Pol Espargaro flew to a surprise pole position for the European Grand Prix at Valencia with a late effort to deny Suzuki’s Alex Rins.
The session looked to be under the control of Suzuki in the early stages, the Japanese manufacturer seemingly having flipped their normally sub-par qualifying performances around in the mixed conditions that greeted the riders and teams.
Rins managed to hold the top spot with a second flyer after being demoted by team-mate Joan Mir and LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami early on, the Spaniard’s 1:41.254 keeping him ahead of Franco Morbidelli and Nakagami as the field completed their opening gambits.
Nakagami came out swinging as he returned to the circuit though, the Alcaniz GP pole-man keen to make up for his costly crash on the opening tour of the second Aragon contest from the lead just two weeks ago.
He posted a time 0.754 quicker than anyone else at that point, a lap that most struggled to match until the very last moments of the session.
Rins’ banged in a rapid opening sector late on though to set him up for the provisional pole once again, shading Nakagami by just 0.005 as he lifted himself back into the lead.
This was to be short-lived though, as Espargaro flashed past the timing line to move to the head of the times by a slender 0.091, his 1:40.434 ultimately securing him pole as Rins came up 0.041 short on his own final push lap.
Nakagami completed the front row in third-the trio covered by less than a tenth of a second-while Johann Zarco claimed a strong fourth despite having to contest Q1 in order to gain access to the pole shootout.
The Frenchman was the not the form man in the opening qualifying session though, that accolade went the way of Tech 3 KTM racer Miguel Oliveira.
The Styrian GP winner commanded the test from the front, leading the first set of runs by a monster 0.618 over factory Honda man Stefan Bradl.
Not content with his gap, Oliveira continued to find improvements across the remainder of the session until he ended up with a 1:40.771, though Zarco narrowed his leading advantage to just 0.050 with his own final tour.
This earned the pairing pole shootout berths, though several big names missed out.
Maverick Vinales ended the session only 15th after struggling in the slippy conditions-though his performance was academic either way as he will have to start from pit-lane as a result of taking a sixth engine of the season-while team-mate Valentino Rossi was 18th on the timesheets ahead of Danilo Petrucci.
Zarco looked to have had the speed for a shock pole of his own in the dying seconds of Q2 as he hooked up a lap over seven-tenths up on anyone else, though his hopes were dashed after a yellow flag at the final corner for a crashed Nakagami forced him to back off.
Mir did his title hopes the world of good with a strong fifth on the second GSX-RR, while Aleix Espargaro backed up Aprilia’s impressive Friday performance with sixth on the grid.
Jack Miller on the other hand failed to build on his Friday domination with seventh ahead of Oliveira, while Morbidelli slipped to ninth by the end ahead of the second factory KTM of Brad Binder.
Fabio Quartararo had failed to find confidence in the wet all day, culminating in a lowly 11th on the grid ahead of Andrea Dovizioso-who failed to make the best of conditions his Desmosedici usually thrives in.
|1||Pol ESPARGARO||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||1’40.434|
|2||Alex RINS||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||1’40.475||0.041|
|3||Takaaki NAKAGAMI||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||1’40.530||0.096|
|4||Johann ZARCO||Esponsorama Racing||1’40.577||0.143|
|5||Joan MIR||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||1’40.704||0.270|
|6||Aleix ESPARGARO||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||1’40.893||0.459|
|7||Jack MILLER||Pramac Racing||1’40.893||0.459|
|8||Miguel OLIVEIRA||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||1’41.328||0.894|
|9||Franco MORBIDELLI||Petronas Yamaha SRT||1’41.557||1.123|
|10||Brad BINDER||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||1’41.781||1.347|
|11||Fabio QUARTARARO||Petronas Yamaha SRT||1’41.943||1.509|
|12||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||Ducati Team||1’42.249||1.815|
|13||Stefan BRADL||Repsol Honda Team||1’41.010|
|14||Alex MARQUEZ||Repsol Honda Team||1’41.276|
|15||Cal CRUTCHLOW||LCR Honda CASTROL||1’41.311|
|16||Francesco BAGNAIA||Pramac Racing||1’41.395|
|17||Valentino ROSSI||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||1’42.039|
|18||Danilo PETRUCCI||Ducati Team||1’42.244|
|19||Lorenzo SAVADORI||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||1’42.532|
|20||Tito RABAT||Esponsorama Racing||1’43.030|
|21||Maverick VINALES||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||1’41.310*|