Aleix Espargaro takes pole on home soil after setting 'totally crazy' Catalunya lap record

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Aleix Espargaro continued his dominant form in Barcelona by setting a "totally crazy" lap record to claim pole position for the Catalan Grand Prix.

Aprilia rider Espargaro topped three of the four practice sessions and was able to see off Francesco Bagnaia's late charge in qualifying on Saturday.

The Spaniard blitzed to a lap record of 1:38.771 in the third practice session and promptly broke his own mark with a time of 1:38.742 in qualifying.

Espargaro, whose only previous pole this season came in Argentina in round three, finished 0.031 seconds ahead of Bagnaia at a scorching Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Reflecting on an impressive showing in his home country, the 32-year-old said: "I did a totally crazy lap, slipping around everywhere and in truth I didn't really appreciate this lap.

"I was on the limit on each bend. The conditions today were super difficult. I'd say the most difficult I've experienced this season."

Espargaro is eight points behind reigning MotoGP champion and 2022 pacesetter Fabio Quartararo, who finished third in qualifying.

However, Espargaro has failed to finish in six of his seven appearances at the Catalan Grand Prix, completing the race only once when finishing 12th in 2020.

Monster Energy Yamaha rider Quartararo has finished on the podium in three of his last four races, meanwhile, and is one shy of finishing in the top three for a 25th time.

After struggling in practice, Quartararo is pleased to be behind only Espargaro and Ducati's Bagnaia heading into Sunday's race.

"I would have signed up for such a result, indeed," he said. "I would have been satisfied with second row, because yesterday's practice was a disaster. Nothing seemed to work.

"Technically we opted for a big change of setting today, and the track conditions also changed."

Bagnaia also has no complaints following a well-fought qualifying session in which 0.403s separated Espargaro in first and Suzuki Ecstar's Alex Rins in seventh.

"It wasn't easy because of the heat, which made the track slippery. For my part, I couldn't do any more," he said.

"I'm very happy with the work we did. We are close to Aleix in terms of the race pace."

Bagnaia, who has won his past three races held in Spain, added: "This is turning into one of the most difficult world championships.

"Tomorrow it will be essential to understand the grip of the track so as not to use the tyres too much. All the bikes are very fast and practically every driver is a world champion."

PROVISIONAL GRID

1. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) 1:38.742
2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) +0.031s
3. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) +0.217s
4. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +0.285s
5. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing) +0.357s
6. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +0.400s
7. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +0.403s
8. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia Racing) +0.655s
9. Luca Marini (Mooney Racing) +0.709s
10. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) +0.735s

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