Rossi wins explosive fight for 52nd premier class pole position

Valentino Rossi banished his Qualifying demons to secure pole position in Jerez, besting Lorenzo and Marquez

Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi

Tension hung in the air as the 12 fastest MotoGP World Championship riders zipped up their leathers and pulled on their helmets before stepping out to fight for pole position. Jerez is the shortest circuit of the opening four rounds, crew chiefs and their riders discussing one or two strop strategies until the final moments. As in almost every session at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was the first out of pit lane. Lorenzo, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), who had advanced through Q1, were the only riders to head out with the hard front tyre. The entire field had soft rears fitted from the start.

Straight away times were in the mid 1’39s, matching what riders had done during practice as Jorge Lorenzo seized the early lead. Both he and Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) came into the pits to switch bikes early, the pair looking as though they would opt for a three run strategy. Lorenzo immediately returned to the pits and had the new tyres fitted to his first bike.

MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils
MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils and Chemicals

Meanwhile Marquez had overtaken the lead of the session with a 1’39.064 and went back into the pits for new tyres, remaining on the same bike. Times were largely unchanged, as the rest of the field had also returned for their second set of Michelin tyres.

With new tyres on his preferred bike, Lorenzo put the hammer down straight away and set a 1’38.858 to jump into provisional pole. Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) was able to benefit from the lap as he expertly stuck in the slipstream.

Marquez tried to respond to Lorenzo’s lap but once again the final sector proved to be his downfall. He had just one lap left to do it, fans edged forward in their seats as Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) began his final lap with roaring pace as well. All three traded fastest sectors as the checkered flag came out. Rossi was the first to cross the line, producing a 1’38.736 to push Lorenzo to second. It was all down to Marquez, could he snatch a third straight pole?

Try as he might the Spaniard has unable to overcome the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo as Rossi claimed his first pole since the Dutch TT in 2015. This is the first time since 2009 that Rossi has started on the front for three consecutive races and his 52 premier class pole position.

He may be in the best qualifying form in over half a decade, but Rossi won’t have it easy on race day as both Lorenzo and Marquez are out for home glory. Lorenzo’s time made it a Yamaha 1-2 as the duo were split by 0.122s, clearly the YZR-M1 is working incredibly well at the Jerez circuit. As shown in FP4, Lorenzo is easily able to lap in the 1’39s from the start of a run. This is Lorenzo’s fourth front row start of the year, third in Argentina his worst position of 2016.

MotoGP Qualifying Jerez 2016
MotoGP Qualifying Jerez 2016

Completing the front row, Marc Marquez was unable to catch the super smooth Yamahas. Turns 11 and 12 are the source of all of Marquez’s problems as he ended 0.155s back on Rossi. All three of the leading trio have had races decided at the final corner in Jerez, will it be three across into Turn 13 on Sunday?

As the battle for pole raged, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) quietly went about his business as he secured fourth on the grid. It’s clear the leading trio are a league above, Dovizioso 0.844s back on Lorenzo and 0.689s off a front row start. Fourth on the grid is a great result for Ducati and Dovizioso as the factory team has struggled massively throughout the weekend.

Two Team Suzuki Ecstar bikes completed the second row of the grid, Maverick Viñales out qualifying Aleix Espargaro for the fourth time in 2016. Incredibly Viñales was only 0.001s behind Dovizioso and Espargaro was just 0.007s back on his teammate. The leading three may be set for an exclusive battle for victory, but the fight for fourth place is building to be just as exciting.

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) will start from the head of the third row in front of Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing). A very Spanish affair.

The fourth row will feature Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) and Loris Baz (Avintia Racing). Iannone had appeared to find some speed in Free Practice 3, but was not able to carry it over to Q2 as he qualified outside the front two rows for the first time in 2016.

Despite the discomfort of a painful ankle injury Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller bravely qualified 19th for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix. Miller carved more than two seconds off his Friday FP1 time to post a best lap of 1’40.968 after further overnight treatment to his right ankle.

The Australian rider is still rebuilding his confidence after being forced to miss the previous race in Texas and is now solely focussed on finishing the 27-lap race at Jerez. After set-up changes to his Honda RC213V Miller was more comfortable in qualifying in dealing with the unique challenge of the 4.42km Jerez Circuit.

MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils
MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils and Chemicals
Valentino Rossi – P1
Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi

“We worked a lot because last year we struggled during qualifying. This year, with the Michelin tyres, I feel better and I already started on the front row two times, but pole position is something different, especially here in Jerez. I knew I could be competitive, but during the last races we had some problems and I made a mistake in Austin. We didn’t take the results we expected, so we have to start doing so now. For sure tomorrow will be very hard with Lorenzo and Marquez, but we are there and we can fight.”

Jorge Lorenzo – P2
Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo

“Second place is not bad. Obviously I wanted the pole position, but it was a pity that I had problems with the second tyre. It was chattering on the straight and in the corners it had no grip so I cancelled the lap as not to crash and also because it wasn’t worth it, the lap was slow anyway. With the third tyre it was OK and I made a good lap time, a 1’38.8s, not enough for pole position but enough to be on the first row and that’s important. I think, after Free Practice 4, that we’ve got a great pace; a fast pace in the beginning and later a constant pace, so let’s hope to repeat this tomorrow in the race.”

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director

“We couldn’t expect more from our riders today. We were able to start the session with the good basis set-up from yesterday. During the free practice sessions we focused on improving a few areas and we continued to compare different settings and tyre combinations to prepare for both the race and qualifying. The Q2 session was superb, with our riders in first and second place. Vale set a brilliant 1’38.7s that deserved pole position. Jorge, despite the vibrations of one of his tyres, has been able to score a 1’38.8s and take second place. We still have a bit of room to improve the bikes and weigh our options and decide which tyres we will start tomorrow’s race on. We will finalise our setting during warm-up tomorrow and we look forward to a strong race.”

Marc Marquez – P3
Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez

“I’m satisfied because before the qualifying session, we knew it would be difficult to get pole position, and the goal was to achieve a place on the front row. I think we did a great job; I rode well and I felt comfortable on the bike. Thanks to the work of the whole team, we tested three different setups that ultimately allowed me to be consistent in qualifying, which isn’t usually something I’m able to do. All I can say is that today Jorge [Lorenzo] and Valentino [Rossi] were faster than me. We’ll see if we can stay with them during the race tomorrow, because it seems that they have a very good pace.”

Andrea Dovizioso – P4
Andrea Dovizioso
Andrea Dovizioso

“I am very pleased with the work we are doing this weekend. We have worked well, we stayed calm even when we were not fast and, like in Argentina and Austin, we have managed to get a very good result in these conditions. I am also satisfied because my feelings on the bike gradually improved during the sessions, and this is an important aspect. I think that the qualifying times are not very indicative for the race, because the management of the rear tyre will be the key to everything and so it will be necessary to be OK in this area. I’d like to thank my team and Ducati because it’s also down to them that we have managed to start from the second row”.

Maverick Viñales – P5
Maverick Vinales
Maverick Vinales

“The second row is a good place to start from, but I’m not completely satisfied. In all sessions I felt really comfortable, while in qualifying I struggled more. Finally I decided to put in a ‘do-or-die’ lap and I did it, but for sure we have some work to do. I’m still struggling with the rear grip, we lack in traction, which prevents me to from being even faster. Maybe the first row was reachable, although the first three in the classification did impressive times. The race-pace leaves me confident; we did several tests and I’m ok, so if I’m able to make a good jump, I really think I can stay in the pack and fight with the front riders.”

Aleix Espargaró – P6
Aleix Espargaro
Aleix Espargaro

“I’m totally happy that I finally found back the feeling with my GSX-RR. With my crew we are doing a massive amount of work and it is now paying off. I struggled with the softer rear tyre the whole weekend, not being able to set-up the bike properly for it. We did several tests but at the moment we cannot exploit it with our configuration. But this is also good: I did my qualifying with the harder tyre and I’m in sixth, which is not bad. Tomorrow I will need a good jump at the start and keep contact with the leaders; according to the race-pace I tested in FP4, I know can be competitive. We did a long-run simulation and I’m totally confident as I scored very interesting times that were very consistent.”

Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager

“Looking at today’s results we can be satisfied. We got access to Q2 with both our riders and then got them on the second row. Maverick did a very good job, he has been consistently fast in FP3 and the also in FP4 he found a good pace. Unfortunately he struggled a little more in qualifying, not being able to find good confidence at the beginning, but then he recovered excellently and got a good place from where to start from tomorrow. It’s good to see that Aleix finally got back to his competitiveness, he worked hard with his crew and finally we managed to deliver him a bike that more-suits his needs, plus he also made some steps forward with his riding style. It’s important for him to have found back some feeling and this second row is a good injection to his confidence, as well as giving him a good position to start from. His race-pace is solid and pretty fast, therefore giving us good hopes for his race.”

