Moto3 qualifying got underway in atypically warm conditions in Le Mans for the fourth round of the 2018 World Championship, but as had been the case across all three classes over the course of the weekend, it was crashes aplenty.
Avoiding falling was the rider who finally set pole position, Jorge Martin. The Spaniard is still carrying an injury this weekend, and perhaps not had the pace you might expect from him, but that did not stop him taking yet another pole position. With the way the first section of corners work at Le Mans, and with the number of Moto3 bikes entering them on lap one tomorrow, being on the front row is key to keep out of trouble, which is precisely what Martin will be hoping to do tomorrow considering his injury, and his championship ambitions – he can’t afford another DNF after Jerez.
It was a surprise in second place, with the Czech veteran, Jakub Kornfeil, setting the time fast enough for the middle spot in the front row. Row one was rounded out by the number 33 of Enea Bastianini, who had a monster high side in the early stages of the session at Musée, but got himself and the bike back in relatively good states, and his front row start tomorrow is just reward for his efforts. He will be hoping for his first win of 2018 tomorrow.
Marcos Ramirez built on his podium at home in Jerez two weeks ago to take fourth on the grid, and it looks like perhaps the Spaniard is beginning to return to form after his difficult start to the season. Fifth place on the grid tomorrow will be filled by Albert Arenas, who is sporting a Mike Wazowski helmet design on his HJC, who sponsor the French Grand Prix hence the one-off designs for their riders this weekend. Championship leader, Marco Bezzecchi, was another who crashed, but managed to recover to take sixth place, as he looks for his fourth successive podium in sunday’s race.
Row three will be headed up by Niccolo Antonelli, ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio who has been tipped by his teammate Jorge Martin to be the Spaniard’s main challenger for the world title. Andrea Migno will be off the back of the third row.
Aron Canet set the tenth fastest time, but his part in the major crash at Jerez, combined with his incident with Makar Yurchenko, got him a back-of-the grid start for this race, so his qualifying position was irrelevant today.
So, it will be Lorenzo Dalla Porta who will stat tenth tomorrow, ahead of Philipp Oettl (also sporting a Mike Wazowski helmet) and Darryn Binder. Tony Arbolino will head up row five, in front of Tatsuki Suzuki and Nicolo Bulega, who seems to have made a step forward this weekend, building on progress which was apparently made at the private Aragon test last week.
Kazuki Masaki, last year’s Red Bull Rookies Champion, will start sixteenth, ahead of Alonso Lopez and Makar Yurchenko; whilst Jaume Masia will front row seven in nineteenth, ahead of Livio Loi and Dennis Foggia. Gabriel Rodrigo will start 22nd, ahead of Nakarin Atiratphuvapat. John McPhee set the 25th fastest time (he had a crash at the end which cost him a chance at a final attempt), which would have been good enough for 24th after Canet’s penalty, but John himself got a penalty for causing the crash on lap one at Jerez two weeks ago, which took out three other riders. That 6-place penalty would have put him last, but Canet’s penalty means the Scot will start second-last, in 27th. With penalities added this means Ayumu Sasaki will start from the back of row eight in 24th. Kaito Toba will start 25th, Adam Norrodin 26th, and then finally the two penalised riders, McPhee and Canet.
Probably the biggest thing to watch durring the race will be the speed at which Canet can come through the pack. If he keeps it clean, considering the closeness of the times this weekend, it is not impossible for the Spaniard to make the podium.
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