The Aprilia rider produced a new lap record of Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona earlier in the day in third free practice, and duly repeated the feat with a 1m38.742s with his penultimate lap in qualifying.
But the home hero was made to sweat over top spot with Ducati’s Bagnaia on a charge with his final flying effort, while Espargaro ran on at Turn 10 on his final lap, but the Italian missed out by 0.031s.
It marks Aleix Espargaro’s second pole of the season, and fourth of his MotoGP career, to keep him as hot favorite for Catalan GP victory having produced stunning race pace in practice.
MotoGP world championship leader Quartararo, who set the provisional pole time after the first runs as just 0.012s split the top three, had to settle for third place on the factory Yamaha.
Fellow French rider Johann Zarco just missed out on the front row for Pramac Ducati in fourth place, as Mugello polesitter Fabio Di Giannantonio impressed again in qualifying with fifth place for Gresini.
Jorge Martin was bumped to the back of the second row as a result for Pramac Ducati, but he remained in front of Suzuki’s Alex Rins, while Q1 graduate Maverick Vinales claimed his best qualifying result since the Argentina round with eighth place on his Aprilia.
VR46’s Luca Marini claimed ninth place in front of Honda’s Pol Espargaro, with Ducati’s Jack Miller and LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami completing the fourth row.
Marco Bezzecchi was edged out in Q1 by Nakagami, with the LCR rider displacing the VR46 rider by just 0.017s on his final lap, as Vinales topped the session for Aprilia.
Bezzecchi will duly start the race from 13th, just ahead of Enea Bastianini whose qualifying problems persisted as he was unable to replicate the timesheet-topping pace for Gresini, but he did keep ahead of factory KTM duo Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira.
Joan Mir’s woes continued for Suzuki and he’ll start tomorrow’s race from 17th place, in front of Franco Morbidelli, Andrea Dovizioso and Remy Gardner.
Marc Marquez’s stand-in Stefan Bradl could only manage 21st for the factory Honda squad, ahead of Ducati wildcard Michele Pirro, RNF Racing’s Darryn Binder and Tech 3’s Raul Fernandez.
Alex Marquez missed qualifying after suffering a heavy fall at the final corner in the closing minutes of final practice, resulting in the LCR rider taking a trip to the medical center for a check-up.