With Jorge Martin in a subpar physical condition, today’s qualifying session opened up opportunities for the rest of the Moto3 World Championship field to take pole position – especially the KTM riders, whose bikes were suited well to the Red Bull Ring.
Indeed it was a KTM rider who took pole position in the damp-but-drying session, and who else but KTM’s one and only title contender, Marco Bezzecchi who took his first career World Championship pole position, and Pruestel GP’s second pole in a week after Jakub Kornfeil’s triumphant Saturday last week at home in Brno. Bezzecchi has looked strong all weekend – especially in the wet, and perhaps because of his future security as he has been confirmed in the Tech3 KTM Moto2 team for next season. And with that future ride in place, he made the most of the conditions to set his fastest time at the very end, when the track was at its best. Maximum points is a must for Bezzecchi tomorrow, as he has to capitalise on Martin’s injury and take profit in the championship.
Jorge Martin appeared to be in a mess on Friday, and even Saturday morning. Before qualifying, he had only ridden in FP1 to try to save his strength for the important sessions. It was a questionable tactic, and one that brought back memories of Brno 2017, where Jorge missed practice sessions due to the broken leg picked up in Sachsenring and ultimately pulled out of the weekend. However, it was a tactic that clearly worked, and so did his qualifying strategy. He was reasonably quick in the wet, but nothing spectacular, but when the track dried out he was in a prime position to take advantage of the drying track. Unfortunately, Bezzecchi had marginally better timing and was able to sneak pole position, but Martin still managed second place – something that Bezzecchi was quick to congratulate him on. And rightly so, the feat of Martin was incredible; to come back one week after a broken radius and qualify second – especially on a track with so much heavy breaking – is up there with Jorge Lorenzo’s 2013 Assen comeback. A really impressive achievement for Martin, and now all eyes will be on him tomorrow to see whether he might even be able to go one better in the race.
The front row of the grid is rounded out by Albert Arenas, the first front row of his Grand Prix career, and his second visit to parc ferme, after his victory in Le Mans.
Like Bezzecchi, Aron Canet will be hoping to take advantage of Jorge Martin’s injury tomorrow and maximise his points gain over his compatriot in the championship. Canet is still without a win this season, but will be looking to change that tomorrow from fourth on the grid. Tony Arbolino and Gabriel Rodrigo join Canet on the front row, in fifth and sixth respectively.
Marcos Ramirez starts tomorrow’s race from seventh on the grid, ahead of Tech 3’s second Moto2 signing for next season, Philipp Oettl. They are joined by another championship hopeful on row three, as Enea Bastianini starts ninth tomorrow.
It was one of Adam Norrodin’s best performances of the season in qualifying today, as he set the 10th fastest time, to head up row four on which he will be joined by Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Jaume Masia. The Spaniard was brilliant in the Austrian Grand Prix last year as a wildcard, so keep an eye on him tomorrow.
From pole position last week to thirteenth – that is the difference seven days makes to Jakub Kornfeil’s qualifying position, but expect the Czech to come on strong should the rain tyres make an appearance. He lines up alongside two Italians on the fifth row; Niccolo Antonelli and Dennis Foggia start 14th and 15th respectively.
A disappointing qualifying for Fabio Di Giannantonio left him down in sixteenth. Two Japanese join the Italian on row six, as Tatsuki Suzuki line up 17th and Ayumu Sasaki took the 18th fastest time.
Andrea Migno starts 19th, whilst Alonso Lopez rounds out the top 20 and Stefano Nepa completes row seven in 21st place.
The 22nd fastest time went to Nicolo Bulega. The positive for the Italian is that, with his typically apocalyptic starts, he will probably be last by turn one and thus be able to avoid the inevitable carnage at the tight turn one. Max Kofler, the #73 wildcard, took 23rd, and Nakarin Atiratphuvapat 24th.
25th went to Kazuki Masaki, whilst Ai Ogura was surprisingly far down the order in 26th. Ogura was impressive in the wet but when the conditions got mixed he clearly lost a lot of confidence. Darryn Binder could only manage the back of row nine in 27th.
Kaito Toba was 28th and Vicente Perez 29th. John McPhee will be 30th and last on the grid tomorrow, after his second crash of the session meant he couldn’t set a time when the track was at its best. In fact, McPhee didn’t make the qualifying time, but the stewards will let him in on account of previous evidence of his competitiveness.