Yamaha's Saturday showdown: Viñales beats Quartararo to pole

The two factory YZR-M1 riders went head-to-head as we witness the fastest-ever two-wheel Assen lap set by the Spaniard

For the first time since the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) will start from pole position after setting a new all-time TT Circuit Assen lap record in Q2, a 1:31.814. The Spaniard and teammate Fabio Quartararo went head-to-head in an exhilarating qualifying, with the World Championship leader settling for P2 ahead of Q1 graduate Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team). Two Yamahas lead a Ducati on the front row as eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) is forced to start from P20 at the Motul TT Assen.


A big result for Ducati in Q1, late disappointment for Tech3

It was a huge opening qualifying session for two title contenders at Assen: Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Bagnaia. Ducati have been struggling a bit this weekend, but Pecco was able to slot in a very quick early banker to sit top of Q1 for almost the entire session. Zarco, meanwhile, encountered an issue with his GP21 and didn’t head out on track until there was time for just two flying laps.

The Frenchman, second in the title race, was a long way off getting into the top two on his first lap, and then ran wide at Turn 1. Was that his qualifying effort done? It seemed that way, however, Zarco was able to sneak one more lap in – and what a lap it was. The Pramac Racing star landed a time good enough for P1, seeing Bagnaia demoted to P2 and Iker Lecuona (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) into P3, late heartbreak for the Spaniard who misses out on a first Q2 appearance of the season by less than a tenth.

The pole position scrap

Free Practice 1, 2, and 3 pacesetter Viñales set the initial time to beat, a 1:32.413, but it was beaten on Quartararo’s first flying lap by 0.077s. However, Quartararo’s next flying lap was nothing short of stunning. Through Sector 3, El Diablo was over three tenths faster than his own time and was on course to set the first-ever sub-1:32 lap time at the Cathedral of Speed. Sure enough, Quartararo crossed the line to lay down Assen’s fastest-ever two-wheel lap – a bonkers 1:31.922.

At the end of the first runs, Quartararo was 0.491s clear of second place Viñales, with three tenths separating third place Zarco and ninth fastest Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). It would take an almighty effort to beat Quartararo’s time, but that’s exactly what Viñales was doing. His first lap went astray after a moment at Turn 9, but his sixth lap of the session saw Viñales set a blockbuster 1:31.814 to beat his teammate by 0.071s, a scorcher from Top Gun.

Bagnaia shot up to P3 with a great lap, Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) then went P3 before Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) decided it was his turn to sit on the provisional front row, as all eyes turned to Quartararo. Up by nearly two tenths in Sector 1, Quartararo was 0.135s under at the end of Sector 2. However, a small mistake at Turn 10 cost the number 20 time and crossing the line, Quartararo couldn’t improve, meaning Viñales took pole for the first time in 2021. A sensational battle between the factory Yamaha teammates.

How the front four rows take shape

On his final flying lap, Bagnaia picked up a magnificent front row start having come through Q1. Nakagami leads Row 2 in P4 after his best qualifying of the season, excellent from the Japanese rider, who is joined on the second row by Zarco and Oliveira. Rins suffered a late crash at Turn 8 but is unhurt and will start from P8 as the leading Suzuki, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) are on the third row in 8th and 9th respectively – just over three tenths cover Bagnaia and Aleix Espargaro.

Reigning World Champion Joan Mir’s (Team Suzuki Ecstar) qualifying struggles continue as the Spaniard starts P10, but the number 36 has very good race pace. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) is the second fastest Honda rider in P11, the Spaniard sits 0.089s ahead of 12th place Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT).

An intriguing Sunday awaits

After a crash in Q1, Marc Marquez will start from his worst premier class qualifying position in P20, as the Sachsenring winner and fourth place finisher Brad Binder (Red Bull Factory Racing) endure a tough afternoon at Assen – P21 for the South African.

Can anyone take the fight to the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP riders on Sunday afternoon? Find out at 14:00 local time (GMT+2).  

Q2 results:
1. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) – 1:31.814
2. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.071
3. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.302
4. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 0.500
5. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.580
6. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.636
7. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.783
8. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.795
9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.852
10. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.934
11. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 1.016
12. Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 1.105


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