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Espargaro savours ‘oxygen bubble’ of season’s first MotoGP pole

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Pol Espargaro was made to wait just a little bit longer for the pole position that could revive his disastrous first season at Honda at Silverstone on Saturday.

The Spaniard had recorded the fastest time of 1min 58.889sec when compatriot Jorge Martin was credited with an astonishing 1:58 right at the end of qualifying for the British Grand Prix.

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As both riders circled the track gesturing in disbelief, it took the timekeepers a few minutes to realise that the Pramac Ducati rider had cut across the chicane on his lap. 

That left Italian Francesco Bagnaia of the factory Ducati team second fastest with 1.58.911. French championship leader Fabio Quartararo completed the front row of the grid for Yamaha.

Martin ended up fourth fastest after an earlier time. He is joined on the second row by the second Honda of Spaniard Marc Marquez and Pol’s older brother Aleix Espargaro of Aprilia.

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Valentino Rossi, in his last British Grand Prix before retirement, was eighth fastest and will start on the third row. 

Pol Espargaro, who has never won a MotoGP race, moved to Honda this season and had not recorded a pole position or a podium finish in the first 11 races at his new team.

“We were just celebrating like if I won the race,” he said. 

“For me it’s more than that. OK, tomorrow is the race as well for points, but this is a huge step for me, not just this year but in my whole career to take a pole position is already a winning weekend after this tough season.”

“I’ve been struggling so much. Psychologically it’s a big bubble of oxygen. Sometimes the hard work doesn’t pay off, but in the end this happens.”

After two races in the summer heat in Austria, the cooler weather and grippier surface at Silverstone helped Espargaro but caused problems for other riders in the one-lap ‘time attack’ on new tyres.

“I dont feel good on the bike,” said Quartararo after battling onto the front row. “On the pace, I feel great but the bike is shaking everywhere on one lap. We need to see why.”

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“I’m on the front row but really not happy because I felt like I’m not feeling comfortable on the time attack.”

“But we are fast on the pace and that’s the most important.”

Quartararo injured an ankle in a crash in practice on Friday but was fine as long as he stayed on his bike. 

“My ankle is fine,” he said. “It is not painful on the bike, which is the most important thing. I’m just struggling to walk. In the race it will be fine.”

Bagnaia, whose consistency has lifted him to second in the championship even though he is yet to win a MotoGP race, echoed the sentiment.

“The qualifying was not easy because in this track we are suffering a bit more with new tyres,” he said. “But when I saw that everything was coming to me I was happy.”

Silverstone, one of the longest and fastest circuits on the calendar, was not on the programme in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic but returns this year to a sell-out crowd.

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Starting grid for Sunday’s British Grand Prix, at Silverstone

MotoGP

Front row:

1. Pol Espargaro (ESP/Honda) 1min 58.889sec, 2. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA/Ducati) 1:58.911, 3. Fabio Quartararo (FRA/Yamaha) 1:58.925

2nd row:

4. Jorge Martin (ESP/Ducati-Pramac) 1:59.074, 5. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 1:59.086, 6. Aleix Espargaro (ESP/Aprilia) 1:59.273

3rd row:

7. Jack Miller (AUS/Ducati) 1:59.368, 8. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Yamaha-SRT) 1:59.531, 9. Johann Zarco (FRA/Ducati-Pramac) 1:59.579

4th row:

10. Alex Rins (ESP/Suzuki) 1:59.639, 11. Joan Mir (ESP/Suzuki) 1:59.763, 12. Brad Binder (RSA/KTM) 1:59.977

Moto2

Front row:

1. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA/Kalex) 2:03.988, 2. Jorge Navarro (ESP/Boscoscuro) 2:04.061, 3. Sam Lowes (GBR/Kalex) 2:04.069

2nd row:

4. Remy Gardner (AUS/Kalex) 2:04.195, 5. Raul Fernandez (ESP/Kalex) 2:04.209, 6. Fabio di Giannantonio (ITA/Kalex) 2:04.372

Moto3

Front row: 

1. Romano Fenati (ITA/Husqvarna) 2:11.325, 2. Gabriel Rodrigo (ARG/Honda) 2:11.368, 3. Riccardo Rossi (ITA/KTM) 2:11.522

2nd row: 

4. Andrea Migno (ITA/Honda) 2:11.590, 5. Niccolo Antonelli (ITA/KTM) 2:11.715, 6. Filip Salac (CZE/KTM) 2:11.803

Selected

8th row:

22. Pedro Acosta (ESP/KTM) 2:12.708, 24. Sergio Garcia (ESP/GasGas) 2:13.017

© Agence France-Presse

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