History maker: Aleix Espargaro powers to pole in Termas

Aprilia Racing celebrate their first MotoGP™ pole position in a dramatic pair of qualifying sessions in Argentina

A stunning Saturday afternoon Q2 lap from Aleix Espargaro handed Aprilia Racing their first MotoGP™ pole position – and the Spaniard’s first pole position since the 2015 Catalan GP. It’s a magnificent day for the Noale factory at the Gran Premio Michelin® de la República Argentina and joining Espargaro on the front row are a pair of GP22 Ducatis in the form of Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), as we witness some shock qualifying results in Termas de Rio Hondo.

Two 2022 winners and a pre-season favourite falter in Q1

Before the pole position fight got underway, an almighty battle to get into Q2 unfolded, featuring World Championship leader Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), pre-season title favourite Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), Indonesian GP race winner Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Qatar GP podium finisher Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) and more very, very fast riders.

Halfway through Q1, Pecco was last. The Italian was yet to set a clean lap and had a mountain to climb if Q2 beckoned, and he was visibly frustrated. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Bastianini were the top two after the first set of flying laps had been landed as the riders ventured out for their second attempts – a Pecco came out swinging. Top spot was his but not for long, as Nakagami returned to P1, before Pol Espargaro shot to first place with two minutes to go. Suddenly, Bagnaia was outside the top two again.

Bastianini then went third, but as we know, that’s not enough to head into Q2. Both Bagnaia and Bastianini needed to find time on their last laps, but it wasn’t to be for either of them – both were out of qualifying in Q1. Oliveira was also not going to contest in Q1 as we witness some big shocks in Argentina – something we’re going to start getting used to.

A history-making Q2 in Argentina

Q2 then burst into life for 10 of the 12 riders as Pol Espargaro sat patiently in his box, and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) encountered an issue when trying to fire up his number one GSX-RR. There was frantic action inside the box to swap the tyres onto his second bike, but thankfully, Mir didn’t lose too much time, as Martin went P1 early doors. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) grabbed P2 before the Australian tucked the front at Turn 1, rider ok, but it meant the yellow flags were out.

Just behind Miller, Aleix Espargaro went 0.3s clear at the summit to lay down a real gauntlet in Q2. Quartararo was P3 at the end of the first efforts behind Martin, Miller was P4, Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) P5 and Marini P6. That was before Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) pounced up to provisional P5.

So, could anyone bridge the 0.3s gap that Aleix Espargaro boasted in the final five minutes? Quartararo was certainly trying but came across Miller, who was on an out-lap, at Turn 7. That lap was gone for a frustrated reigning World Champion, but meanwhile, Martin pulled out a beauty to go provisional pole.

However, Aleix Espargaro was 0.2s under at the third split. Could he hold onto that advantage around the final two corners? Absolutely. Espargaro crossed the line to take a momentous first pole position for Aprilia in the MotoGP™ era, beating Martin by over a tenth, as Marini snuck onto the front row. 

How the top 12 looks after Q2

Pol Espargaro was able to earn a fantastic P4 after coming through Q1, the Spaniard edged out compatriot Maverick Viñales by less than a tenth – that P5 for Top Gun is his best qualifying result in Aprilia Racing colours. Quartararo cut a frustrated figure at the end of qualifying, the Frenchman will start from P6 ahead of Rins, Mir, Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Nakagami, who rounds out the top 10. Miller wasn’t able to improve on his best time after his Turn 1 tumble, the Australian finished P11. However, for riding slowly on the racing line and disturbing Quartararo’s lap, Miller has been handed a three-place grid penalty. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was made to rue a mistake at Turn 7 that cost him a lap that was set to take him onto – at least – the front two rows. The South African had to settle for P12, but that becomes P11 after Miller’s penalty. 

That’s Super Saturday in Argentina done and dusted. Dramatic and history-making are two ways to describe what went down in the premier class, as we get set for what looks set to be a phenomenal race day in Termas. Tune in for the MotoGP™ race at 15:00 local time (GMT-3).

Top 10:
1. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – 1:37.688
2. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) + 0.151
3. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 0.431
4. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.477
5. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) + 0.508
6. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 0.593
7. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.767
8. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.828
9. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.849
10. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.888

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