Dani Pedrosa – P7
Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa

“Seventh isn’t the result I was expecting. I thought I could do better but it’s currently difficult for me to make a flying lap in qualifying. I did try my best so I can’t say more now; it went as it went. In the end, I’m just one tenth off a much better position in the grid, and tomorrow we have to focus on starting well and getting a good first lap. It’s true that today we were able to keep a better pace generally speaking, which is positive, but we have to keep our feet on the ground and stay focused. We still have a lot of work to do on the bike. We’ll see what happens in the race. I think that the rear-tyre choice will be very important.”

Pol Espargaro – P8
Pol Espargaro
Pol Espargaro

“Overall, I must say it is mission accomplished today, because the top independent position is the one that we have to achieve and having done this, we can be optimistic for the race. The top factory guys are clearly quicker but for us tomorrow, our goal has to be the leading satellite bike placement again. We made progress in this morning’s practice session but I might have to thank Marc, because I discovered some different racing lines by following him, which allowed me to increase my corner speed in several turns. In qualifying itself, I could have gone slightly quicker but I made a mistake on my fast lap and dropped a bit of time. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with what we achieved and my overall feeling with the Michelin tyres is improving at every event and I am becoming more confident. This, along with the setting of the bike, makes me feel comfortable and eager for this race, even if the setup itself is quite different from the other Yamaha’s. Anyway, I am looking forward to the GP and if we can fight with the Suzuki and Ducati’s, I will be very pleased.

Hector Barbera – P9
Hector Barbera
Hector Barbera

“Q2 was a little bit special. I had a good reference but I was not able to get the best of it and I lost some time with Iannone in the last sector. But even so, my lap time was okay. In the last run we tried something with the gearbox ratios, but it didn’t work and I lost time under acceleration. We have to improve in the warm up tomorrow morning, but we have to be happy because we are on the third row and only 0.1s from the fourth place. We have a good race pace, which we showed on both days of practice. The first few laps will be crucial tomorrow, but I’ll give my best because here at Jerez all the riders want to get the maximum.”

Cal Crutchlow – P10
Cal Crutchlow
Cal Crutchlow

“It’s not been an easy weekend around Jerez, we’re all using these harder construction rear tyres but the fronts are also proving tricky too. As per usual it looks like Marc (Marquez) is the only one able to ride to the full potential of rider and bike, whereas myself and Dani (Pedrosa) are struggling a bit more. I knew I had to pull something out of the bag during qualifying though, and while it went OK I pressed the wrong power map button which meant I lost lots of time in the straights. That was completely my own fault though. There’s a really tight group all in close proximity around us, but we just need to see how things go in the race. I’m not too impressed or happy with today because I’m not here to finish tenth, and I think our real potential is around fifth place. It’s the way it is though, sometimes you have good or bad days, but hopefully working closely with Honda we can sort something out and build race by race.”

Andrea Iannone – P11
Andrea Iannone
Andrea Iannone

“It bothers me a lot having to start in eleventh place because this is my worst qualifying performance of the year and the rest of the weekend hasn’t been easy either. I’m just not able to ride the bike the way I’m used to and so I’m struggling a lot: it’s difficult for me to accelerate out of the corners and I even have problems going through the corners as well, so all this is penalizing me a lot. It’s a pity, but now we have to try and understand what to do to get back up to the front. Tomorrow we’ll have to get a good start, gain some positions and then see how to run our race, bearing in mind that everyone sooner or later will encounter tyre wear”.

Loris Baz – P12
Loris Baz
Loris Baz

“I’m happy because together with Austin, this was my best qualifying position in MotoGP. But to be honest, it was more difficult here than in Texas. We have been close to the pace of the top ten during the weekend, but far away on the time sheets. But my team did a great job and my mechanics gave me a bike almost perfect for FP4 and I was able to keep a constant pace on race tyres. We didn’t know how I would go with the soft tyres in Q1, but I think my pace was quite fast and I did a fast lap. In Q2, I didn’t have soft tyres left and it was difficult to improve, but I’m confident for the race tomorrow. The goal will be finishing the race without any issues, because the first three races were quite difficult for us. We’ll see what we can achieve.”

