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Bagnaia grabs record-breaking pole for MotoGP season opener in Qatar

Francesco Bagnaia of Ducati set a new lap record at the Losail International Circuit to claim pole position for the 2021 MotoGP season-opening Qatar Grand Prix. Steve Wobser/Getty Images

Francesco Bagnaia stormed to his maiden MotoGP pole on his factory Ducati bike at the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix and set a new lap record in the process at the Losail Circuit on Saturday.

Bagnaia will start alongside the Yamahas of Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales on the front row while Petronas Yamaha's Valentino Rossi narrowly missed out to start fourth.

Ducati's Jack Miller, who topped the time charts in pre-season testing and unofficially broke the lap record, will start fifth on the grid alongside Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) in sixth.

Bagnaia set the pace in the second qualifying session when he set a new lap record after taking advantage of the slipstream behind Rossi before Miller.

Quartararo then broke the record again on his Yamaha debut but Bagnaia reclaimed pole on his second attempt, becoming the first rider to break the 1:53 barrier.

"I'm very happy, already yesterday I was thinking it was possible to finish in 1:52 and I thought it was possible after the third sector," a beaming Bagnaia said in the pit lane after the qualifying session.

"My first pole in my first race with this team... I think we can get a really great result tomorrow."

Bagnaia's team mate Jack Miller, who topped the time charts in pre-season testing and unofficially broke the lap record, will start fifth on the grid alongside Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) in sixth.

Zarco previously set a new top speed record in Free Practice 4 when he clocked an eye-watering 362.4 kph.

Defending world champion Joan Mir could only manage 10th place, one spot behind his Suzuki team mate Alex Rins, while Pol Espargaro starts 12th on the grid on his Honda debut.