MotoGP Austria: Bastianini celebrates maiden pole

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Gresini Racing’s Enea Bastianini secured his maiden pole position in MotoGP as he topped a quartet of Ducatis at the Red Bull Ring on Saturday.

The Italian’s 1’28.772 headed the factory Lenovo GP22’s of Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller with the trio covered by just a tenth for the premier class qualifying clash while Prima Pramac’s Jorge Martin headed off Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo in the top five.

Qualifying at the Red Bull Ring kicked off with title-challenger Aleix Espargaro battling for promotion in Q1 alongside younger brother Pol and KTM’s Miguel Oliveira as the new turn two chicane was put through its paces in the all-out laps.

The Aprilia rider set the pace with a 1’29.692 from the Gresini Ducati of Fabio Di Giannantonio with his sibling’s Repsol Honda taking third. The Espargaro brothers locked out the standings 0.045s apart as Pol advanced to second next time around with LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami and Oliveira battling for fourth. An Italian trio next in line as Marco Bezzecchi, Monster Energy Yamaha’s Franky Morbidelli and WithU RNF’s Andrea Dovizioso sat sixth to eighth before Luca Marini rose to third on the second Mooney VR46.

The final four minutes found both Bezzecchi and Alex Marquez down at the chicane in tandem crashes as the LCR followed the Ducati into the gravel. The Spaniard looking at a back of the grid start having circulated in 14th for the session so far.

Espargaro advanced the pace on the RS-GP with a 1’29.231 as the pack fired up behind him. Di Giannantonio displacing the Honda from the promotion zone with Marini and Nakagami knocking the younger Espargaro down further as the flag came out, with the Respol rider left to settle for fifth. Morbidelli completed the session in sixth from Oliveira and HRC test rider Stefan Bradl with Dovizioso and teammate Darryn Binder either side of the stricken Bezzecchi. Rookies Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez heading Savadori and Marquez at the back of the grid.

The pole shootout saw Espargaro maintain his momentum as he set the initial benchmark with a 1’29.255 before Ducati Lenovo’s Miller bettered by a tenth. The hot laps firing in across the board as the Aprilia continued to shine and the Australian hit back with a 1’28.898. Bagnaia’s early effort was deleted due to track limits with Espargaro’s best doing likewise while Bastianini took over in second followed by Suzuki Ecstar’s Joan Mir.

The reigning world champion sat sixth at the halfway stage, his countryman Johann Zarco rising to third on the Prima Pramac GP22 with Martin placing the other in seventh. Suzuki’s Alex Rins, Di Giannantonio, Maverick Viñales, Brad Binder and Bagnaia completing the top 12 ahead of the second run.

The Italian joined his factory teammate at the top of the times with his fifth lap of the afternoon before Bagnaia launched to the lead with a 1’28.796. Bastianini the next to push before the third sector curtailed his pace and he looked to dig deep again next time around. The Gresini rider was in charge as the chequered flag dropped thanks to a 1’28.772, Quartararo maxing the M1 to its limit for a fifth place finish as Martin took fourth and Zarco settled for sixth.

Viñales took leading Aprilia honours from seventh ahead of Mir and Espargaro with Di Giannantonio heading Rins and Binder on row four for Sunday’s 28-lap race.

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