Alvaro Bautista – P13
Alvaro Bautista
Alvaro Bautista

“We have been working well since this morning both on the chassis and the electronics, also mounting the wings that we need, because in this category with such close gaps, every detail is important. Already in free practice this morning I was pleased and I came really close to qualifying for QP2. We tried the same changes in the afternoon, also testing harder tyres, and it went well again. We improved the overall sensation and our pace. In short, it was a positive day. Maybe in QP1 I could have done a bit better, but these are definitely my best qualifiers yet with Aprilia. The race will be difficult because tyre performance will drop, so we’ll need to look after them well from the beginning, but this is my home race and I want to do well!”.

Bradley Smith – P14

“Today we didn’t improve as much as I needed to. I thought low 1’40 lap times would have been strong enough to get into QP2, but everybody upped their game and in the end we needed a 1’39 to progress directly through to QP2. To be honest, today I was on the limit and unfortunately we didn’t find the next step with the bike. A 1’40.2 lap seems to be where I am at the moment as I did three consistent laps, once this morning and twice this afternoon, so I thought that I had extracted the best that I could from the Yamaha. Now, we have a lot of data to analyse and try to assess in preparation for tomorrow, and starting from 14th on the grid isn’t going to make the GP any easier, especially at this track. However, I’ve been practicing my starts all the weekend and they are getting better so tomorrow I need to make a special one and then pass as many riders as possible in the first few corners. From now until tomorrow we will try to improve the bike so the team will have a busy afternoon searching for the final tenths because my race pace has to be stronger too. We know that we are in a tricky situation but we’re still ready to give it everything we’ve got in the Grand Prix tomorrow and we’ll do our best until then.”

Eugene Laverty – P15
Eugene Laverty
Eugene Laverty

“I’m disappointed with the position because we had the potential for more but as is often the case in Q1 there are riders trying to follow each other, waiting all over the track. It messed up my session but that’s how it is. When I went out on my second tyre I tried to push my way through but there was so much traffic I couldn’t even keep enough heat in the tyre. Personally I need a fast out lap to keep the temperature up but by turn three of my second lap the left side of the tyre was basically cold and I almost crashed. We have found a good setting here and I have been knocking on the door of the top ten all weekend so to miss out on Q2 in this way is very frustrating. It was our best chance yet but anyway our race pace is good so that’s why we have to stay positive for tomorrow.”.

Yonny Hernández – P16
Yonny Hernandez
Yonny Hernandez

“We have done a good job all weekend, our pace is good and in FP3 we could have qualified directly for Q2 but just missed out. It was a shame but I ran into traffic and had an issue with the front tyre when I tried to set a fast lap to get us into Q2. I didn’t manage to finish in a good position but the positive thing is that I think we have the pace to be fighting for a top ten finish tomorrow.”

Scott Redding – P17
Scott Redding
Scott Redding

“It is a really hard week end. We have a big problem with the tires and we can not solve it. There is no a clear direction that we can follow with certainty. During a weekend we can make two, maximum three changes on the set up. After two days at Jerez we tried eight-ten different solutions without being able to improve. It is a shame to be in this position, surely one of the worst qualifying for me. To be honest I do not know what can happen tomorrow. I only hope that the situation will improve.”

Stefan Bradl – P18
Stefan Bradl
Stefan Bradl

“Today we continued testing a lot of different things in the two morning free practice sessions, especially to improve the feeling with the hard front tyre that we’ll need to use with these high temperatures. In the end we found a good setting for race pace. I’m confident because the situation is better than it might seem from the qualifying results. I can’t say that I’m completely satisfied, because in QP1 I was unable to find a perfect lap. Obviously I would have liked to start farther forward, but our consistent performance makes me optimistic for the race tomorrow”.

Jack Miller- P19
Jack Miller
Jack Miller

“We made a step with the bike today although for sure my ankle is still not 100%. I still have a lot of work to do both with the set-up and the healing process. I am not happy to be P19 but in my condition it is a step forward and we made some positive changes to the bike today. The race will be interesting especially in understanding the performance of the Michelin tyres over the race distance at this track. The key point for me is to stay on and ride a smart race.”

Michele Pirro – P20
Michele Pirro
Michele Pirro

It is very frustrating. It was the hardest day since I race in MotoGP. I have not the chance to do better even changing my driving style. I’m sorry because in the end we know this track and we were competitive during last tests. There is not an explanation for this situation, apart from that relating to the tires. I am vary disappoined because expectations were high, and also for the work done in the past. Now we are forced to look for entirely different solutions than what we tried in tests. Tomorrow we will have to manage the tires life and it will be tough because the bike spins to the fourth, fifth gear and this does not allow me to find speed.

