fastest on the opening runs – but his bid for first place was definitively ruined when he fell at Turn 3 late on.
Game over for @jackmilleraus! 🛑#PortugueseGP 🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/X1gKQJDMGG
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) March 25, 2023
Bagnaia jumped ahead him soon after, and the title favourite looked absolutely nailed on for pole position until Marquez’s last-gasp stunner. Bagnaia himself came up on traffic on his final lap.
Pramac Ducati rider Jorge Martin completed the top three, followed by home hero Miguel Oliveira on the RNF-run 2022 Aprilia, with Miller and Bastianini completing the second row.
Maverick Vinales was the lead works Aprilia in seventh, followed by the VR46 Ducatis of Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini. Marini, just 0.396s off pole in ninth, had a crash in the pre-qualifying FP3, as did both Bagnaia and Bastianini.
Johann Zarco of Pramac Ducati completed a top 10 with six Ducatis in it, with Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo only 11th, 0.040s behind Zarco. Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro completed the Q2 order, potentially knocked off his stride by an early crash in Q2.
Amazing job from @AleixEspargaro to keep the bike running! 👏
Just doing that has given him enough time to get back and have another go! 😎#PortugueseGP 🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/ZtLoQ53EmN
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) March 25, 2023
After an ultra-promising pre-season test at Portimao, Gresini Ducati rider Alex Marquez was defeated by Oliveira in a last-gasp battle for the final Q1 transfer spot, ending up 13th on the grid.
He was a tenth up on new Honda works rider Joan Mir, who was followed by his team-mate, the elder Marquez, on his first Q1 run, ended up with a time four tenths off, and didn’t manage to improve it the second time around.
Brad Binder, who went to hospital on Friday to get his neck checked out and continues to struggle with what KTM motorsport boss Pit Beirer speculated may be a pinched nerve, rallied to 15th.
Behind him will be a sixth row of LCR Honda duo Alex Rins and Takaaki Nakagami sandwiching Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli – who has now qualified out of the top 10 in 21 out of his last 22 attempts, his single-lap struggles continuing.
Tech3 Gas Gas rookie Augusto Fernandez avoided the ‘wooden spoon’ on his debut, beating both RNF Aprilia’s Raul Fernandez and Gresini Ducati’s Fabio Di Giannantonio, the latter having struggled to replicate his pre-season form after a heavy crash ended his test at Portimao early.
Gas Gas will be represented by just rookie Fernandez in both the sprint and the main race, with Pol Espargaro being kept in hospital for the weekend after sustaining significant injuries in his second practice crash on Friday.
|Pos||Name||Team||Bike||Group 1||Group 2|
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||1m37.675s||1m37.226s|
|2||Francesco Bagnaia||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati||1m37.29s|
|3||Jorge Martin||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati||1m37.454s|
|4||Miguel Oliveira||CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team||Aprilia||1m37.849s||1m37.521s|
|5||Jack Miller||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||1m37.549s|
|6||Enea Bastianini||Ducati Lenovo Team||Ducati||1m37.584s|
|7||Maverick Viñales||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia||1m37.598s|
|8||Marco Bezzecchi||Mooney VR46 Racing Team||Ducati||1m37.616s|
|9||Luca Marini||Mooney VR46 Racing Team||Ducati||1m37.622s|
|10||Johann Zarco||Prima Pramac Racing||Ducati||1m37.88s|
|11||Fabio Quartararo||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||1m37.92s|
|12||Aleix Espargaró||Aprilia Racing||Aprilia||1m38.136s|
|13||Alex Marquez||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati||1m37.97s|
|14||Joan Mir||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||1m38.064s|
|15||Brad Binder||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||1m38.105s|
|16||Alex Rins||LCR Honda CASTROL||Honda||1m38.133s|
|17||Franco Morbidelli||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||1m38.335s|
|18||Takaaki Nakagami||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda||1m38.439s|
|19||Augusto Fernandez||GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3||KTM||1m38.464s|
|20||Raul Fernandez||CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team||Aprilia||1m38.492s|
|21||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Gresini Racing MotoGP||Ducati||1m38.778s|