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Bezzecchi grabs pole, Bagnaia on front row for Thai MotoGP

Italian rookie Marco Bezzecchi clinched his first MotoGP pole position on Saturday as he scorched his way to a lap record in Thailand, with title contender Francesco Bagnaia qualifying third.

It will be an all Ducati front row for Sunday’s 26-lap race at Buriram after Bezzecchi, 23, set a best time of one minute 29.671 seconds, pipping Spaniard Jorge Martin by 0.021 seconds and Bagnaia (0.104 sec).

World champion Fabio Quartararo was fourth-fastest on his Yamaha. 

“I didn’t know that I was pole position because I couldn’t see the big screen in the sun,” Bezzecchi said after qualifying in style late in the second session.

“It’s unbelievable, big emotions. I’m very proud to make it.”

Frenchman Quartararo characterised it as a tough day at the office but says that he has “a clear goal” for Sunday, when wet conditions are forecast.

With four races to go, he leads the standings by 18 points over Italy’s Bagnaia. Spain’s Aleix Espargaro is third and also in the championship hunt, but he will start from 13th on the grid.

“Now we have to finish ahead of him (Bagnaia) and Aleix (on Sunday), but it’s not going to be easy. We’ll have to stay very focused,” Quartararo told reporters.

“We have a good pace, I think I can do something really good by starting fourth.”

Bagnaia, who has been the form rider in MotoGP in the second half of the season and whittled away Quartararo’s lead, was quietly confident.

“Unfortunately, in my first (qualifying) attempt I wasn’t feeling so well on my bike, that was strange,” he said.

“Then in the second attempt everything was good. I did a good job.”

“We can be competitive tomorrow,” he added.

Aprilia’s Espargaro, who is 25 points behind Quartararo in the championship, will need something special from the fifth row of the grid.

Spanish six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez, who has won twice previously in Thailand, was eighth on his Honda.

MotoGP has returned to Thailand for the first time since 2019 after coronavirus cancelled recent editions.

There were wild celebrations as local hope Somkiat Chantra secured pole position in the MotoGP2 in front of an exuberant home crowd.

“I’m happy to see the fans and the support, I feel like I have more power than before,” he said.

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