Moto3: Stunning Sasaki Pole in Australia

Feature Image Credit: Husqvrarna - Polarity Photo

Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) was back to his best in qualifying to take pole position here in Australia – the first pole position for Sasaki since the Sachsenring weekend way back in June.

Home favourite Joel Kelso (CFMOTO Racing PruestelGP), to the delight of the home crowd, qualified on the front row in 2nd. “Full gas” was the message from Stefano Nepa (Angeluss MTA Team) as he took his first ever front row start, qualifying in 3rd.

AS IT HAPPENED

Qualifying 1

Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team) were the surprise names in the Q1 session. Holgado was under a mountain of pressure to stay in the championship fight with Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) and Sasaki.

As always here at Phillip Island, the conditions could have turned at any moment but it thankfully remained dry for the session. The battle for a top 4 spot, and to progress in to Q2, got under way with Holgado leading the pack out onto the circuit.

Ryusei Yamanaka (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) was quickest after the first set of flying laps. Holgado was just getting warmed up to the fast paced circuit and immediately got up into the top 4 on the next flying lap.

With 8 minutes left of the session, Holgado was quickest with Yamanaka 2nd, Filippo Farioli (Red Bull KTM Tech3) in 3rd and Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia) in 4th.

 

Ortola, with just 20 seconds left of the session, crossed the line with one last effort to get through to Q2 remaining. He was red through sector 1, but came out of the Miller corner, at turn 4, and nearly lost the rear. The team looked nervous, but Ortola just managed to save his weekend and scraped into the top 4 to get through to Q2.

The top 4, and going through to Q2, were Holgado, Yamanaka, Farioli and Ortola.

Qualifying 2

The battle for pole position commenced and the Husqvarna riders stayed in the pits as the rest of the field poured onto the circuit. Sasaki wasn’t keen to tow his rivals round in qualifying.

Teenage rookie sensation David Alonso (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) was on provisional pole as the first batch of flying lap times were posted. However, this didn’t last as Sasaki posted a time nearly half a second quicker to take provisional pole with 7 minutes left of the session. Sasaki was ahead with a lap time of 1:36.654. Alonso was 0.492 seconds behind, in 2nd. After their first runs, Sasaki’s title rivals of Masia and Holgado were 8th and 17th respectively.

Home favourite Joel Kelso (CFMOTO Racing PruestelGP) put in a stunning lap, splitting Sasaki and Alonso, and moved up to 2nd place. He was onto the front row of the grid with 2mins left of the session.

Masia was in 9th place and left the pits with just 90 seconds to spare for a final attempt at pole. This would end up being a big mistake from the championship leader, as he left the pits without enough time on the clock to go for pole position. Masia will have to start tomorrow’s race from 13th on the grid.

It was all change in the starting order as the riders came through to finish the session. Nepa took his first ever starting row qualifying in 3rd place. Last weekend’s winner Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) heads up the second row in 4th place.

Sasaki, with a blistering lap, takes pole position here in Phillip Island. Sasaki has been missing for a few weeks with below par qualifying performances. Today though, Sasaki was back to his best with title rivals Holgado starting 11th and Masia 13th tomorrow.

Last season here in Australia, Holgado crashed out on lap 2, Masia finished down in 15th and Sasaki narrowly missed out on a podium finishing in 4th. Will it be a similar story tomorrow?

Starting Grid

Image Credit: MotoGP

Moto2: Chantra Storms to Pole in Japan!

Image Credit: MotoGP

Delight for IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia with a stunning 1-2 here at their home Grand Prix in Japan. Somkiat Chantra was on fire today in Motegi and so far this weekend has been fastest in every session in Moto2. Chantra took pole with teammate Ai Ogura 2nd, and Jake Dixon rounding off the front row in 3rd.

Disaster for Tony Arbolino today qualifying in 13th place. With championship rival Pedro Acosta heading up the second row tomorrow in 4th. Arbolino has it all to do in tomorrow’s race, to try and stop Acosta running away with the championship this year. 

Image Credit: MotoGP

AS IT HAPPENED

Qualifying 1

Jake Dixon lead the pack out of the pits onto the track for the Q1 session. Dixon a shock name in the session and had never failed so far this season to get into Q2.

As Dixon approached the end of his out lap, several riders were queuing ready to follow Dixon round the track. Dixon stating before the weekend that Motegi was one of his favourite tracks.

As the first bunch of riders posted their first flying lap times, Alonso Lopez set the benchmark for the rest of the field. Lopez having to serve a double long lap penalty this weekend after the carnage last weekend in India.

