© Reuters. Apr 14, 2023; Austin, TX, USA; Francesco Bagnaia (1) of Italy and Ducati Lenovo Team rounds turn 11 during the MotoGP second free practice at Circuit of the Americas. Mandatory Credit: Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports
(Reuters) – Ducati’s reigning MotoGP world champion Francesco Bagnaia smashed the circuit lap record to take pole position for the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on Saturday.
The pole was the Italian’s first of the season, and 12th of his career, after starting the previous two races in Portugal and Argentina on the front row and taking a double victory in the opening round.
The factory team rider’s best lap of two minutes 01.892 seconds, at an average speed of 162.8 kph, secured pole for Saturday’s later sprint and Sunday’s race at the Circuit of the Americas.
It was the first time a rider had lapped the circuit inside two minutes and two seconds.
LCR Honda’s Alex Rins, second but 0.161 off the pole pace, and VR46 Ducati’s Luca Marini completed the front row.
Gresini Ducati rider Alex Marquez, VR46 Ducati’s championship leader Marco Bezzecchi and Aprilia’s Alex Espergaro filled the second row.
Marquez’s brother Marc, a six-times world champion in the top category, is not racing in Texas this weekend after being injured in the opening race in Portimao.
MotoGP rider Francesco Bagnaia put in an impressive performance at the Americas GP on Saturday, setting a new lap record and taking pole position for Sunday’s race.
It was the 24-year-old Italian’s first pole position for Ducati and the third of his career and came after a flurry of record-breaking times during qualifying. Bagnaia’s fastest lap of 1 minute 38.729 seconds smashed the previous lap record by over half a second, 0.598 of a second to be exact.
Bagnaia had been in imperious form throughout practice, and went quickest in both Q1 and Q2 before scorching his way around the track in Q3 to break the record. In a show of dedication and respect, he completed a traditional lap of honor on foot to the cheers of Ducati’s team, who had gathered in the pit box.
Second on the grid will be championship leader Fabio Quartararo, who, despite not replicating his own lap record of 1’38.284, will nonetheless provide stiff competition for Bagnaia on Sunday. Joan Mir is also within striking distance, as the reigning MotoGP champion lines up in third.
The Americas GP will be the penultimate race of the 2020 season and looks set to be an epic battle between two of the top riders of the year. Bagnaia will be looking to take advantage of the rare opportunity of pole position and make a break from the chasing pack. With Quartararo just 0.395 of a second behind him, Sunday’s race could be one of the most exciting of the year.
The Americas GP is set for Sunday at 5pm local time and is likely to provide an exciting climax to the 2020 MotoGP season.