MotoGP: Pol Espargaro Splashes to Super Valencia Pole
Pol Espargaro fired his first warning shot of the weekend by taking pole position at a tricky Valencia circuit, as he aims for his first MotoGP victory.
The MotoGP session got underway in drying conditions following the downpour minutes before John McPhee claimed his first Moto3 pole of the season and it was Miguel Oliveira who stormed to the top spot with Johann Zarco joining the Portuguese rider in the second 15-minute session.
It was a difficult qualifying for all concerned, with the Valencian sun beating down on the damp tarmac, drying it quicker than we had seen all weekend. The conditions caught out Stefan Bradl, who after being knocked out of a Q2 position aimed to put his Repsol Honda back inside the top two. However, in his efforts, the German slid out at turn eight, ending his session early. Bradl will line up 13th ahead of team-mate Alex Marquez.
Maverick Viñales bounced back from a crash in free practice four to finish 15th, however, as announced on Friday, the MotoGP championship contender will start from pitlane, promoting Cal Crutchlow onto the fifth row.
Francesco Bagnaia heads row six alongside the returning Valentino Rossi and Danilo Petrucci, with Lorenzo Savadori and Tito Rabat bringing up the rear.
As qualifying two got underway, the track continued to dry. By the halfway point, Alex Rins had provisional pole ahead of Franco Morbidelli and Teruel Grand Prix pole-sitter Takaaki Nakagami, who was threatening Rins’ pole time.
The Japanese rider was the first rider to dip into the 1:40s in a wet session, leaping to the top of the timesheets by seven tenths of a second. However, eyes were on Jack Miller, who after waiting for the track to dry, had lit up the timing screens on his first flying lap.
The Friday pacesetter missed out on Nakagami’s pole time, but did jump to second and towed Pol Espargaro up onto the provisional front row.
Joan Mir was the next rider to improve his time, a 1:41.032 saw the Spaniard put his Suzuki on the front row, something he has struggled to do all season.
Attention then turned to Q1 session topper Oliveira who had set the fastest opening sector but as the lap went on, the time went away from the Portuguese rider and remained in eighth. However, the same couldn’t be said for previous pacesetter Rins who jumped to provisional pole.
Takaaki Nakagami slid off at the final corner, just as Joan Mir and Johann Zarco were on flying laps. Mir jumped up to third but later had his best effort cancelled.
Pol Espargaro fired the KTM to provisional pole but looked to be under threat from Zarco, who lost time in the final sector to finish fourth, pinching it from Mir.
However, despite the flag being out, the session wasn’t finished there. Rins and Oliveira had fastest laps going but both lost time.
Pol Espargaro secured pole position ahead of Alex Rins and Takaaki Nakagami with Johann Zarco, Joan Mir and Jack Miller filling the second row.
Aleix Espargaro heads row three with Oliveira and Franco Morbidelli in eighth and ninth places. Brad Binder completes the top ten with Fabio Quartararo and Andrea Dovizioso rounding out the top 12.
KTM and Pol Espargaro are in the driving seat for tomorrow’s race, however, the question remains, will it be dry or will the Valencian heavens cause an upset again?
Featured image: MotoGP.com