With 10mins left of the session, the top 4 currently heading into Q2 were Lopez, Bo Bensneyder, Zonta Van De Goorbergh and reigning Moto3 champion Izan Guevara.

Mattia Casadei lit up the yellow flags in sector 2, going down at turn 6. Casadei with his 3rd crash of the weekend. A tough weekend so far for the Kalex rider.

7mins of the session remained. Dixon and Binder lit up the sectors red and as they all crossed the line, Binder went quickest with a time of 1:50.294. Van De Goorbergh just +0.060 back to Binder and Dixon moved up into the top 4 in 3rd.

The riders back on the track now after a brief stop in the pits.  Lopez set a blistering lap time of 1:50.089 and moved to the top of the standings pushing Dixon down to 4th. Had Lopez set that time this morning, he’d of been 2nd quickest overall from the practice sessions.

Chequered flag out and the riders on current flying laps weren’t able to break into the top 4. The top 4 heading through to the Q2 session were Alonso, Binder, Van De Goorbergh and Dixon.

Qualifying 2

Both Beta Tools SpeedUp teammates Lopez and Fermin Aldeguer were the first to post times in the session, only to be blitzed moments later by Chantra posting a time just shy of the lap record of 1:49.977 seconds.

VD Goorbergh lit up the yellow flags in sector 1 just as Chantra broke the lap record with a time of 1:49.898. For 7 years Johann Zarco held the record, but finally broken today by Chantra and the provisional pole lap so far sat with the IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia rider.

Championship leader Pedro Acosta moved up into the 3rd after his first run, but only briefly as Dixon moved up to 2nd and Aron Canet into 4th. The front row with 6mins left in the session was Chantra, Dixon and Ogura.

Acosta and Dixon not giving up on pole went quicker with Dixon just +0.214seconds shy of Chantra’s provisional pole lap in 2nd, and Acosta in 3rd.

Tony Arbolino had a nightmare start to the session and with only a few minutes remaining was in 14th place. Arbolino’s teammate Sam Lowes was going better and up to 7th with a couple of minutes left in the session. Arbolino managed to finish 13th in the qualifying session. A disaster for Arbolino and will be looking to do all he can in the race tomorrow, to keep any championship hopes alive.

As the chequered flags waved, Ogura split Chantra and Dixon moving up to 2nd place to the delight of the team in the garage. A dream qualifying session for the IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia at their home race in Japan. Chantra quickest in every session so far this weekend! It will take a mighty effort from anyone to stop Chantra from taking the win tomorrow.

Qualifying Classification

Image Credit: MotoGP

Official Starting Grid

Image Credit: MotoGP

 

 

 

 

Moto3: Motegi Pole for Masia

Image Credit: MotoGP

Jaume Masia continued his blistering form and took his 3rd pole position in a row here today in Motegi, Japan. Masia made it look easy, with championship rival Deniz Öncü qualifying in 2nd and a back-to-back front row start for Matteo Bertelle completing the front row in 3rd.

A 5th pole position of the season for Leopard Racing team’s Masia and it’s hard to imagine anyone in Moto3 being able to stop Masia charging to championship glory. Championship rival’s Daniel Holgado starts the race on row 2 from 6th position and Ayumu Sasaki starts 7th on row 3 tomorrow.

Image Credit: Leopard Racing 

AS IT HAPPENED

Qualifying 1

Jose Antonio Rueda had a rare appearance in Q1. Taiyo Furusato and Riccardo Rossi also unlikely names in Q1 ready to battle it out for a spot in Q2.

Furusato was the first of the riders to come through and set a time, quickly followed by a group of 5 unable to go faster, with 10mins left of the session. Furusato was quicker through the first 2 sectors on the next run, only for the lap to be cancelled after running wide in sector 3.

Red Bull KTMs Filippo Farioli come through and up to 2nd in the standings. Still +0.633 seconds behind the quickest time set so far in the session. A 1:57.564 from Furusato. Farioli come off at the end of turn 2, but quickly back up and thankfully Farioli ok to continue.

5mins left in the session and CFMOTO teammates Joel Kelso and Xavi Artigas come through with Kelso setting the quickest time and Artigas up into 3rd. The top 4 currently heading through to Q2 at this point was Kelso, Furusato, Artigas and Farioli.

3mins remained in the session and Rossi was red through sectors 1 and 2 on his first flying lap in the session. Rossi topped the standings with a 1:57.161 a time +0.261seconds clear of Kelso in 2nd.