Free Practice 4 and Qualifying was delayed somewhat as over half of Michelin’s ten tyre fitting team were struck down with a mystery illness. At the end of the day, those effected were examined and diagnosed with a gastro virus. They were all prescribed medication to combat sickness and told to keep hydrated and will be back to fitting tyres on Sunday.

MotoGP Qualifying Results

1 – Valentino Rossi (ITA)    YAMAHA  1’38.736

2 – Jorge Lorenzo      (SPA)    YAMAHA  + 0.122

3- Marc Marquez    (SPA)    HONDA   +0.155

MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils
MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils and Chemicals
MotoGP Qualifying Jerez 2016
MotoGP Qualifying Jerez 2016
Jerez pole record obliterated as Lowes takes pole

Moto2 riders were on lap record pace from the word go, Lowes taking his second pole of 2016 ahead of Folger and Cortese

Moto2 Qualifying Jerez 2016
Moto2 Qualifying Jerez 2016

Qualifying started with fiery intensity for the intermediate class, the likes of Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) immediately under the pole record. Folger set the first benchmark with a 1’42.589, already 0.06s faster Takaaki Nakagami’s (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) record lap from Free Practice 1. A number of riders soon went under the German’s time, Folger eventually dropping to a 1’42.436 after an incredible first ten minutes.

It was clear that at 30.6°C the Circuito de Jerez was in its best condition of the weekend. The fast times and ideal conditions lured several riders into a false sense of security, Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) falling at Turn 13 early in the session with fellow Speed Up rider Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team) following suit soon after at Turn 3. Both riders were unharmed and returned to the pits for repairs.

Everything seemed calm until late in the session when Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) unleashed himself upon the Jerez circuit, setting two pole position stealing laps in a row. His wild style was not only thrilling to watch, but also produced a best time of 1’42.408 and subsequently set yet another new record lap. A number of riders down the order were putting in personal best laps but none were able to hold a candle to the British rider. For the fifth time in his career, and the second time in 2016, Lowes will start from pole position, his fourth straight front row start of the season. With none of his title rivals starting on the front row, Lowes has the potential to open up a healthy lead on Sunday.

Sam Lowes

“It was a very tight qualifying session! I got a good lap time, also completing a lot of fast laps. We worked hard all weekend on used tyres and we have a good race pace: after the positive tests carried out here in the winter we started the weekend with a good base set-up, and the bike is working quite similar to the tests because the conditions are not too hot this weekend, so I feel good and relaxed. It was nice to arrive in Europe leading the standings and obviously it’s nice to get the pole position! Tomorrow we can have a good race and fight for the win!”.

Sam Lowes
Sam Lowes

Also under Nakagami’s old lap record, early session leader Jonas Folger was unable to improve his early time and ended 0.028s behind Lowes. Folger has always gone exceedingly well in Jerez, having won the 2015 Spanish GP and taken three additional podiums. For the third time in 2016, Folger will line up on the front row of the grid as he looks to replicate his Argentina GP podium.

Folger’s teammate, Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) finished the session in third, 0.003s back on his fellow German and will start on the front row of a Moto2 World Championship race for the first time since 2014. Since Folger has joined him at the Dynavolt Intact GP team, Cortese has been overshadowed and Sunday presents him with the perfect chance to prove he’s still in contention.

The top four were nail bitingly close, Franco Morbidelli missing out on third by 0.041s and missing pole position by 0.072s. Any of the front four could easily win the race and after three disappointing rounds, Morbidelli is ready to turn his season around. Somewhat surprisingly, this is Morbidelli’s best Qualifying result of 2016, the Italian strong during the start of the races.

Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) will line up in fifth and as Lowes’ highest placed title rival. Since winning in Qatar, Luthi has failed to finish inside the top five.

Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) achieved his best grid position of the year with sixth, capping off the second row. The Italian’s 1’42.571 put him ahead of Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) who is yet to turn his troublesome weekend around. Seventh place is decent result, but not what one would expect from a rider as highly praised as Rins. He has spent the weekend working on his race pace, so should be strong come Sunday if he can stay with his great rival Lowes.

Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing), Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Luis Salom (SAG Team) completed the top ten. It was a disaster of a day for Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) as the French rider hardly featured and qualified down in 16th position.

