Motorcycling-Honda's Marquez storms to pole at Portuguese Grand Prix with lap record

MotoGP - Portuguese Grand Prix - Algarve International Circuit, Portimao, Portugal - March 25, 2023 Repsol Honda Team's Marc Marquez during qualifying REUTERS/Marcelo Del Pozo

(Reuters) -Honda's Marc Marquez made full use of a slipstream to storm to pole position at the season-opening Portuguese Grand Prix on Saturday on a day the lap record at the Portimao circuit was broken four times.

Marquez first set a lap record to top Q1 and breeze into Q2 along with local favourite Miguel Oliveira.

But the record lasted barely a few minutes as Jack Miller went faster on his new Red Bull KTM machine.

The Australian rider, who made the switch from Ducati prior to the season, sensed it may not be enough and went out again, only to crash at turn three just as reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia broke the record.

But six-times champion Marquez was not done yet and just as the session wound down, the Spaniard put his head down and - with a help of a tow from Enea Bastianini - set the fastest lap with a time of 1:37.226.

It was his first pole since the Japanese Grand Prix last year but not one he had expected after struggling during pre-season testing as well as in practice on Friday.

"I can't explain, I do not understand the situation. Yesterday we were struggling a lot but today we improved the small details and I improved myself," Marquez said in a pit lane interview.

"But to do a very fast lap for Honda we need a slipstream," he added, admitting that it was not ideal but necessary. "I feel like for the race distance it will be difficult."

Marquez will be joined on the front row with Bagnaia and Pramac Racing's Jorge Martin while Oliveira starts fourth with Miller and Bastianini alongside him.

Former champion Joan Mir, who made the switch from Suzuki to Honda, failed to advance from Q1 and will start 14th on the grid. Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo, the 2021 champion, starts 11th.

The riders will also line up in the same grid order for the first sprint race which will be held later on Saturday.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in BengaluruEditing by Toby Davis)

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