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Spain’s Martin takes pole for Qatar MotoGP

Prima Pramac Racing rider Jorge Martin. Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP

Bagnaia on second row

Spaniard Jorge Martin set a lap record on his way to pole position for the season-opening Qatar MotoGP and sprint on Saturday with world champion Francesco Bagnaia starting on the second row.

Ducati-Pramac’s Martin, runner-up to Bagnaia in the world championship last season, clocked 1min 50.789sec on the wind-swept Lusail track to finish ahead of compatriot Aleix Espargaro of Aprilia and Italian Enea Bastianini of Ducati.

Italy’s reigning two-time world champion Bagnaia will start from the second row on his factory Ducati after clocking the fifth fastest time, behind South African Brad Binder, who managed to get up to fourth before his late crash.

Martin was on course to better his time but his final lap was cancelled following KTM rider Binder’s crash.

Six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez was sixth as he competed for the first time on his Gresini-Ducati. 

Marquez had said on Thursday that he felt “comfortable” but “not ready to (fight) for the podium or the victory”. 

Above all, he said, it will be about “learning” and “taming” a bike that is very different from the Hondas he has been riding since 2013. 

Spanish teenager Pedro Acosta (Red Bull GASGAS Tech3) took the eighth-best time on his debut weekend among the elite.

The pre-qualifying tests were initially scheduled for Friday evening but were postponed due to rain. 

The sprint race starts later Saturday at 1600GMT with the weekend’s main event at 1900GMT on Sunday.

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