Brad Binder starts way back as Francesco Bagnaia breaks Qatar MotoGP lap record
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DOHA, Qatar - Francesco Bagnaia stormed to his maiden MotoGP pole on his factory Ducati bike at the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix, breaking the lap record twice in the process at the Losail Circuit on Saturday.
However, South Africa’s Brad Binder, riding for KTM Racing, will only start in the 19th position on the grid. They struggled in pre-season testing earlier this month and were again off the pace this weekend.
Bagnaia will start alongside the Yamahas of Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales on the front row while Petronas Yamaha's Valentino Rossi narrowly missed out to start fourth.
Bagnaia set the pace at the start of the second qualifying session when he set a lap record after taking advantage of the slipstream behind Rossi.
Quartararo then broke the record again on his Yamaha debut but Bagnaia reclaimed pole on his second attempt, becoming the first rider to break the one minute 53 seconds barrier with a time of 1:52.772.
"I'm very happy, already yesterday I was thinking it was possible to finish in 1:52 and I thought it was possible after the third sector," a beaming Bagnaia said in the pit lane after the qualifying session.
"My first pole in my first race with this team... I think we can get a really great result tomorrow."
Bagnaia's team mate Jack Miller, who topped the time charts in pre-season testing and unofficially broke the lap record, will start fifth on the grid alongside Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) in sixth.
Zarco previously set a new top speed record in Free Practice 4 when he clocked an eye-watering 362.4 kph.
Defending world champion Joan Mir could only manage 10th place, one spot behind his Suzuki team mate Alex Rins, while Pol Espargaro starts 12th on the grid on his Honda debut.
1. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati) 1:52.772
2. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha) 1:53.038
3. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) 1:53.088
4. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 1:53.114
5. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati) 1:53.215
6. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Pramac) 1:53.286
7. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 1:53.313
8. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 1:53.315
9. Alex Rins (ESP/Suzuki) 1:53.490
10. Joan Mir (ESP/Suzuki) 1:53.682
11. Takaaki Nakagami (JPN/Honda-LCR) 1:53.721
12. Pol Espargaro (ESP/Honda) 1:53.930