Moto3 qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, the fourth round of the 2018 World Championship, got underway in gorgeous sunshine on Saturday, and the drama was immediate, as Darryn Binder collided with Livio Loi on the exit of turn four in the opening minutes of the session. Binder was taken to the medical centre where he was diagnosed with a dislocated shoulder and ruled unfit to continue in this weekend’s action. Hopefully the South African can return in Le Mans. Binder’s absence means tomorrow’s Moto3 race will be the first to be run with no Red Bull Ajo KTMs.
Finally, it was Jorge Martin who took pole position, which is unsurprising considering the championship leader’s prowess over one lap. He was keen to play down its importance, though, as he knows only too well – last year Martin went from pole to tenth in the race. But Jorge’s pace this weekend has been outstanding, and it would be a huge surprise if he wasn’t in the battle for the win at the end of the race tomorrow.
Philipp Oettl took second place with a lap done early in the session, which is quite typical of the German, who celebrated his 22nd birthday earlier in the week. The front row was rounded out by Fabio Di Giannantonio to give Gresini Racing a double front row start. Diggia, too, has had stunning pace all weekend and has looked supremely calm in the process. A first win for the Italian could be on the cards tomorrow.
Fourth place went to Niccolo Antonelli, ahead of Argentina winner Marco Bezzecchi in fifth, and Andrea Migno, on a big weekend for the Angel Nieto Team, to make it an all VR46 Rider Academy row two.
Alonso Lopez took by far, his best grid position of his Grand Prix career to date with seventh place, ahead of Enea Bastianini in eighth and the second Leopard Racing bike of Lorenzo Dalla Porta in ninth, whilst Tatsuki Suzuki heads up row four and rounds out the top ten qualifiers. Kaito Toba had his best qualifying of the season in eleventh place and Dennis Foggia put himself in a decent position for tomorrow in 12th.
Makar Yurchenko had a good qualifying – notably at the first track of the season the World Championship has visited this season that the Kazakh rider has visited in the past. Unfortunately, at his home Grand Prix, the same cannot be said for Aron Canet, who will go from fifteenth tomorrow. It will take an almighty comeback from the Spaniard to be able to beat his main title rival, Martin, in tomorrow’s race, but in Moto3 anything is possible.
Jakub Kornfeil was sixteenth, ahead of disappointing rides by both John McPhee in seventeenth and Marcos Ramirez in eighteenth. Ai Ogura will be disappointed, too, to have ended the session down in nineteenth place, after spending much of it within the top ten. The Japanese wildcard has shown promise this weekend, but will need to make a good first lap if he is to fight at the front in tomorrow’s race. Gabriel Rodrigo had a big crash in turn four, and could only manage twentieth, but ahead of an extremely disappointing Tony Arbolino – the Italian set an unofficial lap record at Jerez in pre-season and has looked decently quick in free practice, but was unable to convert that into a good qualifying result, and will have to fight well tomorrow to make a good result.
At one point there was half a sign that Nicolo Bulega’s fortunes might be turning, but it turned out to be another qualifying outside the top twenty for the Italian – 22nd fastest in the end for ‘Bulegas’. Whatever issues Bulega is having at the moment, they need to be sorted quickly, because he is currently drifting further and further away from the wonderful prospect he jumped onto the GP scene as back in 2016 – at this very track!
Ayumu Sasaki, another disappointment (there seem to be a lot of those today) in twenty-third, ahead of Albert Arenas, about whom a similar thing could be said, and equally so for 25th fastest Jaume Masia. Jeremy Alcoba will start 26th on his Grand Prix debut tomorrow, which is not what he would have expected after spending stints of the practice sessions near the top of the times. Yet more disappointment, as Adam Norrodin starts 27th, ahead of Livio Loi and Nakarin Atiratphuvapat.
From the perspective of many riders, today’s qualifying session has been a disappointment (I think I have written that word a record number of times for one article), but perhaps that shows just how competitive Moto3 is in 2018, more than anything else.
Featured image courtesy of Redbull Content pool