#AlcanizGP Motorland Aragon, qualifying roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3

 In MotoGP, News

MotoGP

Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) kept his fine form rolling on Saturday at the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel, taking a maiden MotoGP™ pole position and becoming the first Japanese rider on pole in the premier class since Makoto Tamada at the 2004 Valencia GP. The number 30 also makes it three maiden polesitters this year, a first in a single MotoGP™ season since 2013, and ends Honda’s longest premier class run without a pole since they returned to the class in 1982. It was close in the end though, with Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) just 0.063 off as the Italian starts second; the only other man in the 1:46s. Aragon GP winner Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) took an ominous third place to start the Teruel GP a good few places higher up the grid than last weekend, locking out the front row.

In Q1, however, all eyes were on Ducati. With every Borgo Panigale machine set to fight it out in the session, there was plenty at stake… and it started well enough for Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) as he held onto the provisional fastest lap after the first runs. Then though, a stunner came in from Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) as the Spaniard pulled clear at the top… and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) looked set to move through too. But then, a last lap dash from Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) ensured there was going to be one Ducati in the fight for the top 12 – with the Frenchman taking second right at the flag and moving through along with Pol Espargaro. That left Aleix Espargaro set to line up 13th, Miller 14th and Championship contender Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in a difficult P17 for race day.

The action was back underway soon enough for Q2, and it was a familiar name at the top after the first runs as Nakagami came straight out the blocks with a 1:47.072. It was also a familiar name in second, with Morbidelli just half a tenth off once again. Zarco impressed as the Q1 graduate slotted into third early on before the calm before the storm returned to pitlane, first runs done.

With just five minutes left on the clock, the field filed back out. Mir was 4.5 seconds off after failing to set a competitive lap time on his opening run, Aragon GP podium finisher Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was P11 and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) seventh, with a lot at stake in the final few minutes. With two minutes to go though, everyone was still setting grey sector times for the time being, with no one able to go quicker…

That left Mir with a one-lap shot at picking up places from P12. Pol Espargaro found time in Sector 2 and was on a personal best time, Viñales had also found time, but all eyes then returned to Nakagami. The Japanese rider was 0.239 up in Sector 3, and Honda have been mighty in Sector 4… would it be a 1:46? It would. Coming across the line, Nakagami set a phenomenal 1:46.882 to move the goalposts significantly, and ultimately secure his maiden MotoGP™ pole position.

Quartararo was threatening but had a second wobble coming onto the front straight to go P5, and just behind the Frenchman, Rins did improve even more to take third. On his last lap, Viñales also went quicker – but it wasn’t enough to threaten Nakagami or for the front row. Morbidelli, meanwhile, did threaten slightly – but it wasn’t quite enough as the Italian ended the session 0.063 off.

That guaranteed a maiden MotoGP™ pole position for the LCR Honda Idemitsu rider, and he’ll be one to watch on race day. Morbidelli takes his fourth front row start of the season in second, with Rins retaining P3 and looking a little threatening after his win last weekend from 10th on the grid…

Viñales is forced to settle for fourth, with Zarco keeping P5 despite a crash late on for the Frenchman, his earlier laptime proving stunner enough. Quartararo will start from sixth, just pipping LCR Honda Castrol’s Cal Crutchlow.

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) slots into eighth alongside the Brit, getting the better of Pol Espargaro by just 0.010 as the Q1 graduate starts ninth. Tenth place went to Alex Marquez as the rookie took his best qualifying result so far – better than last weekend, when he took another podium – with Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) right behind him, also a best ever for the rookie number 27.

So where’s Mir? After some late drama that looked like the Yellow Flag for Zarco’s crash would cancel a number of laps, including that of the Championship leader, it looked like he may have to settle for his first effort – over four seconds adrift. But the laptimes were reinstated after it was shown the Yellow Flag hadn’t been out for the likes of Mir, Oliveira, Crutchlow and Alex Marquez… but it didn’t prove a key aide. By just 0.021, the Championship leader is forced to settle for P12 – and will have plenty to do on race day. But then, we’ve seen some sensational comebacks this season already…

Moto2

Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) remains the man in form after an impressive Q2 at the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel, the Brit laying down the gauntlet of another new lap record for his 11th Moto2™ pole position. Jorge Navarro (Lightech Speed Up) was the man closest on the chase as he takes second, two tenths down, with Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) completing the front row in a hotly-contested third place. Championship leader Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) starts sixth, with third overall Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) down in P11 for the Teruel GP…

Marini was the man in the spotlight in Q1 as the Italian struggled to break the top 20 in Free Practice, but he moved through in third behind Bo Bendsneyder (NTW RW Racing GP) and Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP), with Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) the fourth man through. Could Marini make a dent in the top 18 in Q2? It was time to reset and find out.

