Francesco Bagnaia vowed to fight Fabio Quartararo all the way after giving his slim MotoGP title chances a much-needed boost with pole position for the Dutch Grand Prix.
The Ducati rider fell 91 points behind Quartararo last week when crashing out of the German Grand Prix early on – his fourth abandonment in 10 races this season.
But Bagnaia, who has won two of his past five Dutch GP appearances, looked in good shape on Saturday when shattering the lap record at Circuit Assen with a time of 1:31.504.
Victory in the Netherlands on Sunday is needed if the Italian is realistically going to catch Quartararo, with four other riders separating last season's top two.
After an intense battle on the opening lap in Sachsenring last time out, Bagnaia is aiming to come out on top in round 11 to put some pressure on his rival.
"For sure, Fabio on this track is always so competitive. I would like to have a fight but this time until the end of the race, not just the first two laps," he said.
"I think it's more difficult on this track to open a gap, but we have demonstrated we can be so competitive in the first laps, Fabio too."
Bagnaia, who has claimed four poles this year, pitted after his record lap as he did not believe anyone would be capable of matching his pace.
"That’s the reason I stopped in the box, because I said 'doing more than this is impossible'. If someone did overtake me, I would be OK with it," he said.
"But I'm very happy for this qualifying because this morning I was struggling a lot to be consistent and competitive."
Front row start for tomorrow— Fabio Quartararo (@FabioQ20) June 25, 2022
Championship leader Quartararo once again missed out on pole, yet he has made a habit of recovering as the weekend goes on this season.
And as he seeks a third successive victory for the first time in his MotoGP career, the Monster Energy Yamaha rider declared himself pleased with his performance in qualifying.
"I'm happy to have made that front row with the army of Ducatis around me. It's almost impossible to make a pole position with these Ducatis," he said.
"I was really on the limit [for my fastest lap] and on the next lap I wanted to try but I knew it was going to be a little bit worse. Today, the front row was the target."
Pramac's Jorge Martin will start Sunday's race in third, while Jack Miller of Ducati finished sixth in qualifying but was penalised for an incident involving Maverick Vinales.
Miller narrowly avoided colliding with Vinales and will serve a long lap penalty for the second weekend running, though the Australian felt there was nothing he could do.
Speaking ahead of the penalty being confirmed, Miller said: "I mean, I didn't do anything wrong. I did everything I could right. I pulled over to the left.
"I was side-saddle from push starting it. I was just trying to load my foot up and make sure that the [damaged] footpeg wasn't going to snap as I stood on it with all my weight.
"I was already hard on the left-hand side of the track and I just looked to make sure I'm not in anyone's way and Vinales was there. There's a lot of track there.
"I understand the racing line and the track sort of pulls you that way, but there's not much I could do. I went to apologise because I know it's bad, but there's nothing I can do."
1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) – 1:31.504
2. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) + 0.116
3. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) + 0.204
4. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.292
5. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) + 0.364
6. Jack Miller (Ducati) + 0.620
7. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.671
8. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) + 0.768
9. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +0.803
10. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +0.863