The sun continued to beat down as MotoGP World Championship bikes roared out of pit lane for Q2. With an air temperature of 25.5°C and a ground temperature of 42.5°C, conditions were ideal for the forthcoming battle for pole position at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) quickly set the best time of the weekend, becoming the first rider to ever set a 1’43 lap around the new layout on a Grand Prix motorcycle.
His lap wouldn’t be challenged until the final 30 seconds when the timing screens became a sea of red. Just as the flag came out Marquez recorded a 1’43.589, netting pole position as he ended 0.467s faster than his closest rival. The Repsol Honda man was the only rider under the 1’44 barrier to take his first pole position since Austin earlier in the year. Both of Marquez’s previous 2016 poles have converted into victories. This is also Marquez’s first MotoGP pole position at the Barcelona circuit, having never previously started higher than third in the premier class.
Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) did well to produce a 1’44.056, unable to challenge Marquez’s time but a quarter of a second faster than third placed Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team). The Catalan GP sees Lorenzo out for his third straight victory of the 2016 season, arriving with a comfortable ten-point lead. Lorenzo has won the premier class edition of the Catalan GP on four previous occasions, most recently in 2015. Lorenzo did admit that he and Yamaha are struggling in the final sector, the heavy braking causing issues which need to be solved to stay with Marquez.
The Catalan GP is home to all three riders, making for a very special front row. Dani Pedrosa returns to the front row for the first time since the Valencia GP in 2015, having not started higher than fourth so far in 2016. This ends what had been Pedrosa’s longest run without a front row start since his rookie season in 2006. A 1’44.307 saw Pedrosa just able to hold onto the front row 0.015s ahead of fourth place.
Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) was a surprise in fourth after advancing from the Q1 session. Not since the Italian GP in 2012 has Barbera started a MotoGP race inside the top six.
0.002s back on Barbera was Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) who had been unable to crack the top three since the new layout was introduced.
Conditions remained stable for Moto2 Qualifying at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, not too hot and not too cold. The field picked up immediately where they left off and resumed working on refining the settings of their 600cc machines. During Free Practice 3 Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) and Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) were a step above, but their half-second advantage vanished in Qualifying.
Johann Zarco’s pole position time came relatively early in the session, the French rider setting a 1’49.179 on his eighth lap. This would prove to be the fastest time of the day, 0.5s quicker than he had gone the previous session. In 2015 Zarco also took pole position in Barcelona, making this the first time in his career that he has taken back-to-back poles at the same track. His pole in 2015 would provide the perfect launch pad for Zarco who went on to take victory. Can he do it again on Sunday?
Although their advantage wasn’t as big, Zarco and Rins remained as the two quickest riders, Rins only 0.035s off pole. For the fourth time in 2016 Rins will line up on the front row, continuing a pattern of taking a front row at every second race. Rins is the only Spanish rider inside the top five and is out to deliver the home fans a good result. He is only two points off the championship lead and could very well see himself leading the championship after the race if he finishes ahead of Lowes.
Third place on the grid went to Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten), who is currently third in the World Championship standings. The Swiss rider ended 0.293s back on pole position, both Zarco and Rins having just a slight edge over him. Luthi took his maiden front row of 2016 in Le Mans at round five, going on to finish on the podium.
Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) will begin Sunday’s 23-lap race from fourth, ahead of Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2). The Brit had a difficult session, crashing at Turn 9 with 20 minutes of the session remaining. His team did a brilliant job to get his bike repaired and send him back over; unfortunately traffic saw Lowes unable to set a final flying lap.
Axel Pons (AGR Team), Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team), Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team) and Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) made up the top ten. As is now typical in the intermediate class, times were ridiculously tight with a second dividing the top 14.
Franco Morbidelli’s (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) Saturday proved a difficult one. The Italian had crash in Free Practice 3 and his Qualifying session got off to a similar start, coming off at Turn 3 for the second time in 24 hours. His team worked to their maximum to repair the bike, allowing him to return to track. Unfortunately this was followed by an even bigger crash at Turn 9, ending his session. Morbidelli was unharmed and will start Sunday’s race in 18th.
Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) also suffered a fall, coming off at Turn 5. He was uninjured.
Moto2 Qualifying Results
Johann Zarco (FRA) KALEX 1’49.179
Alex Rins (SPA) KALEX +0.035
Thomas Lüthi (SWI) KALEX + 0.0293
Brad Binder charges to second career pole
Times were tight in the lightweight class, the front row decided by 0.088s with Binder taking pole ahead of Antonelli and Navarro.
Having had an extended Free Practice 3 session to adjust to the new layout of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, riders in the Moto3 World Championship began Qualifying on a 40°C track. It was a slower than usual start to the session as riders took the opportunity to focus more on race pace and learning the new corners, rather than pushing for a flying lap right away. Mid 1’54s were the target time on the new layout, Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) having topped FP3 with a 1’54.641.
But with five minute to go all thoughts of the race were gone and new tyres were fitted for the charge to pole position. In classic Moto3 style it was all about the last laps, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) setting a 1’54.024s to take just the second pole position of his career. Not only is this the South African’s second pole but it is just his fourth ever front row start in the World Championship. It has been 11 races since a Moto3™ race was won from pole position, can Binder break the curse and become the first rider to take four straight wins in the series?
Having been inside the top two in all three previous sessions, it came as little surprise that Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) was again strong at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The Italian completed a 1’54.078 to grab second on the grid, his second front row start of the 2016 season. He’s out to get back on the podium for the first time since round one in Qatar.
Jorge Navarro will line up third on the grid for Sunday’s race, the highest placed Spaniard on the grid and in the championship. After crashing out of the race in Mugello he needs to beat Binder to keep his championship hopes alive. The Spanish rider is yet to take a victory in the World Championship, having had seven previous podiums.
The second row of the grid will be headed by Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46) who starts in fourth, the highest placed rookie. Just behind was fellow Italian Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3), 0.036s splitting the two riders. Bastianini has twice missed out on victory at the Catalan GP, taking second in 2014 and 2015.
Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia), Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3), Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold), Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) completed the top ten.
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