Marcos Ramirez (Tennor American Racing) was the early pacesetter but Lowes didn’t allow the rookie to spend long at the summit, taking four tenths off and sitting just a tenth off the lap record to set his competition an almighty challenge early on. Navarro then cut Lowes’ gap down to less than a tenth though. before Gardner and Ramirez slotted themselves onto the provisional front row.

Lowes wouldn’t be stopped, however. With eight minutes to go, the number 22 slammed in a new lap record to set the benchmark once again, with Navarro still pushing and taking P2 but still a couple of tenths off Lowes. Could he do it next time around? The Spaniard was getting closer but his pole position dreams ended at Turn 7 as he slipped out of contention, ultimately ensuring the battle remained a brief duel and making it a Lowes-Navarro 1-2 on the grid.

The fight for third was close and Gardner held off Fabio Di Giannantonio (Lightech Speed Up) by just 0.009, with the fight for fourth even closer yet. Ramirez was forced to settle for fifth, but the rookie was just 0.001 off Diggia as he continues his impressive run of MotorLand form. Championship leader Bastianini had a more solid qualifying than last weekend and locks out the second row, the Italian now likely focused on trying to stop Lowes from winning – or limiting the damage.

Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) keeps his impressive speed rolling to spearhead the third row, ahead of Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP 40) and Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) as the two Spaniards complete Row 3. Q1 graduate Bendsneyder picked up an impressive P10, his best Q2 result since the Dutchman qualified P5 in Qatar, with Marini forced to settle for P11 in the end but beating Aragon GP podium finisher Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) to it by less than a tenth.

At the end of the session, there was some drama for Martin too. He and Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) vented their frustration at each other after an incident in the closing moments of Q2, and title challenger Bezzecchi has to settle for P14, his first non-top 10 qualifying result of the season…

That’s a wrap from Saturday and Lowes reigns once again at MotorLand. Can anyone stop the man second in the Championship from taking his third win in a row? A victory would see Lowes take the title lead heading into the final three races, Bastianini is the only contender in the title race looking likely to challenge Lowes on Sunday afternoon…

Moto3

Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) has done it again! The Spaniard’s 1:57.199 in Q2 at the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel sees him take a fifth pole of the season, edging out Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) by 0.231. Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) bounced back from a more difficult Friday to complete the front row, as the riders third and fourth overall start the furthest forward of the title challengers on Sunday…

In Q1 it was Filip Salač (Rivacold Snipers Team) who topped the timesheets, and with an impressive advantage of nearly four tenths. The Czech rider was joined by Stefano Nepa (Solunion Aspar Team), Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) in moving through to Q2, and so the stage was set for the fight for pole.

It was – as ever – Fernandez who led the way early doors, the Spaniard the man on top heading into the classic final shootout. But, again as ever, that classic final shootout would shuffle a good few rows – just not at the top. Fernandez was the only man able to beat his own time, knocking a few tenths off and securing himself a fifth pole of 2020.

It looked like it would be with a substantial gap back to Vietti initially, but Arbolino struck late to take second and home in on Fernandez. Arbolino, who missed the Aragon GP due to mandatory self-isolation, has been quick since his return – and Vietti was also a top qualifier last weekend, despite his tougher Friday this time around.

Fourth goes to Rodrigo as the Argentinean impressed in Q2 despite having to move through Q1, setting his best lap earlier in the session and missing out on the front row by just 0.017. Championship leader Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team) starts fifth in Teruel, with the second row completed by Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3). That’s the Japanese rider’s best qualifying of the year so far, and he was only 0.033 off Arenas.

Aragon GP winner Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) lines up to try and repeat the victory from seventh place, which is actually ten places less of a task than his impressive charge last weekend. Masia has Q1 graduate Toba and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) for company on Row 3.

Tenth place went the way of Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia), the man second in the Championship taking back-to-back top tens in qualifying for the first time since Styria and San Marino.

Salač, Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing), Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power) complete the top 15 – with John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) down in P17 and looking for a comeback on race day. But remember, last weekend’s winner did it from that exact grid position… can McPhee get up there too?

Tune in for the Moto3™ race at the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel at the very slightly later time of 11:20 (GMT +1) – and remember to check any daylight savings changes!

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