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Martin on pole as title leader Bagnaia only sixth at Thailand MotoGP

Jorge Martin took pole for the Thailand MotoGP after scorching to a new lap record on Saturday, with world championship leader Francesco Bagnaia only sixth on the grid.

Spain’s Martin, who was securing his fourth pole in the last six races, gave himself a golden opportunity to close the 27-point gap to Italy’s Bagnaia with four legs of the 20-race season to go.

He will be joined on the front row for both the 13-lap sprint race later Saturday and Sunday’s 26-lap grand prix by Italy’s Luca Marini and Spain’s Aleix Espargaro.

Martin, riding for Pramac-Ducati, also started from pole a week ago in Australia.

But Martin’s gamble on a soft rear tyre backfired badly as his fading rubber allowed him to be overtaken on a dramatic final lap by four riders, including Bagnaia on a factory Ducati.

The tyre blunder came just a week after Martin crashed while leading the Indonesian MotoGP to gift Bagnaia a sixth victory of 2023 and an 18-point lead in the championship.

There are 37 points up for grabs in Thailand should the flying Spaniard, nicknamed “The Martinator”, win both races after blasting around the 4.554km Buriram International Circuit in 1min 29.29.287sec in qualifying, smashing the old lap record by almost half a second.

Bagnaia will be on the second row alongside Italy’s Marco Bezzecchi who was fourth fastest and South Africa’s Brad Binder in fifth.

The Marquez brothers, Alex and Marc, were seventh and eighth after both progressing from Q1, with Maverick Vinales completing the third row.

Miguel Oliveira, who gave a wet-weather master class to win at Buriram a year ago, struggled in the dry and the Portuguese rider will start from the back row of the grid after coming in 10th in Q1.

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