Maverick Vinales is now the second rider to come through from Q1 and then to take pole position.
Maverick Vinales equalled long-time rival Marc Marquez’s achievement earlier this year, becoming only the second rider to come through from Q1 and then to take pole position. It was his first in over a year, and continues a run of strong form late in the season.
But in a way Marquez remained the hero of the day.
Fastest in the wet in day one and in the dry in FP4, the Repsol Honda rider was going for his eighth pole of the year and third in a row. But on his first flying lap, he crashed at the first right-hander, and as he rolled through the gravel he dislocated his left shoulder. Again. As had happened several times while training, and most recently at Motegi after he’d won the championship.
In obvious agony, he was scootered back to the truck, the joint was popped back in behind closed doors, and having lost just over six minutes, he was going out on track again … and challenging for pole.
In the end he had to abandon his final bid after a big slide into the first corner. He placed fourth, in the middle of row two. Amazing.
Up ahead, in his first-ever front row, Ecstar Suzuki’s Alex Rins was second, and Dovizioso third, making it Yamaha/Suzuki/Ducati. With earlier pole challenger Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Ducati) fourth, and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM) in a year’s best sixth, there were five different marques on the front two rows. Only Aprilia was missing, and Aleix Espargaro wasn’t far away, qualified eighth alongside Ecstar Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone, who was also through from Q1.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was ninth for his last GP; Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Ducati) a disappointed tenth, after a fourth crash of the weekend spoiled his earlier challenge for the front row. Likewise eleventh-placed Johann Zarco, who crashed the Monster Yamaha halfway round a pole-pace lap. Ducati tester Michele Pirro was 12th; Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati) best of the rest.
Rossi was unable to get through from Q1, his Movistar Yamaha 16th, behind his protégé, rookie Franco Morbidelli (EG-VDS Honda).
Vinales was delighted to be back on pole. “It’s been a long time. This weekend I’ve felt great, even in the rain.”
Rins was equally happy “with the first front row of my life”.
Dovizioso pointed out the importance of the front row … not only because it is notoriously difficult to pass at the tight Ricardo Tormo circuit, but also because the forecast for tomorrow is heavy rain, making visibility a major issue if you are not up near the front.
Fresh from victory at steamy Sepang, Luca Marini conquered a chilly but dry Moto2 session to take his second pole of the season. But the SKY VR46 Kalex rider was concerned. In the wet yesterday he’d been a struggling 26th, only partly because of lingering pain from his troublesome 2017 shoulder injury.
“I did a good qualifying, but the wet was a disaster,” he said. “Tomorrow the race may be wet – so we need to work to understand the bike.”
He headed a time sheet even closer than usual for the competitive intermediate class, with 21 rides within a second of his time, and the three-strong front row spanning less than two tenths.
Xavi Vierge was second, pushing his Dynavolt Intact Kalex team-mate and erstwhile leader Marcel Schrotter to third.
New champion Pecco Bagnaia led the second row from behind team-mate Marini; with Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40 Kalex) alongside.
But the iffy conditions did shuffle the usual order a bit, with former race winner Sam Lowes (SII KTM) an unusually strong sixth, back from a painful crash in the wet yesterday.
Former Moto3 champion Joan Mir (EG VDS Kalex) led row three from second Pond rider Augusto Fernandez and Speed Up’s Fabio Quarteraro.
Title runner up Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) completed the top ten, his third-placed team-mate Brad Binder alongside him.
Fourth in the championship will be decided tomorrow between Baldassarri, Alex Marquez, Mir and Marini, covered by 15 points. Marquez (EG VDS Kalex) qualified a downbeat 16th.
Australian Remy Gardner (Tech 3) and American Joe Roberts (NTS) were 17th and 19th, but both had been well up in the wet.
With the track drying and the brave fitting slick tyres, Italian Tony Arbolino was the bravest, taking a second pole of his career at the end of thrilling and crash-strewn Moto3 qualifying.
Times were tumbling as the dry line developed, and the names at the top of the list were shuffling as fast as the timing gear could keep up over the last five minutes.
Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Honda) was one of the first to switch from wet tyres, and had already taken to the top when he went even faster at the end, making his pole invulnerable. The 18-year-old Italian took his first pole in round two in Argentina, in similar half-wet conditions.
Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) was second, for his first front row; with Scot John McPhee (CIP Green Power KTM) slipping into third in the dying seconds.
This pushed GP first-timer Can Oncu, wild-carding on the Red Bull Ajo KTM after winning the Rookies Cup, off the front row. It was still a sensational debut. Oncu topped the sheets earlier, and was just two tenths away from a debut front row.
Aron Canet (EG Honda) was fifth, and Marco Bezzecchi (Redox KTM) sixth, although one of at least ten riders to fall in the tricky conditions. His close rival for second overall, Fabio Di Giannantonio was 15th on row five, and his Del Conca Gresini Honda team-mate Jorge Martin, the 2018 champion, 13th-fastest.
Arbolino’s advantage was almost a quarter of a second, and riders who missed the switch to slicks meant a more widely-space set of times than usual, with the top 20 covered by more than two seconds.