Deniz Öncü proves victorious in both Qualifying sessions, followed by Mario Aji and Lorenzo Fellon
Day 1 of the Portimao weekend saw the junior class take on wet and windy conditions, as Free Practice 1 alone witnessed 13 crashes. The debut session of the weekend foreshadowed what was to come for all three championships, and proved to be a tough start to the Grande Premio Tissot de Portugal. Despite the conditions, it was Mario Aji who ended Friday at the top of the timesheets, as the Indonesian rider appears to have found his stride in wet conditions, as a damp circuit in Q2 proved to be in favour. Another hot-take on Friday came in the form of another rookie, Diogo Moreira. While Moreira’s qualifying results this season prove he is no surprise to be found at the top end of the timesheets, Aji is definitely a new rider added to the mix of contenders going into Sunday, and could be one to watch.
The Q2 session began with drama, as the once-again wet circuit claimed its first victim, this time in the form of Sergio Garcia. The former title leader suffered a crash in sector 2, and continued what appeared to be a struggling weekend. However, despite the fall, Garcia managed to pick himself up and rejoin the session; unfortunately for the GASGAS Aspar Team rider, there was more to come.
Garcia wasn’t the only victim of the session, as more crashes followed in the opening half of the session, with Joshua Whatley and Stefano Nepa both suffering crashes at Turn 3.
With just over 8 minutes remaining, Öncü took to the top for the first time in the session. However, the Turkish rider was soon debunked by Friday’s hero Aji, with Tatsuki Suzuki further demoting Öncü as the Leopard Racing Team rider took provisional P2.
Another surprise for the weekend came in the form of Lorenzo Fellon, who’s debut time in Q2 placed him in third place. Fellon was another rider to struggle on Friday, accumulating 3 crashes on opening day. The Frenchman claimed the top spot of the session with just over 5 minutes to go, however, a yellow flag infringement resulted in Fellon’s lap time being cancelled. Despite the setback, Fellon continued to fight at the top of the board in what would be a fight for the ages.
In the same breath of Fellon’s time being cancelled, we saw Brit Scott Ogden be promoted to the top spot after just claiming P2 across the line. However, all of that excitement was short-lived, as Öncü wasn’t giving up and once again took to P1 – only for both Aji and Fellon to also claim the front also. With 4 minutes still remaining, it was just as hard to keep track as it is trying to write this!
With constant switching of the session leaders continuing into the final minutes, the wet track claimed even more victims, with Ryusei Yamanaka crashing at Turn 14 and Garcia taking his second fall of the session at Turn 5. Despite the continuous stream of yellow flags, the majority of the front-runners remained undeterred as the three- way battle between Öncü, Fellon and Aji roared on into the final minute. In the final few seconds, it was Ogden at the helm, but the Turkish rider proved unstoppable even to the chequered flag, clinching Pole with a time of 2:03.955. With a phenomenal battle throughout the 15 minute session, Mario Aji and Lorenzo Fellon are awarded with the following front-row positions, respectively.
Carlos Tatay leads Row 2 for the race, ahead of Suzuki – another admirable effort for the Japanese rider.
Speaking of admirable, P6 is awarded phenomenally to Sergio Garcia after three crashes in the session. Three! It’s clear to see that Garcia hasn’t taken lightly to losing his title lead, so all eyes will be on the Spaniard when the lights go out.
Riccardo Rossi takes 7th position ahead of Ogden, who unfortunately saw his last Pole-setting time of the session wiped after yellow flag obstructions. Izan Guevara takes P9, as Ayumu Sasaki rounds out the top 10.
In an underwhelming session, title leader Dennis Foggia will begin the race from 12th position. It will take some work for the Italian to ensure his lead in the championship remains intact. It’s not impossible, but it will require work. However, if I were him, I would certainly be watching that #11 bike closely.
Will the qualifying front-runners run away once the lights go out, or will Garcia continue his charge for redemption?
Moto3’s Race will begin at 11:20 Local Time (GMT +1).
Feature Image: Gold and Goose