Sam Lowes
Sam Lowes
Moto2 Qualifying Results

1 – Sam Lowes (GBR)   KALEX  1’42.408

2 – Jonas Folger (GER) KALEX + 0.028

3 – Sandro Cortese (GER) KALEX + 0.031

MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils
MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils and Chemicals
Moto2 Qualifying Jerez 2016
Moto2 Qualifying Jerez 2016
Premiere pole for rookie Bulega in Jerez

Reigning Moto3 Junior World Champion Nicolo Bulega flies at the Jerez circuit, taking a career first pole from Binder and Navarro.

Moto3 Qualifying Jerez 2016
Moto3 Qualifying Jerez 2016

Qualifying for the Moto3 World Championship started under beautiful blue skies in Jerez, ambient temperature steadily climbing above 22°C as the track maintained a solid 25°C temperature. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) came into the session with the fastest time of the weekend, having set a 1’46.575 in Free Practice 3 just before the lunch break.

Early in the session a number of riders had their lap times cancelled for exceeding the track limits. Riding on the curbs is permitted, but at soon as a rider goes beyond them their time is cancelled, in Jerez Turn 10 and 13 were the corners to watch.

Times were slow to improve in the session, riders setting a decent banker lap at the start before returning to the pits for various setup changes. Championship leader Binder gleefully used the clear track to set some of his personal best times. This spurred on his rivals to up their pace and Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) soon set the first 1’46 of the session. His time at the top wouldn’t last as 2015 FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship champion, Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) dropped to a 1’46.223, the fastest lap of the weekend.

The minutes continued to count down and it appeared as though the Italian rookie would be able to take his first pole position in just his fifth race start. As his time was under a tenth from Jack Miller’s 2014 pole record, a very special lap would be needed. The entire Moto3™ field headed out together with six minutes remaining to try and best Bulega’s time with the aid of a slipstream. None would be able to usurp the lanky Italian.

Nicolo Bulega
Nicolo Bulega

Bulega will be looking to shake the pole position curse of Jerez, no riding having won the lightweight class race from pole position in ten years. In a class as full of surprises at Moto3, the only certainty is that Bulega won’t be alone come race day.

Pole may have escaped him by 0.213s, but Brad Binder lines up in prime position to challenge for victory, as the South African starts second. During the dying moments, he was able to produce some fast sectors but encountered too much traffic to make anything happen. Over the course of the weekend Binder has been strong in all sessions and will no doubt be in the hunt for the podium again.

For the third race in a row, Navarro will start on the front row of the grid. Like Binder, Navarro is yet to take victory in the lightweight class and doing so in front of his home crowd would not only be a great achievement, but also do his championship challenge a world of good.

Heading the second row, Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) produced a great result for Mahindra who are so far having a difficult season. The MGP3O didn’t have the power to match the KTMs and Hondas in the opening rounds, but the tighter Jerez circuit plays to the incredible chassis of the bike. This is ‘Pecco’s’ second front row start, his first coming in Le Mans where he went on to finish on the podium.

Despite a fall in the middle of the session, Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) was able to qualify in fifth. It hasn’t been an easy weekend for the Italian who hasn’t quite had the speed to crack the top three. He’s also looking for his first finish at Jerez in three years.

Enea Bastianini completed an all-Italian second row of the grid. Like Antonelli he suffered a fall at Turn 2, unable to improve his time after the crash.

Having come into the weekend carrying a flu and ending practice down in 24th on combined times, Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) rocketed up to seventh in Qualifying. Like Bulega, Mir was forged in the battles of the FIM CEV Repsol, the pair a testament to the high level of the Junior World Championship.

Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing Team), Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) completed the top ten. Bulega’s 0.213s advantage over Binder was the single biggest gap between any two riders inside the top 29 who were all within two seconds of each other.

Karel Hanika (Platinum Bay Real Estate) also suffered a fall in the middle of the session. Davide Pizzoli (Procercasa – 42 Motorsport) had his third crash of the weekend, falling at Turn 6. All riders avoided serious injuries in their falls.

Moto3 Qualifying Results

1 – Nicolo Bulega (ITA)  KTM 1’46.223

2 – Brad Binder (RSA) KTM + 0.213

3  – Jorge Navarro (SPA) HONDA  + 0.242

Moto3 Qualifying Jerez 2016
Moto3 Qualifying Jerez 2016
MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils
MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils and Chemicals
MotoGP 2016 - Jerez
MotoGP 2016 – Jerez