Baldassarri Takes Maiden Grand Prix Pole in Jerez Moto2 Qualifying

As usual, the qualifying session for Moto2 got underway in Jerez after the excitement of MotoGP. The expectation was that the track would get slower as the session wound on, and therefore the fastest times would be set at the beginning of the session. But this was not the case.

Lorenzo Baldassarri set his pole position lap of a 1’41.925 on his 16th lap of 18 in the session. It was the Italian’s first pole position of his Grand Prix career, and sets him up well to take his first victory of 2018, first since Misano 2016 and second in his career, in tomorrow’s race. But a qualifying lap, of course, is not indicative of pace to win a race. What is, though, is consistently fast long run pace over the weekend, and Baldassarri has had that in abundance over the last two days. The number 7 will be a tough man to beat.

Second place went to Alex Marquez, and he is of the feeling that Baldassarri will have an advantage in tomorrow’s race. But this is his home Grand Prix and you can bet that Marquez will be determined to stop Baldassarri from getting away, in the vein of Pasini with Oliveira in Argentina, or Rossi with Stoner at Laguna 2008.

The remaining place of the front row will be occupied by Pecco Bagnaia on tomorrow’s Moto2 grid, as the championship leader puts himself in a strong position to take win number three from the opening four races. It could perhaps be considered a trait of Bagnaia over the course of his Moto2 career that he has been kind on tyres, and that could be critical tomorrow with the line between running the harder or softer compound Dunlop rear slick appearing to be very fine indeed.

Brad Binder. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

That, in theory, should bring the KTMs into play, with their infamous rear tyre conservation. But whilst Brad Binder will set off in fifth place tomorrow, just behind the impressive Jorge Navarro who took the fourth-fastest qualifying time. Miguel Oliveira will start from way down in fourteenth on the number 44 bike. This is not the way the Portuguese would have wished to celebrate the announcement of his signing for Tech 3 KTM for next season, and will be eager to begin his fight back through the field tomorrow.

On the back of row two will be the unfortunately ill Joan Mir, who is suffering with a stomach bug that was so intrusive that he had to miss the final minutes of FP3. This makes the Spaniard’s qualifying efforts all the more impressive. Tomorrow the rookie will be hoping to claim his first Moto2 podium at home in front of the Spanish GP crowd, although his endurance will be put fully to the test in the searing Andalusian sun.

Xavi Vierge goes off of seventh tomorrow, the head of row three, ahead of Sam Lowes, who had a crash in qualifying, and Romano Fenati, who has had a brilliant weekend on the Snipers Kalex, but Xavi could struggle to hold onto the tyres in the latter stages of tomorrow’s race.

Mattia Pasini will have work to do tomorrow afternoon starting in 10th, if he is to limit the damage done to his championship challenge, should the front row fulfil their respective potentials. Joining Mattia on the fourth row will be Danny Kent and Luca Marini.

Fifth row comprises of Simone Corsi will start from thirteenth place, with the aforementioned Oliveira and Hector Barbera behind him. The sixteenth fastest time went to Tetsuta Nagashima, who will start on row six ahead of Marcel Schotter and Fabio Quartararo. Meanwhile, Iker Lecuona underperformed with the nineteenth fastest lap, but will start of Andrea Locatelli and Isaac Vinales on row seven, whilst row eight will consist of Stefano Manzi, Bo Bendsneyder and Domi Aegerter’s replacement, Lukas Tulovic.

Khairul Idham Pawi will be 25th on the grid, ahead of the two NTS bikes of Steven Odendaal and Joe Roberts. Eric Granado, Jules Danilo and Hector Garzo make up row ten, and the final row will be occupied by wildcard Xavi Cardelus, Federico Fuligni and Zulfahmi Khairuddin.

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