Aragon qualifying was The Three Tops show again. The trio which has dominated every qualifying and race since the summer break did it again, with the factory Ducatis dominant, and Marquez’s brinkmanship on the Honda keeping him within mere hundredths.
It was a third pole in a row for Jorge Lorenzo, whose prediction of a 1’46.8 lap proved spot on. But he left it to the end of the session, slotting the time in just a few hundred metres behind team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, who had just narrowly displaced session leader Marquez.
The Honda rider didn’t improve on his first-run time, but might have done so had he not wasted several laps playing after-you-Claude with Dovi. In the end, the Italian timed his escape perfectly, while Marquez admitted that, while he was chasing, “I did a few mistakes, so then I said: OK, it’s time to think for tomorrow.”
Dovi was surprised with his lap time, “faster than I expected, also because I couldn’t find a clean lap, so I lost something.” He’d had to overtake Bautista in the last corners. “The life of the tyre we will understand during the race, but the speed is there,” he said.
Lorenzo had the advantage of this pair in sight ahead of him, though he too complained of “too many traffic, like Moto3”. He’d set his time in spite of a rear tyre that wasn’t as good as that in his first run, that was sliding a lot.
Less than two tenths down, Cal Crutchlow’s LCR Castrol Honda headed the second row, after once again the Briton’s bid to improve still further ended in a crash, as happened at Misano. It was his second fall of the day, neither injurious.
Andrea Iannone (Ecstar Suzuki) did some canny following to slot into fifth; while Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was sixth, his best qualifying since he as on the front row at the start of the European season in Spain.
Row three has independent Ducati riders Danilo Petrucci and Alvaro Bautista heading Alex Rins on the second Suzuki; second Pramac Ducati rider Jack Miller was disappointed to be tenth, after placing third in both Friday and Saturday morning sessions.
The Yamaha problems persisted, and not only for the factory riders.
Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) did manage to get through from Q1, but could do no better than 11th, ahead of Taka Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda, also through from Q1. (UPDATE: After this story was posted Race Stewards applied a three-position penalty to Vinales and a six-position penalty to repeat offender Franco Morbidelli for riding slowly on the racing line in Q1.)
But with Monster Yamaha rider Johann Zarco 14th, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) was mired down in 18th, one place ahead of Monster-Yamaha rookie Syahrin. It was Rossi’s worst qualifying since Assen in 2006, where he was injured from a crash in practice.
South African Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) upset the form book in Moto2, taking his first pole position at the track where in 2016 he secured his Moto3 World Championship.
He displaced Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact Kalex) by less than a tenth. The German, who claimed his first long-awaited Moto2 podium at Misano two weeks ago, had been on top almost throughout.
Just three hundredths down Spaniard Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Kalex) too his first front row in the class, setting an identical time to fourth-placed Alex Marquez (EG-VDS Kalex), but doing so earlier. Marquez spoiled the early part of his session with a crash that cost him time.
Binder said: “I didn’t expect pole, but I’ll take it. I was in the right place at the right time, with some fast guys ahead of me and a clear track.”
Schrotter contained his disappointment. “For a couple of weekends now I feel great on the bike, and we are always there.”
Points leader Pecco Bagnaia (SKY VR46 Kalex) was fifth, in the middle of row two, with Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Kalex) alongside. 2018 race winners Fabio Quartararo (Speed Up) and Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40 Kalex) led row three from Tasca Racing’s Simone Corsi (Kalex).
The top 19 were within a second of pole, and erstwhile title leader Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) was among them. Unfortunately, he was near the back, placed 18th, at the far end of the sixth row of the grid.
The sole American, Joe Roberts, was 27th on the NTS.
Moto3 championship leader Jorge Martin waited until the very end of the session to unleash a flying lap to remember, obliterating the former best-lap record as well as the opposition to take his ninth pole of the season.
The Del Conca Gresini Honda rider was better than half a second ahead of the next best, with a time that wouldn’t have disgraced a lesser Moto2 rider. His 1’57.066 was almost seven tenths inside the previous best lap, and 1.3 inside the race lap record.
He was best of the late fast runners who knocked long-time session leader Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA KTM) to eighth.
Spanish teenager Jaume Masia (Bester KTM) was second, Enea Bastianini (Leopard Honda) was mere hundredths down to complete the front row. Toni Arbolino (Marinelli Honda) heads the second from rookie Dennis Foggia (SKY VR46 KTM).
Former title leader Marco Bezzecchi (Redox KTM) had put himself on top briefly, but ended up sixth.
Rodrigo will be promoted to lead row two, with seventh-fastest runner Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Honda) demoted 12 grid places for recording slow times in more than three sectors, a second offence this year.
Aron Canet and Fabio Di Giannantonio (both Honda) will be alongside.
By Michael Scott