With dark clouds lurking in the skies over the circuit in the Tuscan hillside, we headed into the Moto3 qualifying session here in Mugello unsure if the sunshine would hold out for the riders. After nothing short of perfection so far this weekend, could anyone put a stop to Red Bull KTM rider Deniz Öncü taking pole position?
With the longest straight on the MotoGP calendar, as always it’s a battle of the slip stream in Moto3. In Q1, we saw Ryusei Yamanaka dragging Joel Kelso along to post the fastest time. Kelso, with a fantastic lap of 1:57.282, returned to the pits confident of his Q2 slot which was later proved to be right.
As all of the riders took to the track for a final run at getting into Q2, and with only 5 seconds left of the session, Jose Antonio Rueda moved up into 2nd in the timings only to be quickly booted out of the top 4 by a swarm of riders crossing the finish line. Taiyo Furusato, Stefano Nepa, Vicente Perez and Kelso ended Q1 as your top 4 riders.
As we headed into Q2 the battle for pole was on. Deniz Öncü has been outstanding so far this weekend and quickest in every session. Sat in the pits, the riders all picked who to follow out onto the circuit to get the best slip stream possible.
In the early stages of Q2, Daniel Holgado and Öncü were dicing with each other during their first runs, nearly coming together at one point and resulting in Öncü diving into the pits to wait for a better spot to go back out.
With 8 minutes of the session left and all of the riders were now posting flying laps. It was Kelso who set the fastest lap with Diogo Moreira, Ayumu Sasaki and Jaume Masia rounding up the top 4. All riders headed back to the pits after their first attempts at pole, only to leave Öncü and Sasaki still pushing on track.
With the track empty and taking full advantage, Öncü quickly posted the fastest time of 1:56.135, nearly half a second clear of Kelso in 2nd. As the riders now made their way back out of the pits for the second attempt, they had a mountain to climb to claim pole position here in Mugello. Coming to the end of their out laps and half the pack blasting down the long straight into turn 1 , could anyone challenge Öncü’s time with only a minute remaining in the session?
Despite having provisional pole, Öncü wasn’t slowing down for anyone, again going faster and posting a 1:56.020 chasing that elusive 1:55 lap time. As the swarm of riders crossed the line on their next flying laps it was Kelso hanging onto 2nd with Sasaki in 3rd and Moreira 4th.
A brilliant qualifying for Kelso but an even better performance from Öncü who showed total dominance and ended the session half a second quicker than anyone else. Sasaki, true to form, ended up on the front row of the grid, his fifth front row start of the season. Rounding off the front row for the race tomorrow is championship leader Holgado promoted to 3rd on the grid after the penalties.
1. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – 1:56.020
2. Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) + 0.591
3. Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3) +0.780
4. Matteo Bertelle (Rivacold Snipers Team) +0.844
5. Ricardo Rossi (SIC58 Squadra Corse) +0.983
6. Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) +1.077
7. Andrea Migno (CIP Green Power) +1.323
8. Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia) +1.338
9. Scott Ogden (VisionTrack Racing Team) +1.454
10. David Alonso (GASGAS Aspar Team) +1.498
Feature Image Credit: MotoGP