The riders had very little time to get through to Q2, only one more shot at getting through to Q2. Kelso, Artigas, Rueda and Rossi all on flying laps as the chequered flag came down on the session. The top 4 heading through to Q2 were Rossi, Kelso, Furusato and Rueda.

Qualifying 2

Some breaking news at the start of the Q2 session, with 3 place grid penalties handed out to Diogo Moreira and Collin Veijer. Both for moving their hands off the grips on the straights. No rain and a dry session in a really important qualifying in Moto3. Just 1 point separating the top 3 in the championship.

As the battle for pole position started it was bike #6 Ryusei Yamanaka coming through to set the first time of the session. GASGAS Aspar Team rider Yamanaka keen to impress this weekend and still needed a ride for next season. Bertelle quickly followed over the line and up to the top of the timings, with Ortola 2nd and Rueda currently in 3rd.

Less than 10mins of the session remained and the first group of riders were all setting flying laps. David Munoz setting a benchmark time now of 1:56.892, the first to get into the 1min56’s. Munoz tucking in behind the Husqvarna teammates Veijer and Sasaki picking up some slipstream along the finish straight.

Masia now seen coming out of the pits with Deniz Öncü, Kaito Toba, Rossi and Kelso all yet to set a time in the session.

With 5mins left of the session both Masia and Öncü were lighting up the sectors red just as Rossi had a big crash into turn 9. Yellow flags in sector 3, but both Masia and Öncü clear of the incident at the time and their laps stood. Masia up to the top with a 1:56.744 and Öncü 2nd with a gap of just +0.120seconds to Masia on provisional pole.

Masia and Öncü marched on with Öncü behind Masia on track, both continued to set the sectors red on their second runs. Both Masia and Öncü improved with Masia up to a 1:56.331 with a gap of +0.208 to Öncü in 2nd. Only Öncü able to be within a half a second to Masia at the top.

Sasaki with only a minute left in the session got a slipstream from teammate Veijer. Sasaki through the victory corner turn 14 onto the straight only to go 5th. Sasaki was up in the first two sectors on Masia on that lap, but unable to piece it all together for pole position.

With the chequered flag waving the riders all completed the session, none of the riders able to knock Masia off the top. A third pole position in a row for Masia. The Leopard Racing team rider sent a clear message to his championship rivals today in Motegi. A 5th pole position of the season for Masia and seemingly unstoppable at the moment in Moto3.

Official Starting Grid

Image Credit: MotoGP

 

MotoGP: Bagnaia takes pole in Sachsenring

Pecco Bagnaia reigns supreme at the Sachsenring with his 15th career pole position in MotoGP.  Back-to-back pole positions for the world champion as the incredible run of form continued here in Germany. 

A Sachsenring stunner here and a qualifying session full of drama. After a sea of yellow flags and laps cancelled, it was the Bologna bullet holding out at the end of Q2 to take pole position. 

Image Credit: Ducati Corse

QUALIFYING 1

Nicknamed the SachsenKING, Marc Marquez lead the pack of riders into Q1 on an ever changing track and set the benchmark time for the rest of the riders to chase posting the fastest time early on in the session.

With eight minutes left of the session, Marquez headed back out on the medium rain tyres to see if the track was ready for slicks, only to end up sprinting back to the pits for the spare bike, after the first of what turned into many falls throughout qualifying session for Marquez.

With time ticking away and riders in the pits looking on, they all had a tough call to make on what tyres to head back out on for the rest of Q1. After advice from his KTM teammate Jack Miller, Brad Binder was the first to gamble and head out onto the track on slick tyres.

With 30 seconds remaining of Q1, only two riders had the slick tyres on and this proved to be the right call with Binder and Marquez moving into Q2.

QUALIFYING 2

The battle for pole was on and with the sunshine now beating down onto the circuit, all of the riders headed out onto the track with slick tyres.

With ten minutes of the session remaining, Marquez was on course to posting the fastest time only to go over the handlebars coming out of turn 13. Marquez yet again seen sprinting back to the pits determined to get back out in Q2.

With Luca Marini now crossing the line going quickest, we then saw teammate Marco Bezzecchi crash out at turn 13. A copy cat like crash to the one we saw only moments earlier with Marquez.  With yellow flags now waving in sector 4 and with Bezzecchi now sprinting back to the pits, we were set for a hectic battle for pole in the second half of the session.

With just two minutes left to go in Q2, Johann Zarco goes quickest only to be topped a few seconds later by Miller. Fastest lap times just kept coming as we were shaping up for a thrilling finish to Q2.

