Jorge Martin secured a second successive pole at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar thanks to a stunning late effort ahead of a starring Enea Bastianini for Gresini.
Martin posted a strong early gambit in the pole shootout as he sat third just behind Honda’s Pol Espargaro and Jack Miller’s factory Ducati, the Desmosedici’s beginning to unleash their speed following a rather understated performance throughout practice.
It was again Espargaro and Martin that lit up the timing screens as the final runs began, Espargaro looking good to head to the front initially before Martin ranged ever closer in view, the four-time premier class pole man utilising the slipstream from the RC213-V to shatter the provisional pole effort posted by Marc Marquez just seconds before, a 1:53.011s allowing him to sit pretty at the top.
He was forced to sweat over the remaining seconds as both Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia as well as Bastianini lapped on the Spaniard’s pace, though they would ultimately come up short to leave Martin on pole by 0.147s ahead of Bastianini, who grabbed a front row for Gresini in its first event as an independent entry since 2014.
Marquez’s earlier time was sufficient to keep him on the front row in third just ahead of Miller, with Aleix completing the top five on his RS-GP.
Pol ended up sixth in the end on a solid debut for the all-new Honda RC213-V ahead of a surprise Brad Binder for KTM, the South African leading Q1 en-route to the pole shootout, while Joan Mir was a rather disappointing eighth for Suzuki following the marque’s strong practice showing.
Francesco Bagnaia has work to do from ninth on the second factory Ducati while Alex Rins rounded out the top ten on the other Suzuki, with Yamaha continuing to struggle for straight line performance down Losail’s one-kilometre stretch as it managed only 11th and 12th for reigning MotoGP world champion Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli respectively.
Johann Zarco missed out on a chance to compete in Q2 by just over a tenth-of-a-second after falling victim to a yellow flag infringement having posted a time faster than Q1 graduate Quartararo, leaving the Frenchman 13th on the grid just ahead of KTM’s Miguel Oliveira.
Marco Bezzecchi meanwhile impressed on his maiden MotoGP qualifying appearance to grab 15th as top rookie for the new VR46 Ducati outfit, the Italian heading the likes of LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami and team-mate Luca Marini.
Maverick Vinales and Andrea Dovizioso found the going tough in Q1 as the two experienced pilots could muster up only 19th and 20th on the grid for the Aprilia and RNF Yamaha squads respectively, while Remy Gardner got the better of team-mate Raul Fernandez in the battle between the Tech 3 KTM’s.
Darryn Binder will start from the back of the field on the sister RNF M1 after crashing out early in the Q1 session, the cause of the sole yellow flag across qualifying.