News 10 Mar 2019

First MotoGP pole of the season goes to Vinales in Qatar

Miller top Independent in fourth as Gardner secures fifth in Moto2.

Image: Supplied.

Monster Energy Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales has taken the first MotoGP pole position of the 2019 season at the VisitQatar Grand Prix.

The Spaniard recorded a 1m53.546s, enough to give him a little breathing space ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), who join him on the front row of the grid.

Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) impressed early as the rookie initially shot to the top of the times, only to be beaten almost immediately by Q1 graduate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). That’s when Vinales struck, storming to the summit with a lap that was 0.741s quicker than anyone else.

Quartararo and Nakagami exchanged second fastest laps to leave the Japanese rider 0.395s off as the field headed in for a change of tyres, but it was soon about to change. Vinales led the troops back out for their second runs and the goalposts were moved once more.

Three more tenths were shaved off his best time, with Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) then slotting into P2 and just 0.2s off. The Australian crashed at turn two soon after though, ending his hopes of pole and leaving his time under threat.

Dovizioso needed no second invitation, making a move into second place soon after. The Italian looked set to challenge Vinales again as he went over a tenth under after the first split, but the lap was gone by the second sector – his qualifying effort over.

Attention then turned to Marquez, who was on the tail of Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati Team) as neither sat on the provisional front row with little time left. Tactics on point, the reigning world champion was able to snatch third from Miller.

Miller therefore heads up the second row as top Independent, but it was a pretty close challenge from Quartararo by the end of the session. The French rookie retained his stunning pace so far and lines up fifth, just a tenth and a half off the Aussie.

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) completes an all-Independent second row, with plenty of honour up for grabs for each. Petrucci starts seventh and, after outpacing teammate Dovizioso for much of testing, will be gunning to move forward on race day and battle for his first victory.

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) is P8, with Nakagami eventually knocked down to ninth. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) completes the top 10 and was a crasher on Saturday – another who’ll be looking for much more once the lights go out. Rookie teammate Joan Mir is right behind him.

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) is 12th, ahead of rookie Francesco Bagnaia (Alma Pramac Racing). Then come two big surprises, Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in P14 after a tough day and Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) in 15th. Lorenzo suffered two crashes, but is fit to race.

Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) is set to start Moto2 from his first-ever pole position, setting a best time of 1m58.585s to beat Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) by 0.146s, with Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) completing the front row. Australian Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) starts fifth.

Sterilgarda Max Racing’s Aron Canet clinched the first Moto3 pole position of the season in impressive fashion with a 2m05.883s. The front row is completed by two men starting from there for the first time, Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) in second and Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) in third.

Detailed results