Then just as all of the sectors lit up in yellow flags, Marini posted the quickest time only to be fractionally topped by Bagnaia, which would turn out to be pole position with a lap time of 1’21.4090 seconds. Just 0.078th of a second quicker to Marini in second place.

With Zarco going down and another fall from Marquez forcing the yellow flags, it caused a bunch of riders lap times to be cancelled and in doing so kept Bagnaia on top to take pole position.

Starting grid for the 2023 Saschenring MotoGP race. Image courtesy of MotoGP

 

Feature Image Credit:  courtesy of Ducati

 

Hamilton clinches pole in Monaco after disappointing qualifying for Ferrari

It was a dry but overcast afternoon in Monaco and, as the green light went out in Q1, eighteen of the drivers took to the Circuit de Monaco in a bid to claim pole position.

Monaco is a tight street circuit, so many choose to set competitive times early to avoid being caught out by a yellow or red flag. Early lap times are crucial at this track.

Both Red Bulls of Gasly and Verstappen sat in the garage at the beginning of Q1, with Verstappen’s car being pulled apart and swiftly put back together. Whatever issues he had seemed to have been fixed as he exited the garage.

Leclerc struggled to set a good lap time at the start of the session,  having been held up by Lance Stroll. Hulkenberg almost ran into Giovinazzi in a very similar situation at turn 18, with the pair being put under investigation for the incident.

Verstappen had the initial time to beat, three tenths quicker than defending world champion Lewis Hamilton. Leclerc was in third, with Alex Albon sitting in an impressive fourth place for Toro Rosso.

Hamilton also seemed to struggle, as replays showed the Mercedes driver locking up going into the chicane. After a bit of a scrappy lap, his teammate Bottas managed to set the pace with a 1:11.562.

Steve Etherington

Leclerc then missed the weighbridge procedure, as did Perez and Hulkenberg. All were investigated after qualifying came to a close for the infringements.

Vettel clipped the barrier at the Swimming Pool exit before pitting and returning to the track to set a competitive time. The Ferraris were cutting it fine in P17 and P15 as the chequered flag came out.

After topping the session in FP3, Leclerc dropped out of the session in a disappointing P16 at his home Grand Prix, having been left in the garage by Ferrari as the session came to a close. It was a costly and frustrating mistake which resulted in Leclerc falling behind traffic on his final attempt. Joining Leclerc in the drop-zone were Perez, Stroll, Russell and Kubica.

Both Mercedes went out at the beginning of Q2, with Bottas setting a new track record and Hamilton struggling to match the pace of his teammate in P3 behind Verstappen. Hamilton quickly managed to slot into second spot.

Several drivers made minor mistakes throughout the session, including Magnussen who clipped the wall going into Mirabeau as his Haas struggled to find grip.

With five minutes remaining in Q2, all drivers bar Verstappen went out to set their quickest laps. Verstappen sat in P1 in front of both Silver Arrows as the session ended with Hulkenberg, Norris, Grosjean, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in the elimination zone. Grosjean was majorly unhappy with P13 after having been held up by the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly, who was then put under investigation for the incident.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Both Alfa Romeo cars had a disappointing session after showing great pace in free practice, finishing in P14 and P15.

Vettel sat in P4, followed by Kevin Magnussen and both Toro Rossos. Gasly sat in P8 with Daniel Ricciardo behind in P9. Rounding out the top 10 was McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.

The final part of qualifying got underway as all ten drivers took to the track on soft compound tyres. Valtteri Bottas set the initial pace with a staggering 1:10.257, four tenths ahead of Max Verstappen in second position.

Hamilton initially made a mistake going into the chicane which meant his first lap had to be aborted, but he managed to slot into P2 on his second run, two tenths behind his teammate.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo made a risky decision to go for only one flying lap in the session and managed P6.

Sebastian Vettel made a late mistake and ran into the barrier at Tabac, but he didn’t sustain any damage.

After a flawless performance throughout qualifying by Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton pipped his teammate as the chequered flag came out, clinching pole position by half a tenth from Bottas.

Behind, Max Verstappen lined up P3 followed by Sebastian Vettel in P4, Gasly, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Sainz, and Albon.

It was certainly an interesting session with several cars being investigated for impeding the regulations throughout the afternoon. It was another dominant session by Mercedes, but an extremely disappointing day for Ferrari who will have to rethink their strategy for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix. What’s more, with a 60% chance of rain, it certainly seems as if the race could be full of surprises.

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

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