MotoGP world champion Fabio Quartararo will start Sunday’s first race in Indonesia in 25 years from pole position after a dramatic qualifying session that saw Marc Marquez twice crash out.
After waiting so long for top-class racing to return, Indonesia’s motorbike-mad fans were given a treat in incident-packed qualifying on the steamy island of Lombok on Saturday.
France’s Quartararo, who went fastest in practice on Friday on the new Mandalika circuit, topped qualifying with a time of 1 min 31.067 sec on his Yamaha, with Spain’s Jorge Martin second on the grid, 0.213 sec back.
Also on the front row, in third, was France’s Johann Zarco. Like Martin, he rides a Ducati.
South Africa’s Brad Binder, who finished on the podium in the season-opening Qatar race earlier this month, qualified fourth fastest in a time of 1 min 31.433 sec, and will be on the second row, alongside Enea Bastianini, the winner in Qatar, and Francesco Bagnaia.
“It was great to be back in (pole), it was a long time, super happy,” said the 22-year-old Quartararo, whose last pole position was at the Catalunya Grand Prix in June last year.
“We did not make so many mistakes in qualifying and that is thanks to the team because we never gave up.”
Quartararo’s title defence started in meek fashion in Qatar when he came a disappointing ninth.
Spain’s six-time world champion Marquez will start Sunday’s race on Lombok 15th after a calamitous qualifying run.
He was involved in a high-speed crash on Friday in practice and took another tumble off his Honda at Turn 13 in the first round of qualifying.
He immediately sprinted off to grab his other bike in a frantic effort to record a competitive lap and get into the second session of qualifying.
But, pushing too hard, the 29-year-old went flying off once more just minutes later, this time at Turn 12, and was clearly annoyed with himself.
Fellow Spaniard Joan Mir, the 2020 world champion, also crashed and is 18th on the grid.
Indonesia staged motorcycle grand prix in 1996 and 1997 near the capital Jakarta, but its ambitions of becoming a mainstay of the sport were torpedoed by the Asian financial crisis.
There have been teething problems for the country’s return to world-class motorcycling, with the Mandalika track requiring substantial resurfacing for this week’s action.
During testing in February, MotoGP riders complained that the circuit was dirty and breaking up in places.
The new MotoGP campaign boasts a record 21 races this season, ending on November 6 in Valencia.
- Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha) 1min 31.067sec, 2. Jorge Martin (ESP/Ducati-Pramac) 1:31.280, 3. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Pramac) 1:31.378
- Brad Binder (RSA/KTM) 1:31.433, 5. Enea Bastianini (ITA/Ducati-Gresini) 1:31.504, 6. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati) 1:31.507
- Miguel Oliveira (POR/KTM) 1:31.566, 8. Alex Rins (ESP/Suzuki) 1:31.582, 9. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati) 1:31.714
- Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 1:31.723, 11. Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA/Ducati-Gresini) 1:31.819, 12. Franco Morbidelli (ITA/Yamaha) 1:32.336