MotoGP – Indonesian Grand Prix – Mandalika International Street Circuit, Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia – March 19, 2022 Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez during practice REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

March 19, 2022

(Reuters) – Reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo dominated a chaotic Indonesia Grand Prix qualifying session to take pole position in Mandalika on Saturday as MotoGP returned to the country for the first time in a quarter of a century.

Quartararo’s title defence got off to a miserable start at the season-opener in Qatar, where he qualified 11th and finished the race in ninth, but the 22-year-old put his Yamaha on top with a time of 1 minute and 31.067 seconds.

Late yellow flags after a crash for Aleix Espargaro – the last of many on Saturday – helped Quartararo claim his first pole since the 2021 Catalan GP.

“It’s great to be back here, it’s been a long time. I’m super happy,” Quartararo said.

“I think today we didn’t make too many mistakes in qualifying and I think that paid off. Thanks to the team because we never gave up even with bad results and we are here again. I feel great for tomorrow.”

Pramac Ducati riders Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco grabbed the remaining front row places, while Brad Binder of Red Bull KTM will line up in fourth ahead of Qatar winner Enea Bastianini and Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia.

Alex Rins claimed eighth place after a fiery accident in FP4, which was red-flagged after his Suzuki caught fire at turn 13 although the rider escaped unharmed.

Six-times MotoGP champion Marc Marquez will start Sunday’s race in 15th place after crashing twice in Q1. He fell at turn 13 and sprinted off to grab his spare bike in a frantic effort to qualify for the second session but went flying on his last lap.

Marquez’s Honda team mate Pol Espargaro and Suzuki’s Joan Mir, the 2020 MotoGP champion, also failed to get out of the session.

Indonesia last hosted a grand prix in 1996 and 1997 near the capital Jakarta. The Mandalika track was resurfaced for this week’s action following complaints during testing last month about dirt, rocks and cracks putting riders in danger.

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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